Unique and oh so beautiful, British Columbia's Golden
Mile an area located in the Southern Okanagan region. Today the Golden
Mile is known for its wines the land is dotted by wineries and
covered with vineyards. The Golden Mile sub region lies south of Oliver on an east-facing bench backed
by gentle mountains.
The sub region begins just south of Oliver at Fairview and extend southward to the3502 Fruitvale Way where Gold Hills winery is located.
It is said that the Golden Mile was given its name because of its location, geography and resulting temperatures
and ideal growing conditions. The Golden Mile is located off the Valley floor in the upper bench. This is particularly
important when there is a fall frost as it is less likely to reach, and therefore damage, plants in the area. This makes
it ideal for ground cropping as the positioning allows for additional warmth from the rocks, which benefits the crops and
lengthens the growing season
The temperature in the Golden Mile can be six to eight degrees warmer than what is found along Highway 97
at the bottom of the valley. This was critical in the early years for the area wineries because of frost. Vines cannot be
exposed to early or severe frost – the leaves turn brown, photosynthesis and ripening stop, and the plan is easily wounded
and even killed. Past years have seen a distinct temperature shift and the lower-lying areas along Highway 97 are
significantly warmer than in past decades. But traditionally, grape crops needed to count on a longer, warmer season through
mid to late October for crops to properly ripen. This can be relied upon in the Golden Mile.
The first commercial vineyard was planted in 1969 by Joe Bisnardo, who currently owns Divino Estate Winery on
Early Development History **
The rich history of the area dates back to 1918 when the Southern Okanagan Lands Project was established
following the passage of the Soldiers Land Act. Up until that point most of the activity in the region centred on an area
four kilometers west of Oliver called Fairview. This old gold mine community dating back to the 1880s was created to work
on the Stemwinder, Smuggler, Joe Dandy, Strathyne, Susie, Tinhorn and Wide West claims.
The Soldiers Land Act was spearheaded under Liberal Party Premier John Oliver and his Minister of Lands,
T. D. (Duff) Pattullo. Known as “Honest John,” Oliver was a simple man of considerable integrity. He governed BC through
some difficult times, including the readjustments after World War I and the economic depression of the early 1920s.
The “Act” was a priority for Honest John as it permitted the British Columbia government to purchase 22,000
acres of land from the Southern Okanagan Land Company for use as a soldier settlement to accommodate returning veterans from
WWI. The settlement scheme included the establishment of a town site (appropriately named “Oliver”); the subdivision and sale
or lease of lots in the region; and the construction of an open-canal gravity irrigation system, completed in 1927, stretching
from a dam at the outlet of Vaseux Lake to the Canada/USA border.
To get the canal from the east side of the Valley to the benches on the west – known today as the Golden Mile –
a 1,940 foot (591 m) long, six-and-a-half-foot (2 m) diameter wood-stave pipe was constructed that ran directly beneath the
centre of Oliver. This water main, combined with the arrival of electricity from the West Kootenay Power and Light Company in
1922, meant that canal and river waters could be pumped up onto the Valley's benches. The 23-mile (37 km) long canal turned what
was previously cattle ranging land into a lush ground crop and fruit-growing region that dwarfed what was occurring elsewhere in
the province. The importance of this canal and irrigation system to the transformation of this region cannot be overstated.
On May 24, 1923, the first train arrived in Oliver. A few months later the first cantaloupes were sold and the
response was so overwhelming that 44 carloads were put on the market the next season. The region thrived until the 1930s when
activities slowed down because of the hard economic times. In 1935 and 1936 a small boom occurred in mining with the reopening of
the Morning Star at Fairview, and in the lumber industry with the opening of a small sawmill.