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 7,000-square-foot urban winery is situated in Berkeley, California, also home to other urban wineries. Covenant’s sister winery, Covenant Israel, was founded in 2013. Since 2013, Covenant Israel wines have been made in the northern Galilee.
Founded in Napa Valley in 2003, Covenant Winery is now located in the new, urban “Drinks District” of Berkeley, California. The 7,000-square foot winery is situated in a neighborhood that is also home to other urban wineries and breweries. And since 2013, Covenant has also produced wine in Israel under the Covenant Israel label.
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. In 2008, Jonathan came on full-time with Covenant, production was transferred to Napa Valley and Jeff began sourcing Chardonnay from Sonoma County. New vineyards and varietals were incorporated subsequently.
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. Jeff, Jodie and Jonathan continue to produce a broad selection of wines at Covenant Winery, a large, refurbished industrial warehouse and former garage. Dare we call Covenant “garagiste?”
The story doesn’t stop there. During a visit to Israel in 2011, Jeff found his calling to make wine there. Soon after, he teamed up with his friend, Israeli/American winemaker Ari Erle—who had also made wine in Napa Valley at such renowned wineries as Colgin Cellars and O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery—to create Covenant Israel. Today Covenant is the only American winery making wine in both California and Israel.
The family story continues as well. Jeff and Jodie’s daughter, Zoe, grew up in St. Helena, arguably in the heart of Napa Valley wine country. She moved to Israel in 2014 and began working with Covenant Israel there two years later. Today Zoe is Covenant’s marketing and sales director in Israel. She also works on social media for Covenant California.
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, and total fluency in Hebrew, he knew he wanted him on the Covenant team. Sagie is also a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers and a candidate for his WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines. He 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.