Aboriginal Winery Making a Splash

Nk’Mip (In Ka Meep) Cellars is the world’s first Aboriginal-owned vine-to-bottle winery, located in the B.C.’s beautiful South Okanagan.

Located on the traditional lands of the Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB), the cellar sits in the midst of the Sonoran Desert landscape and is surrounded by vineyards. The Nk’Mip Cellars are a joint venture between the OIB and Constellation Brands, famous for their Jackson Triggs wine.

“We started out with having a vineyard,” says Chief Clarence Louie, of the OIB. “And everyone who has a vineyard dreams of having a winery.”

All the grapes used in Nk’Mip wines are from OIB lands, and are processed on-site with the winemaking taking place in the cellar. The grapes come from their vineyard close to Oliver, where they have 121 hectares (300 acres) dedicated specifically to the Nk’Mip cellar. The rest of their grapes come from another 364 hectares (900 acres) Constellation manages on OIB lands.

“The most wine we’ve ever produced was 20,000 cases in 2014, which is an excellent vintage,” said Louie. “But we usually get around 18,000.”

Nk’Mip Cellars is part of a greater Aboriginal tourism package that the OIB has assembled to showcase their heritage, and provide an incredibly memorable experience for visitors from around the world. Nk’Mip Resort, Nk’Mip Campground, Spirit Ridge Golf course, and the Nk’Mip Cultural Centre are all located nearby and are teeming with Okanagan heritage and legends.

“The cellar has a mosaic depicting the four food chiefs,” said Louie. “The Bear, who is the chief of all the animals that live on the ground; the Salmon, who is the chief of all the beings who live in the water; the Bitter Root, who is chief of all food that grows in the ground; and the Saskatoon Berry, who is chief of all the food that grows above the ground.”

The cellar has a tasting room and wine shop that are open year-round, as well as a seasonal patio. In the busy season, they employ up to 30 people. There is also a tour of the wine-making process that includes some history of the Okanagan people.

Although the cellar started out as a dream shared by members of the OIB, hard work and planning is the root of its success.

“Before we did anything, we did a proper feasibility study, and built a business plan,” said Louie. “Business doesn’t happen if you don’t have a proper plan.”


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