An amazing transformation has taken place in Osoyoos. What was a few years ago a piece of empty desert sage brush is now the major attraction of Nk’Mip: resort, winery, cultural centre and golf course. It is impressive, and not just to look at; the Nk’Mip Cellars winery is making some very serious wines.
The winery is a unique joint venture between the Osoyoos Indian Band and wine giant Vincor. Vincor’s expertise is matched with the Osoyoos Indian Band’s good fortune of being located on what is probably Canada’s best vineyard land. The vineyard properties include the 340-acre Inkameep Vineyard near Oliver and 20-acres at the winery site. These hot, dry benchlands are perfectly suited to ripening grapes and provide the fruit for Nk’Mip’s passionate winemaker Randy Picton to work his magic.
“I’m lucky enough to get the pick of the best grapes from all the Indian Band land,” says Picton. The winery produces only 18,000 cases and because of this can focus on premium quality. “We can micromanage the vineyard blocks for the Nk’Mip wines to get the best quality.”
The portfolio is focused, allowing Picton and his team to concentrate their energies on just a few varieties. Perhaps because of this, the Nk’Mip range is one of the most consistent quality line-ups in Canada. Two tiers of wine are made, the Winemaker’s Series and the tongue-twisting QwAM QwMT Series, known more simply as QQ and translating as something like “achieving excellence”. The QQ wines are the top tier, offering great complexity along with the ability to mature in bottle. Current standouts are the elegant, fruity and earthy pinot noir and meaty, peppery syrah. Those who love rich, buttery chardonnay will love the QQ version and there is also a fantastic Nk’Mip Series riesling made from nearly 30-year-old vines.
Being North America’s first Aboriginal owned and operated winery, a goal is to integrate into the wine business a large number of band members. Cellar supervisor Justin Hall is the first success story. He spent five years working at the winery learning from Picton, as well as developing his winemaking skills through harvests in Australia, and recently through the completion of a Graduate Diploma in Viticulture and Oenology at Lincoln University in New Zealand. The long-term goal is to have a band member making the wine and running the show.
Nk’Mip is well positioned for the future. They’ve got the land, they’ve got the winemaking and grape-growing talent, they’ve got the wines, and those are great and have great value. It’s a recipe for success.