But I wish he was.
The Kane family needs more winemakers.
But his grandfather was from Belfast, my great-grandfather was from County Kerry.
Still, I think we kinda look alike.
Heredity aside, Kane’s story is a classic tale of searching for a pot of gold under a rainbow.
Ted Kane starting making wine at age 17 back in Edmonton where he grew up. “It’s just something in my blood,” he told us, on the July day we dropped by.
He recalled how he progressed from kit wines to buying market fresh fruit, until being driven to drive carloads of grapes from the Okanagan.
He was a respiratory therapist at the U of Alberta Hospital by day, and a passionate winemaker at night, but all the while he dreamed of being in the Okanagan.
Well, who doesn’t, but this dream stuck to Kane like brettanomyces in the cellar. It started, as he says, as “little steps toward the big picture.”
Finally, in 2001 the Kanes made the big leap and purchased a 9.5 acre piece of fallow, sloping land between Tuc el Nuit Road and the Okanagan River. “The way we timed it, we just got lucky.”
More than luck, it was impeccable timing to buy in an area where land prices had jumped significantly by the mid-2000s.
He chose the South Okanagan specifically to make Bordeaux-style wines like his flagship wine, Cornerstone. For that, he planted cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, and malbec. Pinot gris and gewürztraminer round out the whites.
After years of selling his grapes, Ted Kane released the River Stone 2009 Cabernet France and Cornerstone blend as his first estate wines.
Having fixed and flipped houses in Calgary and Edmonton gave Kane the ability to build his iconic gabled house and winery. It sits at the top of the hill overlooking the river and is visible from all angles. He’s been working on it since 2004. Meanwhile, his wife Lorraine has been working as a doctor in Oliver.
He describes the property as a huge gravel pit, different from the sand of South Oliver. Lately, he’s noticed a chalky minerality coming through in the cab franc.
Set ’em up
In the cellar tasting room on the bottom floor of the house, Kane poured us his latest offerings.
The 2011 Pinot Gris is crisp and refreshing, with the citrus of a lemon meringue pie and a zesty acidity on the finish. He says it’s leaner this year and very dry, just the way he likes it.
“You can do pinot gris in so many styles, dry, off, oaked, not oaked. That’s why I chose it.”
Splash is a smile-inducing wine just by its name. A blend of pinot gris and gewürztraminer, Splash is a light, sunny wine made for the patio. This year it has more residual sugar, he says giving it more softness. It’s clean and easy to drink, that’s for sure.
The Malbec Rose is 100% dry and super dark, one of the deepest-colored rosés I’ve ever seen. He let the grapes soak in the juice for 2 days before fully pressing it to bring out boldness and color.
All of his red wines are aged in French oak.
I first tasted the River Stone 2011 Cabernet Franc at the WBC in June, and I liked it again on this day. It has vibrant raspberry and spice with a light dusting of tobacco leaf. Very food friendly.
We agreed that cab franc really is of the best things going on in the Okanagan.
But it was merlot that Kane settled in Oliver for. He loves how it ripens early. “Merlot is always first part of the Cornerstone blend,” he said. “It’s the reason I planted cab sauv, cab franc and malbec.”
His River Stone 2011 Merlot is a deep, ripe wine with superb balance and pure fruit. Candied blackberries and old wood on the nose, with stewed fruit, sage and spice on a soft mouthfeel that finishes juicy.
The other night we decanted and drank this merlot with grilled chicken, and organic vegetables from Covert Farms. It paired with everything, gracefully.
The River Stone 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon is leftover wine from the Cornerstone blend. He made 85 cases, sold only at the winery. It has a pretty, cedary nose, with ripe blackberry fruit and vanilla on the palate and a long finish.
Finally, we reached the 2010 Cornerstone. It contains no malbec this year. The malbec went into that first rosé we just tasted.
Cornerstone is an amazing wine that makes me believe harder in Okanagan wines. We took home a bottle and drank it over several days, and it opened up like a rose bud, bringing forth new layers and flavors as time passed. More smoke, more spices, a deepening of cassis, sweetness of oak, it all unfolded that week. My suggestion is to open it, pour a glass, and recork it for the next day.
The River Stone distribution is small, just 1500 cases in 2013, but Kane hopes to produce 2000 cases next year. Bottles can be found in private stores and restaurants. And, at this beautiful winery by the side of the river where you can buy freshly baked bread and cheese to go with the wines.
Luck happens at the convergence of timing and opportunity, and River Stone is a prime example.
While we’re not cousins of Ted Kane, it’s nice to know someone in the Kane diaspora is lucky enough to have a winery.
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