Thursday, April 30, 2020

Maverick winery has new owners

Photo: Maverick wine shop

In the week that my Okanagan Wine Tour Guide has been released, a major winery ownership change has been announced, beginning the process of making the book out of date.

Maverick Estate Winery has been acquired by Andrew Windsor (right), the former winemaker at Tinhorn Creek Estate Winery, and his partner, Jan Nelson, formerly a marketing executive at Tinhorn Creek and Black Hills Estate Winery. Their silent backers, according to industry sources, are Bob and Barb Shaunessy, the former majority owners of Tinhorn Creek until that winery was sold in 2017 to Andrew Peller Ltd.

While Tinhorn searches for a new winemaker, the cellar will be looked after by Ross Wise MW, the senior winemaker for Peller in the South Okanagan, and by Korol Kuklo, the long-time assistant winemaker at Tinhorn Creek.

Another winery expects to announce a significant winemaker hiring next week. I am not yet at liberty to disclose the details.

Several other wineries also are recruiting winemakers.  Perhaps Luke Whittall, my co-author, and I would like to see the industry frozen in amber at least for a season, to keep the book (left) up to date. Clearly, that is not happening (it never happened before either). However, there is so much detail in the 510-page book, the sixth edition of the tour guide, that it will serve for some years as the essential tour guide.

Due to the current restrictions on retail activities in wine shops, Luke and I have delayed a formal book launch until the summer. However, the $25 book can be ordered from local bookshops – who certainly need the business.

A producer of quite superb wines, Maverick opened in 2013 with
a highway-side tasting room midway between Oliver and Osoyoos. The original owners were Bertus Albertyn, (right) his father-in-law Dr. Schalk de Witt, and their families. Bertus is a South African trained winemaker who came to the Okanagan in 2009. Before opening Maverick, he was the winemaker at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery. He has developed a significant business as a consultant in addition to running Maverick.

The announcement from Maverick says: “Bertus and his family plan to stay in the Oliver area and will remain engaged in the wine industry.” His wife, Elzaan, is a doctor in family practice in the South Okanagan.

Andrew Windsor, 41, an Ontario-born vintner with a master’s degree in enology from Adelaide University in Australia, joined Tinhorn Creek in 2014 after three years with the Peller winery in Ontario. Andrew initially studied environmental science at the University of Guelph but got a taste for winemaking in 2005 at The Ice House Winery at Niagara-on-the-Lake. He completed his winemaking degree at the University of Adelaide in 2006.

In 2008, he joined the winemaking staff at Mollydooker Wines, a McLaren Vale winery that started in 2005 that developed a reputation for its big red wines. He left there to join EauVivre Winery at Cawston and then, in the spring of 2011, returned to the southern hemisphere for the 2011 vintage at the huge Pernod Ricard operation in New Zealand. When that job was completed, he moved to France and spent six months, and another 2011 vintage, at Cave de Tain, a producer of Hermitage. On returning to Canada, he joined Peller in mid 2012.

Sandra Oldfield, who was Tinhorn Creek’s president when Andrew was recruited, once told me: “When he was interviewing with us, [he said] on three or four separate occasions that he really does want to make the best wine in Canada. He has targeted that this is the place where he can do that, on the Golden Mile Bench and on Black Sage Bench.”

In 2015, she also hired Jan Nelson as the sales and marketing manager for Tinhorn Creek. He had grown up in Oliver but left the Okanagan Valley in 1992 to begin over two decades of travel that took him to university in Montreal, business school in Italy to gain his MBA, a brief stint in Korea and over 17 years in Japan. 

Tinhorn Creek’s announcement at the time fleshed out his biography: “In 2001, Nelson was in Japan working in executive search when the tech bubble burst. He took some time off and completed a WSET wine course at Okanagan College. In order to break into the wine industry, Nelson joined a start-up importing Pacific Northwest (Washington & Oregon) wines in Japan. Nelson now has over ten years of experience in marketing and sales in the wine industry, and has worked with some of the leading brands from the Pacific Northwest, Napa Valley and Italy.” 

Maverick is based on a 7.5-acre vineyard that Bertus and his father-in-law planted in 2011. The varieties grown here include Syrah, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Maverick also leases three vineyards near Osoyoos that Bertus has been farming.

“I have long admired Maverick and respect the amazing brand Bertus and his team created,” Andrew Windsor said in a statement. “I am looking forward to building on the winery’s success and continuing to craft ultra-premium wines.”  

Maverick’s portfolio starts with a trio of sparkling wines, all called Ella, includes red and white table wines and concludes with two fortified wines both called Fia.


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