Wine & Dine

Posing with the 1938 Chevrolet pick-up-truck-cum-flower-planter is Oliver Twist Estate Winery owner and winemaker Gina Ferandes Harfman with her kids, Jaxon, 7, left, and Vita, 3.

From McIntrye Bluff to the Canada-U.S. border, from the Black Sage Bench to the Golden Mile Bench and everywhere in between, Oliver and Osoyoos are pure South Okanagan wine region eye candy.

And, yes, the wines from the 43 members of the Oliver Osoyoos Winery Association in this 36-kilometre stretch are terroir-driven fabulous as a result.

My wife, Kerry, and I recently spent the day criss-crossing the region in the sunshine to experience the diversity of soil types and microclimates in a relatively small area.

Of course, there were enlightened conversations and wine sampling at every stop.

And don’t forget the food.

Lunch at Terrafina restaurant at Hester Creek Estate Winery and a charcuterie board at Vin Amite Cellars aided and abetted the wine drinking and sightseeing.

The following showcases our one-day journey through Oliver’s multifariousness.

You can certainly copy it and have an incredible time or use the new tour planning page at to design your own romp through wine heaven.

Oliver Twist Estate Winery

Winemaker Gina Ferandes Harfman points to the top of the Black Sage Bench where the grapes for her best-selling wine comes from.

“The Kerner loves the gravel up there. It gives the wine a wonderful acidity and it tastes likes peach-and-honey sunshine in a glass,” she says.

“But, if I’m making late-harvest Kerner, the grapes come from the sandy loam lower down. And when I’m putting Kerner in the Chantilly Lace sparkling, bthe grapes come from the middle elevation of the bench where there’s more clay.”

Such range on Oliver Twist’s 14.5 acres of vineyard means the winery’s other vintages, from unoaked Chardonnay and Viognier to red, white and rose blends are fruit-forward people pleasers.

River Stone Estate Winery

Owner and winemaker Ted Kane readily admits his property is “one big pile of rocks and gravel.”

“And that’s a good thing,” he says with a laugh.

“Our central valley, hillside location formed by the last glacial recession and a desert climate means we have great drainage, great heat retention and rich calcium deposits that impart a nice minerality to all our wines.”

Those unique characteristics show up in each and every one of River Stone’s varietals, which are all native to France’s renowned Bordeaux region.

For instance, the signature red blend Cornerstone, made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot is blueberry-blackberry-cherry delicious with sage-coffee-chocolate complexity.

River Stone’s Sauvignon Blanc, which is Bordeaux’s prominent white grape and wine, stradles the line between France-style subtlety and New Zealand-style boldness.

Hester Creek Estate Winery

The panoramic views of vineyards, valley, benches, Osoyoos Lake and mountains from Hester Creek Estate Winery on the Golden Mile Bench solidifies what makes Oliver beautiful and a wine hot spot.

“When the last glaciers retreated, they left us these amazing alluvial sands on our side (west) of the valley,” says Hester Creek’s communications manager Sarah Lefebvre.

“Combined with some soft rolling hills and an ideal mix of elevations, we’ve been able to plant different varietals with success.”

True that.

Hester Creek grows and makes the only Trebbiano white wine in the Okanagan.

It’s from 50-year-old vines, gives the traditional Italian grape an Okanagan style and pairs well with the potato and truffle aioli pizza served at Terrafina restaurant at Hester Creek.

Hester Creek’s signature red is The Judge, a Bordeaux-style blend.

Vin Amite Cellars

Just off Highway 97 on the Okanagan valley floor is petit pleasure Vin Amite Cellars.

A little cottage houses the tasting room and wine shop and the back deck overlooks five acres of rock-sand-and-loam vineyards where Pinot Gris and Chardonnay grapes are grown to make wines with sucking-on-a-stone minerality.

“That minerality is so pleasing,” says co-owner and winemaker Catherine Coulombe.

“I simply let the grapes speak for themselves in the wine. As a result, they are just so agreeable and approachable.”

By the way, you can also sit on that deck to enjoy the view, taste wines and nibble on charcuterie.

The grapes for Vin Amite’s reds come from vineyards in Osoyoos.

Steve MacNaull is a reporter at The Kelowna Daily Courier. Reach him at