River Stone Estate Winery (143 Buchanan Drive, Oliver)
Edmonton native Ted Kane caught the wine bug at a very young age. By the time he was 18, he had developed a fascination with the fermentation process and was making wine at home.
“I went through all the various stages of being a home winemaker but was always looking for something bigger, something of higher quality,” Kane told the Straight by phone. “So I started out with fresh fruit, and then I went on to kits. And, through reading, I learned how to analyze a chemical analysis of the wines.”
The future owner of River Stone Estate Winery also figured out how to tweak the composition to adjust acidity levels. But he eventually realized that he needed grapes from B.C. to make better wine.
“I was very much a wine geek,” Kane said. “I also had a real passion for all growing things.”
He made his living as a respiratory therapist for 13 years but never stopped thinking about agriculture.
Kane installed a greenhouse beside his Edmonton house and experimented with growing cherries and grape vines. Eventually, he had about 20 plants.
“I was learning pruning, trellising, training…all for a future hopeful date in my mind that I could start up a vineyard and winery,” he said.
In the fall of 2001, he and his wife Lorraine bought raw land and an 800-square-foot farmhouse in Oliver. Kane knew that the desert, very dry climate, and sufficient water supply presented the perfect growing conditions.
“Basically, it was cactuses and sagebrush when we got to it,” he recalled. “I had an eye for what I wanted to do.”
He planted vines with a Bordeaux-style blend in mind, which he dubbed Corner Stone.
Kane also included some vines that would produce white wine because he knew that if he ever had a wine shop, he would need this on the shelves.
River Stone Estate Winery began by producing about 900 cases a year, and the annual output has since increased to 2,300 cases. Kane said that even though Oliver is in a desert, there are reliable underground aquifers to ensure there’s enough moisture for grapes to thrive.
“The amount of water that goes on the vine from year to year dictates if it’s going to be a good vintage or a poor vintage—as well as the number of heat units that come to the area,” Kane explained. “You can make or break a season by the amount of water you put to the vines.”
Signature Wine: Kane said that Corner Stone, a bold Bordeaux-style blend, has up to five varietals, depending on the vintage. It has always included Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. In its inaugural year in 2009, it also included Malbec and, on occasion, it has also included Petit Verdot.