20 Sep Covenant: Our Story
In 2003, Covenant founders Jeff Morgan and Leslie Rudd tasted an Israeli wine that inspired them to bring a new California perspective a 3500-year-old winemaking tradition. What started as a 500-case Napa Cabernet project has now grown more than ten-fold. Today, Covenant’s 9,000-square-foot urban winery is situated in Berkeley, California, also home to other urban wineries.
Founded in Napa Valley in 2003, Covenant Winery is now located in the new, urban “Drinks District” of Berkeley, California. The 9,000-square foot winery is situated in a neighborhood that is also home to other urban wineries and breweries.
From the start, Covenant was critically acclaimed by such reviewers as Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator. In 2004, Jeff met a young winemaker named Jonathan Hajdu, who was working with a custom crush crew at Covenant’s then custom facility in the Central Coast. Jonathan came on full-time with Covenant in 2008, when production was transferred to Napa Valley. New vineyards and varietals have been incorporated subsequently. Covenant now makes some 20 wines in California sourced from vineyards located in Santa Barbara County, Santa Maria, Sonoma, Napa, Lake County and Lodi. Since 2013, Covenant has also made a small amount of wine in Israel under the Covenant Israel label.
By 2014, Jeff and his wife, Jodie, decided it was time to leave Napa Valley, where they had raised their two daughters, to build a new urban winery in Berkeley, California—about an hour’s drive from many of their vineyard sources. Today Covenant Winery is a large, refurbished industrial warehouse and former garage. Dare we call Covenant “garagiste?”
Jeff and Jodie’s daughter, Zoë, grew up in St. Helena, arguably in the heart of Napa Valley wine country. She moved to Israel in 2014 and worked with Covenant Israel for six years. Zoë then returned to California in early 2022 to work as Operations Coordinator at the California winery. Our extended Covenant family also includes Managing Director Sagie Kleinlerer, who first met Jeff as his student at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley. When Jeff discovered that Sagie was a former New York lawyer and advertising executive possessing a great palate, he knew he wanted him on the Covenant team. Sagie is also a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, having passed his WSET Level 4 Diploma. Sagie has been with Covenant since 2016.
Sadly, in May of 2018, Leslie lost a three-year battle with cancer. We miss him dearly. His encouragement and support over the years were critical to Covenant’s success. In 2019, Covenant brought on a new partner—Geoff Rochwarger—who lives in Israel. Geoff has a longtime passion for wine and is a longtime friend of Covenant. We are delighted to have him on our team.