Oliver, BC is a small town located in the South Okanagan that appropriately bills itself as the “Wine Capital of Canada”. Oliver, named after John Oliver, the premier of British Columbia (1918-1927) was first inhabited around the end of the 19th century as a supply station for miners who were working in the Fairview area. While there had been mining activity in the area prior to that, the Cariboo had pulled many workers away. This turned around in 1892 when the area then known as “Sooyoos” (now named Osoyoos) – translating to “where two lakes come together at a shallow crossing” saw another boom.
At the end of the 19th century, close to 15,000 people lived in Fairview, which was the site of several bountiful ore and gold mines. The neighbouring Oliver area boomed around 1921 following the completion of an irrigation canal, an innovation of Premier John Oliver. Newly-irrigated land was made available for reasonable prices to veterans returning from WWI in 1921, and again to veterans returning from WWII in the 1940s. Prior to the development of the wine industry, almost all of the agricultural land in the Oliver area was planted first to ground crops and later to tree fruits such as cherries, apples and peaches. Many of the local orchards are now owned by more recent arrivals, immigrants from Portugal in the 1950s and India in the 1980s. Today the “Wine Capital of Canada” is one of the best wine-growing areas in North America. The sun, the soil, the climate and the topography have created special and unique terroirs that are evidenced by their thriving vineyards. Oliver has the largest concentration of both vineyards and commercial wineries in British Columbia. Approximately 30 wineries are located within 15 minutes of Oliver, many of them located along what is known as the Golden Mile of Hwy 97, just south of Oliver.