Nk’Mip Cellars is the first Indigenous winery in North America. The winery sources its grapes from traditional lands of the Osoyoos Indian Band in B.C. The pronunciation is Inka-meep. In its local language, Nk’Mip means “bottomland,” because of its location at the edge of the Okanagan Valley, which was originally the band’s winter hunting grounds. In addition to the winery and its award-winning wines, the gorgeous tourist destination features a cultural centre, a resort, golf course and RV park/campground. We’ve wanted to visit Nk’Mip for years, and finally stopped there during our fall B.C. wine tour.
Nk’Mip Cellars Story
Nk’Mip Cellars began in 2001 as a collaboration between Canadian wine company Vincor (now known as Arterra Wines Canada) and the Osoyoos Indian Band. The band developed the winery as part of a tourism destination, which also includes a cultural centre, a resort and much more. Certainly, this provides not only revenue for the band but also opportunities for more than 500 band members. Most importantly, Nk’Mip considers themselves “the dedicated guardians of a proud legacy … inspired to express our culture in everything we do.”
That is to say, the history and legacy of the Osoyoos Indian Band is expansive. Registered under Canada’s Indian Act as a reserve in 1877, the centuries-old home of the Osoyoos Indian Reserve is 32,000 acres of Sonoran Desert landscape. It’s considered the hottest and driest part of Canada.
At the first indigenous winery in North America, “We’re inspired to capture time in a bottle.”
Nk’Mip Cellars Estate Winemaker Justin Hall
Justin Hall grew up in Osoyoos, and first joined Nk’Mip Cellars as a “cellar rat” after graduating from high school. Next, he studied enology and viticulture in the Okanagan, Australia and New Zealand. Now he is the estate winemaker, and takes pride in every bottle of wine he produces.
Justin hosted our tasting, and shared his passion for winemaking, his inviting sense of humor, and many stories of his life and the history of his band. His pride and enthusiasm for his heritage, the land and his craft shone throughout our time there.
Nk’Mip Cellars Wines
Under Justin’s leadership, Nk’Mip produces about 20,000 cases annually. Recognized nationally and internationally, the winery’s three tiers of wine display quality and expression of the land. Three tiers are: 1) Winemakers Series: “For everyday occasions, we offer wines that are anything but.” 2) Qwam Qwmt: In the Okanagan language, this translates to “achieving excellence.” These are premium table wines in limited quantity, from 40-year-old vines. 3) Mer’r’iym: This translates to “marriage” and represents the “perfect union for two wines: a Bordeaux red blend and a Bordeaux white blend. Justin poured five wines for us – two whites and three reds.
WInemakers Dreamcatcher 2021 ($25 CAD)
This appealing wine is a savory blend of Riesling (35%), Ehrenfelser (20%), Sauvignon Blanc (18%), Pinot Blanc (18%), 8% Chardonnay (8%) and 1% Sémillon. Fresh aromas of pineapples and peach lead into flavors of oranges, peaches and citrus. We wish we had a bottle during August’s crab season here. But this white wine will pair with oysters, spicy curries and gouda cheese. It’s a perfect deck wine too.
Winemakers Chardonnay 2020 ($27 CAD)
Likewise, this an everyday Chardonnay – lightly toasted and creamy with aromas of tropical fruit, citrus, butterscotch and a hint of spice which echo the palate. Justin likes to pair this with a chicken and grilled cheese sourdough sandwich. Yum! However, this Chard is versatile enough to complement white-sauce pasta dishes or smoked gouda cheese. In other words, the rich mouthfeel is complemented by creamy dishes.
Qwam Qwmt Pinot Noir 2020 $40 CAD)
And then we went onto reds, starting with this Pinot Noir, full of dark cherry aromas and flavors and plenty of character. While it’s elegant, Justin also calls it “dirty, earthy.” Aromas of cherries, strawberries, spice and a hint of vanilla mirror the palate. This Pinot could be served at your Thanksgiving table. In addition to turkey, it also pairs with grilled salmon, mushroom dishes and a final course of cheeses such as camembert, gouda or gruyere.
Qwam Qwmt Syrah 2019 ($43 CAD)
This premium wine is only available in a limited quantity. First, an intense nose of blueberries, figs, blackberries, spices and cocoa opens into a plush, smooth, concentrated Syrah. But this is not a big in-your-face Syrah. Rather, it’s subtle, soft and inviting, and a stark difference from the rich, peppery, bold Syrahs in Washington state. Pair it with lamb, short ribs or barbecued steaks.
Mer’r’yim Red Meritage 2019 ($70 CAD)
This beautiful Meritage is a full-bodied, rich blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (42%), Merlot (37%), Cab Franc (11%) and Malbec (10%). It opens with dark fruits, vanilla and spices, turning into flavors of more dark fruits and a hint of chocolate. This standout blend took Gold for the last two years at National Wine Awards of Canada. This is the wine we brought home. Serve it with beef stroganoff, mushroom dishes or lamb. On the other hand, this red wine is impressive enough to drink without food.
Summary: Nk’Mip Cellars
In conclusion, Nk-Mip Cellars is a must-stop on any visit to B.C. wine country. It’s more than a tasting, it’s a cultural experience. Plan to spend a few hours to tour the facilities and the grounds, as well as the winery.
Thank you, Estate Manager Troy Ravndahl, and Wine BC for helping us organize our tasting. And thanks, Justin, for being such a warm, fun and knowledgeable host.
Credit for the photos in this article goes to our friend Chuck Kinzer, a professional photographer.
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Margot and Dave