North America’s First Aboriginal Winery Reflects on 12 Exciting Years
On June 21, the first day of summer, Canadians from coast to coast are invited to celebrate National Aboriginal Day. Raise a class of expertly crafted wine from North America’s First Aboriginal winery, Nk’Mip Cellars, and share in the pride and national recognition of Canadians indigenous heritage.
First observed in 1996, the nation-wide celebration offers an opportunity for all Canadians to share and experience the rich and diverse cultures of the country’s First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. The day is meant to pay tribute to the unparalleled contributions to the development of this country made by its First Peoples. The summer solstice holds special significance for many indigenous groups, who already honour their heritage on that day.
Nk’Mip Cellars story begins with the Nk’Mip people (of the Osoyoos Indian Band): strong, independent, and proud, with a rich history as the stewards of the desert landscape. Under the leadership of Chief Clarence Louie – who believes that native independence hinges on economic independence – the band owns the winery in partnership with Constellation Brands Canada. The winery is part of an engaging and ambitious development strategy that also includes a resort hotel, spa, golf course and cultural centre, the spectacular 18,000-square-foot winery is nestled in prime terroir overlooking Osoyoos Lake.
Winemaker Randy Picton reflects on the progress NK’Mip Cellars has made and the success it has achieved since opening in 2002. “As we near 12 years in operation, we are most proud of the consistency of quality throughout our portfolio and as we become more familiar with our vineyards this consistency is beginning to show year to year as well. Most importantly having the opportunity of working with my assistant winemaker Justin Hall and cellar supervisor Aaron Crey for over 10 years has been an incredible experience. I feel very fortunate.”
Hall is a member of the Osoyoos Indian band while Crey is a member of the Cheam Indian band near the Greater Vancouver area – both have become an integral part of winery operations. And all of the efforts of the team are paying off. The wines in the Winemaker’s Series; the reserve wine series named QwAM QwMT (“achieving excellence” in the Okanagan language); and the Mer’r’iym (the wineries top-tier Bordeaux style red) continue to earn Nk’Mip impressive recognition.
Some recent award highlights include receiving a Double Gold for the 2009 Qwam Qwmt Syrah at the Jerry D. Mead New World International Wine Competition in California and another Double Gold for 2010 Winemaker’s Series Talon at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. Picton was also extremely proud to receive a 100-point score for the 2012 Riesling Icewine from John Schreiner, noted Bc wine critic and author of several books on BC wine as well as publication on the history of Icewine. Nk’Mip Cellars’ spectacular finish at the 2012 Wine Access Canadian Wine Awards garnered the winery the extremely prestigious title of the #1 Winery in British Columbia and the #2 Winery in all of Canada.
About Nk’Mip Cellars
Pronounced “in-ka-meep,” North America’s first aboriginal owned and operated winery overlooks Osoyoos Lake in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. Using grapes from the Osoyoos Indian Band’s Inkameep Vineyard, winemaker Randy Picton produces wines in three tiers: Winemaker’s Series, Qwam Qwmt and Mer’r’iym tiers. The award-winning portfolio includes favourites such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Merlot, Syrah Meritage and Riesling Icewine.