“Behind the Wine” is a new summer series taking you behind the scenes of the South Okanagan’s iconic wine industry. Watch for it on Sundays.
River Stone Estate Winery is a family owned and operated winery in the South Okanagan, sitting just north of the town of Oliver.
The winery got its start from the co-owner and winemaker who had a keen interest in fermentation and a passion for learning.
“I got interested in making wine when I was about 17 years old. I was kind of like a kid with a chemistry set. I was looking for a practical application for chemistry and then I discovered fermentation and fermentation was fascinating to me at the time,” Ted Kane said.
Kane didn’t begin with wine grapes; he started with mostly fresh fruit at the time, which was apples and pears and rhubarb.
“I didn't like what I made all that much and so I thought that I should try getting into some grape wine. So I started first with kits and I had a little bit of some success with that, but I was reading journals and books and stuff on it, and starting to understand how I could manipulate the chemistry of the wine kits.”
From there, Kane began to source grapes at the Italian markets each year.
“I learned from that, that better wines came from better products...I went on to coming out to the Okanagan Valley, during Fall Wine Festival time, and I started sourcing out grapes from various vineyards up and down the Valley and meeting winemakers at tasting events and it just kind of grew from there.”
His passion even made its way to growing grape vines in Edmonton, in his backyard in a greenhouse.
Kane wanted to expand and move to what he considered the best wine region in Canada.
“But, I still had to have a day job and I still was a long ways away from being able to afford anything really. So I was a respiratory therapist, which was another love of mine. I worked at that for 13 years, where I met my wife Lorraine,” he explained.
Eventually, Kane convinced his wife of his dreams to move and they planned to head down to the South Okanagan after she finished medical school.
“We found the perfect piece of land, which was in 2001. We bought our land, the first part of the parcel of land of 10 acres, bordering the Okanagan River. And it had all the aspects, all the features, for great grape growing.”
But the acres hadn’t been farmed for 30 years prior to the family getting to it.
“It was just cactuses, and sagebrush. So it was kind of like a blank canvas, and we could go at painting our masterpiece.”
Over the years, the family expanded and the team continued to work on their perfect vineyard land.
“Then we basically worked our butts off until 2010 and I saved up enough money to buy some tanks, and we opened up the winery.”
That year the winery started with just 900 cases, building to 4700 this year.
“There's a little bit of all of us that make that product that is in that bottle.”
Kane said that what sets his winery apart is the passion for their growing area.
“Our team is what makes us special as well. We've got a great team of people in from the vineyard to the cellar, to the wine shop. And so it's a real team effort here, and we couldn't do it without, you know, all those guys,” he said.
Local residents may have recognized the Oliver Fire Department Chief, Bob Graham, pouring wines in the tasting room over the years.
“Our story is similar to some but it's built from the ground up with just chasing a dream. And now, here we are.”
The winery has a big focus on Bordeaux style reds, featuring Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petite Verdot, but also carries a nice selection of whites and rosés.
The River Stone Estate Winery's Tasting Garden is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tastings can be made online through their website here. While they prefer reservations, they do welcome walk ins based on availability.