North America's First Indigenous Winemaker in Osoyoos
The first indigenous-owned winery in North America, Nk’Mip (pronounced in-ka-meep) Cellars also is home to the first indigenous winemaker in North America. Justin Hall is that winemaker and he is making magic in the desert mountains of Osoyoos.
Chief Clarence Louie followed his dream to plant vineyards and build a winery in 2002. Nk’Mip represents a joint venture between the Osoyoos Indian Band (Sylix people) and Arterra Wines Canada. The winery is attached to Spirit Ridge, now part of the Unbound series of hotels and resorts by Hyatt. This glorious property includes a stunning patio restaurant with breathtaking views and an amazing cultural centre celebrating the Sylix people.
Winemaker Justin Hall is a proud member of the Osoyoos Indian Band and grew up on the Oliver reservation. Once he was exposed to the world of winemaking by head winemaker at Nk’Mip Cellars Randy Picton, he was hooked. Justin says he knew instantly that a career in winemaking was his destiny. He travalled to New Zealand and received a post-graduate diploma in Enology and Viticulture from Lincoln University and returned home to Nk'Mip where Randy continued to mentor him.This land that now houses the winery and vineyards is a natural setting for Justin. He grew up roaming these desert lands, hunting, foraging and fishing these waters. He is as much a part of this terroir as the wines he is making.
Q & A with Justin Hall:
Q: As the first indigenous winemaker in North America, do you see others interested in winemaking as a career?
A: Yes, I see a lot of interest from the younger generation, they always ask me questions about the process and how I like making wine. They ask where I studied, what it was like and how did I get into the industry. I love encouraging the youth to finish high school and go to university.
Q: Tell me what your philosophy on winemaking is?
A: My Philosophy… that’s hard to describe. Taking what the land has given me and making the best wine possible with the grapes provided.
Q: Any winery news to share?
A: My 2017 White Merriym (67% Sauvignon Blanc- 33% Semillon) just won a Platinum award at the WineAlign competition and is the only Platinum winner in its category! I am super proud! Nk’Mip Cellars also won 5th best winery in Canada and 4th in B.C. We have often been in the top five and one reason is because we make very consistent wines here year after year. I am very proud of our success driven by hard work.
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