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gadzook Vinery- Bert Evertt's winey
Bert Evertt’s Montalvino Wineries Inc. has become a force in the Okanagan wine industry in just three years. “Bert has grown this from a hobby vineyard of 18 acres, planted in 2020, to now up to about 90 acres,” says Barbara Hall, the chief of operations at Montalvino. There are two wineries in operation, with a third scheduled to open this spring. The group’s first winery is Uppercase Winery, currently located in the District Wine Village north of Oliver, with future plans to build a winery on Black Sage Road.
The group’s second winery, GadZook Winery, is on highway 97, the site of what formerly was the C.C. Jentsch Cellars, which closed in 2021 after the death of proprietor Chris Jentsch. Bert bought the property from Betty Jentsch, Chris’s widow, and reopened it in 2022 as gadZook. The third winery in the group, still to named, is the former Singletree Winery on Naramata Road. The Etsell family, already operators of Singletree Winery near Abbottsford, opened the Naramata Road winery in 2019 but put it on the market two years later. Bert Evertt, seeing an opportunity for his expanding group, purchased the property in 2022. “Because there is lots of traffic on the Naramata Bench, I thought that would be a key purchase,” Bert says.
Bert’s primary business is running retirement homes. Berton B. Evertt, to use his full name, is president and chief executive of Belvedere Seniors Living in Coquitlam, a company the Evertt family has operated since 1952. “I have always had this sort of dream of having my own winery,” Bert says. “My daughter, Sabrina, has her third level WSET [Wine & Spirits Education Trust courses]. My younger daughter, Christina, had one year cooking and another year at Vancouver Community College in baking. So I thought I will combine them with a winery and a restaurant on Black Sage Road.”
He looked around for talent to guide his entry into the wine business and found Pascal Madevon, the former Osoyoos Larose winemaker and now one of the leading viticultural and winemaking consultants in the Okanagan. “He emailed me that he had two choices: to retire to Maui or to build a vineyard,” Pascal recalls. “He bought the property on Black Sage Road and said to me, we have to plant now. In February 2020, he contacted me that he had bought land on Black Sage Road.” The 22-acre vineyard was planted by April and plans were laid for a 20,000-case winery. Subsequently, Montalvino has also purchased and planted vineyard land elsewhere in the Okanagan. “I got into it [planning a winery] and then when I found out that if you were going to do 20,000 cases, which is what the capacity is, that I needed 75 acres of vines,” Bert says. “So I went out buying vineyards. It just went from there.”
“Bert has this vision to have good locations, so we can have a full portfolio,” Pascal says. “The goal is not to buy grapes in the future. We want to be totally self-sufficient. We think we have better control. We want to control the vineyard management perfectly.” With the sharp rise in construction and material costs over the past two years, Bert, with his chartered accountant’s shrewdness, has put the Black Sage Road winery project on hold for a few years. The necessary permits are in place, however.
In the 2020 vintage, Uppercase arranged to make its debut wines in the cellar of its neighbor on Black Sage Road, Nostalgia Winery. The move to the District Wine Village has given Uppercase production capacity for several vintages. As well, there is plenty of capacity at the gadZook winery. “We have capacity there to produce 170,000 litres,” Bert says. The unusual name for the winery was suggested to Bert by a marketing consultant. “It is supposed to be fun and light-hearted, with lower price point wines with interesting and colourful labels,” Bert says. “There we are, with the whole Montalvino wineries group,” Bert says, going on to explain the origin of the holding company’s name. “I lived in Italy for two years and I became a real fan of Brunello di Montalcino. So I thought I would name my company Montalvino. Eventually, I may have a Brunello. I want to grow some Italian varietals.” “I just like to experiment with varieties that nobody else has, and maybe have some foot traffic from customers who can’t buy a Barolo-style wine anywhere else,” Bert continues. “Not everybody has the capacity or the money to do an experiment. My nursing homes give me enough money to experiment.”
Barbara Hall, Montalvino’s operations chief, is a veteran of British Columbia wine. Born in Cambridge, Ontario, she became intrigued with wine while working as a server in Whistler restaurants. She laid the foundation for her career with a degree in biochemistry from the University of British Columbia. She started working in vineyards in 2004 with Quails’ Gate, moving later to the cellar to be mentored by winemaker Grant Stanley. She was the winemaker at Chaberton Estate Winery in Langley from 2011 to 2015. She returned to the Okanagan and was the winemaker at Little Straw Vineyards until it was sold in 2022.
Uppercase Pinot Gris 2021 ($24.99). This is a crisp, refreshing wine with aromas and flavours of pear, apples and stone fruit. 91.
Uppercase Chardonnay 2021 ($24.99). A fruit forward Chardonnay, it was fermented in stainless steel. There are aromas and flavours of citrus and apple. The finish is crisp. 91.
Uppercase Rosé 2021 ($24.99). Made with Merlot, the wine is delicate pink in hue. It has aromas and flavours of watermelon, strawberry and raspberry. 91.
Uppercase Cabernet Franc 2020 ($34.99). The fruit for this wine is from 20-year-old vines and was fermented in a wooden tank coopered in France. The aromas and flavours show brambly notes of blackberry and dark cherry. The tannins are firm. 92.