Every wine bottle has a story. Of course, it is the quality of grapes cradled inside the glass vessel that really holds the magic, but for those with a keen eye for aesthetics, picking a vintage based on the label is something that happens every so often. When it comes to vino, we often find ourselves gravitating towards beauty.
For Indigenous World Winery, the story is extra special: a tale told beautifully inside the bottle, and out.
A mystical stag stands proudly on every label of the West Kelowna winery’s Hee-Hee-Tel-Kin blend. The rare alpine deer represents 19-year-old Trenton Louie, son of Indigenous World’s owners Robert and Bernice. The stag stands gazing to the left, looking for direction from the winemaker who is pressing grapes. It is the stag’s time to grow and learn. In the years to come, Robert—chief of the Westbank First Nation band for 24 years—hopes Trenton will take over the reins of Indigenious World as head winemaker. The future is indeed bright.
Opening in May 2016, Indigenous World has already established itself as a standout in the Okanagan’s vast wine scene, starting with its designation as the region’s second winery with Aboriginal ownership (the first being NK’Mip Cellars). Home to two and a half acres of muscat varieties, the small vineyard was planted on reserve land in 2014. Under the guidance of head winemaker Jason Parkes, world-class VQA wines are being created—and tasted by many.
The sight walking down to Indigenous World’s vineyard demonstrates what makes this so region spectacular. Rolling hills, tall trees, and lake breezes help contribute to the flourishing agriculture. Grapes grow aplenty, shades of dark blue and shimmering white. Popping one into your mouth sets you up for an explosive punch of candied sweetness. The sugary rush is your cue to return to the tasting room and sample all that you have seen.
Red Fox Club, an Aboriginal-inspired on-site restaurant, is dedicated to creating gorgeous dishes in collaboration with Canadian greenhouses, farms, and cheese-makers. Under a contemporary flat-roofed glass building, an intimate dining experience—featuring a mere 50 seats—awaits. Chef de cuisine Andrea Callan celebrates herbs, foraging, and the local forestry industry, so expect to taste an array of flavours.
If visiting during the summer months, perhaps pair a 2016 Estate Muscat, the winery’s award-winning blend of orange, black, and ottonel muscat, with a view of the sparkling Lake Okanagan on the restaurant’s patio. Notes of zesty citrus, spring flowers, and spice are explored alongside a Red Fox Board: a kitchen selection of local goods including a Saskatoon berry mustard, smoked and peppered mackerel, chicken sausage from local Sterling Springs farms, and a bison pepperette. But if you find yourself in West Kelowna during the winter, don’t worry: Red Fox Club is open year-round. Perhaps this is the time to enjoy a glass of easy-sipping red Hee-Hee-Tel-Kin, a smashing blend of cabernet franc and merlot. Relish your glass over a plate of wild mushroom ricotta pie, a standout dish featuring Saskatchewan wild rice, an assortment of mushrooms from Summerland’s What the Fungus Farms, and a hit of fennel, which is grown at the winery.
“The demand for Indigenous tourism is crazy right now,” Greg Hopf, an Aboriginal travel specialist with the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, says over lunch at Red Fox Club. “One out of every three travellers that comes to British Columbia wants an Aboriginal experience.” Indigenous World Winery has successfully fused modern culture with Indigenous history. As one of the many prosperous businesses in the self-governing Westbank First Nation, it is evident that the winery is proud of its people and heritage, while at the same time being welcoming of visitors from all backgrounds.
As for Trenton Louie, if all goes according to plan, he will become one of only a few Aboriginal winemakers in the world. And when that time comes, father Robert will change the label on the bottle to show how his son has come into his own.
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