nk'mip cellars

4 Questions with Justin Hall of Nk’Mip Cellars

by | Oct 21, 2019

Nk’Mip Cellars is the first Indigenous-owned winery in North America. The British Columbia winery is situated on the centuries-old home of the Osoyoos Indian Band, the expansive and scenic property overlooking the Osoyoos Lake, surrounded by mountains and Sonoran Desert. The legacy of the people is reflected in the name of the award-winning premium table wines, like its Qwam Qwmt series, named for the Okanagan word spoken by the band and translating to “achieving excellence.”

Winemaker Justin Hall started at the winery after high school apprenticing under senior winemaker Randy Picton. It initially started out as just a job for him, but he soon became passionate about wine and began studying at the Okanagan University College where he earned certificates in both the winery assistant and viticulture programs. He then traveled to Australia to work at the Goundrey Winery, learning the finer points of running a large-scale winery. He completed his education in enology and viticulture at Lincoln University in New Zealand.

Hall is also a member of the Osoyoos Indian Band and the call of his heritage returned him to the Nk’Mip Cellars, where he became the assistant winemaker and, in 2017, he assumed the role of winemaker.F

1) What is the history of the winery?

Nk’Mip Vineyards adjacent to the winery were planted in 2001. Our other main source of grapes — Inkameep Vineyards in Oliver — was first planted in 1968. Most of the grapes at that time were hybrids. The oldest vinifera plantings we source from that vineyard are Riesling which were planted in 1980. The balance of grapes we source from that vineyard — Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay,  Ehrenfelser, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc — were planted in 1990 with the newest block being around 2001. The winery opened its doors in the fall of 2002.

2) How does a bottle of Nk’ Mip wine reflect the culture of your people?

The wines we produce reflect our modern-day culture of hard work and the economic independence we have garnered from the land upon which we live.

3) What was it about wine that made you want to become a winemaker?

Initially I was just looking for employment — the industry seemed interesting, but I had no real history in wine tasting or winemaking. My excitement, however, developed very quickly once I became involved at the winery. It’s the type of career that is never “just a job,” it becomes a big part of your life and you have to be highly passionate about it in order to succeed.

4) Which is your favorite grape to work with? Why? 

All the varietals we work with have their own unique character and require different approaches to ensure you represent the true character of the grapes and the land upon which they are grown. It’s difficult to pick one as a favorite.

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