The first wines from North America's first Native American-owned winery will be released next month in Canada.

Nk’Mip (pronounced ‘inkameep’) Cellars, a CAN$7m (€4.50m) winery, opens in mid-August. It is 51%-owned by the Osoyoos Indian Band in a joint venture with Vincor International, Canada’s largest wine company.

The wines are made by Vincor winemaker Bruce Nicholson, and retail at about CAN$20 (€12.80) a bottle. They include Pinot Noir, Merlot and Chardonnay from the 2000 vintage and Pinot Blanc and Dry Riesling from 2001.

A winemaker is being hired this year to work exclusively at Nk’Mip, which has a capacity of 15,000 cases a year.

The winery is on a newly-planted vineyard (pictured) at Osoyoos, a village in British Columbia’s desert-like Okanagan Valley wine region, just north of the international border.

The Osoyoos Indian Band, whose 370 members operate nine other businesses on their 13,000-hectare reserve, controls some of the best vineyard land in Canada.

The band’s 97 ha Inkameep Vineyard has been growing vinifera grapes since 1968 and currently supplies all of the fruit for the Band’s winery.

‘I imagine most vineyard producers have dreams and ideas about opening up their own wineries,’ says chief Clarence Louie, 42. ‘The Osoyoos Indian Band is no different – especially since we operate a huge vineyard. This talk about getting into our own winery goes back to the 1970’s.’

‘We have a very long and important relationship with the Band,’ Vincor CEO Donald Triggs said. In 1998 the Band agreed to lease Vincor as much as 800 hectares for new vineyards. So far, about half has been planted.

‘Our future in the Okanagan is very much intertwined with the future of the Band and when the Band expressed an interest in developing a winery of its own, we said we’d be delighted to be your partner and we’ll work with you on it.’

Okanagan Nation

Written by John Schreiner19 July 2002