For resident winemaker Justin Hall, a connection with the land and stories from his culture form the guiding principles he and his team at Nk’Mip Cellars follow. Every element of their winemaking process is infused with the traditions of their community.

A member of the Okanagan Nation Alliance, the Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB) first recognized the agricultural potential of its 32,000 acres of sacred land—stretching between Osoyoos and Oliver, B.C.—in 1968. It was in that year that the band established Inkameep Vineyards and began growing grapes to sell to wineries across the region.

Photograph by Jon Adrian.

In 2002, the OIB opened its own winery, Nk’Mip (pronounced ink-a-meep), in Osoyoos, becoming the first Indigenous-owned and operated winery in North America. Using grapes cultivated at Inkameep, it produces not only award-winning wines, but also provides jobs to community members.

Hall began working at Nk’Mip in 2004. Even though he was only cleaning equipment, by the end of his first four days, he had developed a passion for the business and went on to complete a post-graduate diploma in enology and viticulture. In 2017, he was promoted to his current role as winemaker.

“At 24, I was working at the winery eight hours a day,” says Hall. “I would do my school work in the off-hours and then meet up with classmates and sample wine. That was my life for two years.”

Photograph by Jon Adrian.

Hall, who is considered by many to be the first Indigenous winemaker in North America, credits Nk’Mip’s success to three key factors: consistency, communication and culture. The core team at the winery has worked together for more than 16 years, and they collaborate closely throughout the process. This includes working with the viticulture team at Inkameep that grows and cultivates the grapes, and giving their input on the programs offered at Nk’Mip. Hall also acts as a mentor for Indigenous youth who hope to one day follow in his footsteps.

Visitors to Nk’Mip can learn more about its winemaking process through The Land to Legacy Vineyard & Cellar Tour—a grape-to-glass experience where guests also learn the history of the winery. They can also experience The Perfect Union: Four Food Chiefs Wine & Food Pairing Tour, which begins with a guided tour of the winery and concludes with a wine pairing in the property’s private cellar.

Try These Nk’Mip Cellars’ Wines

Qwam Qwmt Syrah, 2016

Photograph courtesy of Nk’Mip Cellars.

Qwam Qwmt translates to “achieving excellence.” With aromas of cherry, black pepper and spice, this wine can be paired with almost anything, including a sweet strawberry dessert.

Riesling Icewine, 2018

Photograph courtesy of Nk’Mip Cellars.

Enjoy peach, mandarin orange and honey notes that taste like a baked apple pie. Traditionally thought of as only a dessert wine, it also pairs surprisingly well with spicy curry dishes.

White Mer’r’iym, 2017

Photograph courtesy of Nk’Mip Cellars.

Mer’r’iym, which translates to “marriage,” represents the perfect union of Semillon with Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Tasting notes offer hints of fresh-cut grass, gooseberry and tropical fruits.

[This story appears in the January 2020 edition of WestJet Magazine.]