At North America’s first Indigenous owned winery, Justin Hall crafts spectacular wines that everyone needs to know about. With a resort inches away from Nk’Mip Cellars there is no excuse from anyone to make Osoyoos the next stamp on their wine passport.
Head to the west coast, down to Osoyoos, British Columbia and you’ll find Nk’Mip Cellars (pronounced “in-ka-meep”). Osoyoos is considered to be Canada’s Wine Capital, and it really is a wonderful place to go if you love premium wine, great culinary experiences and picturesque scenery.
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Nk’Mip Cellars is an award-winning Indigenous-owned and run winery, and is a sought-after destination for premium wines and rich cultural experiences. With a winery, retail boutique and restaurant on site it is a must visit spot for anyone who appreciates fine wine. To make your decision to visit even easier, there is a fantastic hotel & spa located steps from the winery.
The winery itself sits on the land of the Osoyoos Indian Band and overlooks the Osoyoos Lake in the Okanagan Valley, BC. Under the leadership of Chief Clarence Louie, the Band owns the winery in partnership with Arterra Wines Canada. The word Nk’Mip translates to “Bottomland” in English, being located at the southern end of the Osoyoos reservation. The Osoyoos Indian Band is devoted to hard work, innovation, and responding to the challenges of nature, registered under the Indian Act as a reserve in 1877. On behalf of over 500 Band members, they welcome the opportunity to represent their love of land in a way that preserves the authenticity of the past while offering simple pleasures to the present.
Today the winemaking at Nk’Mip Cellars is spearheaded by Osoyoos Band Member Justin Hall who is the Estate Winemaker. Justin Hall grew up in Osoyoos, BC and he first joined Nk’Mip Cellars after graduating from high school. At the time he thought he wanted to be a mechanic, but after only a few days on the job as a cellar hand he was hooked. He discovered a newfound passion for winemaking, and today is the Estate Winemaker at Nk’Mip Cellars making incredible award-winning wines. Justin is proud to be one of the very first Indigenous winemakers in the world and a protector of the land crafting wines that are unique, delicious and meaningful. I was able to meet Justin this past summer and had the pleasure of tasting with him and spending a full morning with him. He is passionate, dedicated and his energy is infectious – I just loved him and his wines!
Justin spent a lot of time learning about wine to get to this point in his career. He earned a certificate in Viticulture from Okanagan University College and also has a post-graduate diploma in Enology and Viticulture from New Zealand’s Lincoln University. He also worked a harvest in Australia before coming back to Canada to continue working at Nk’Mip Cellars.
Nk’Mip Cellars offers a wide range of fine wines designed in three tiers: Winemaker’s Series, Qwam Qwmt and Mer’r’iym ties. These wines are premium and have garnered high points and critical acclaim. In fact the 2019 Qwam Qwmt Syrah just received a Gold Award and the British Columbia Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards – how’s that for awesome!
After meeting Justin, tasting wine and walking around the boutique, I sat down to lunch. The outdoor patio terrace is simply gorgeous, simple yet stunning and sits right above the vineyards staring at the lake and the mountain. The menu is rustic yet refined and perfectly to my taste. I asked our server for a glass of Riesling, ordered a tomato miso soup and a pancetta pasta and you couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face. I enjoyed the lunch experience so much I went back for a sunset dinner the following evening and tears came to my eyes. It was one of the most beautiful, serene and lovely nights I’ve had in a very long time. Although this was my first time out west to this place, and the first time traveling since the pandemic, this experience truly touched me as one that is authentic, cultural, spiritual and just excellent.
If you’re looking for a unique wine country retreat in Canada’s Wine Capital, I highly recommend flying into Kelowna, renting a car and driving to Osyoos. Right at the border to Wahsington you’ll find many wineries, restaurants and experiences. Stay at the Spirit Ridge Resort, by Hyattt. It is located within a 5-minute walk of Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre and Sonora Dunes Golf Club and is a 4-star resort, equipped with an adult-only pool and 0.5 mi (0.8 km) from Osoyoos Lake. The restaurant at Spirit Ridge “The Bear, The Fish, The Root, the Berry” prides itself on modern vineyard cuisine, inspired by indigenous roots, that ideally pair with the local wine list and the jaw-dropping sunsets. This combination makes for a truly idyllic and relaxing getaway to west coast wine country.
Need another reason to visit Osoyoos? This year, Nk’Mip Cellars opened a new tasting experience at District Wine Village in the heart of South Okanagan, BC. As both Nk’Mip Cellars and this village sit on Osoyoos Indian Band land, the new space further tells the story of the land that brings you our exceptional wines. The District Wine Village is a very cool outdoor wine experience – in fact, it’s the only wine village in Canada! You can even go hot air ballooning – with micro winery experiences, good food, and live music. I went and spent a whole afternoon tasting wine – it is such a unique experience so it’s a must visit if you’re in the area!
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