Nk’Mip Cellars has consistently been praised for many years – and captured major awards in the process – but they’ve reached the pinnacle in the Canadian wine industry with Friday’s announcement they have been named Canadian Winery of the Year in the 2016-17 InterVin International Wine Awards.
Nk’Mip Cellars also finished second in the Winery of the Year against international competition from traditional wine markets in France, Italy and Australia.
“It’s certainly a huge achievement and we’re very very happy with it,” said head winemaker Randy Picton, who has been the only head winemaker at Nk’Mip Cellars since the day it opened back in 2002.
This award comes three years after Nk’Mip Cellars was named the Best Winery in B.C. and second-best winery in Canada in the same awards sponsored by InterVin.
InterVin Head Judge Christopher Waters was impressed with Nk’Mip Cellars’ consistently high standards and superb new releases.
Having secured a place in the InterVin International Wine Awards Top 10 Winery of the Year line up for the last five consecutive years, North America’s First Aboriginal Owned and Operated Winery consistently gains domestic and international attention and acclaim for its high quality wine, said Waters.
Picton said he and his small team at the Osoyoos winery found out about being named Winery of the Year back in early September, but were asked to keep it a secret until last week.
“We found out … ironically on the first day of harvest on Sept. 1,” he said. “That was a pretty good way to kick off the annual harvest.”
You don’t make world-class wine without great employees, said Picton.
“This was once again a great team effort from the people who work here at the winery to our people in the vineyards who do such an amazing job growing and harvesting the grapes,” he said. “They give us the amazing grapes and we do our best to turn that into something special up here at the winery.”
Longtime assistant winemaker Justin Hall and cellar supervisor Aaron Crey deserve as much credit as he does for this prestigious national award, said Picton.
Being the only First Nations-owned winery in Canada has always been a source of tremendous pride for all of the employees at Nk’Mip Cellars and Chief Clarence Louie and numerous band members with the Osoyoos Indian Band were quick to congratulate him and his team on a job well done, said Picton.
The fact that 14 of 16 entries into the InterVin international awards garnered medals is perhaps his greatest source of pride, said Picton.
“The consistency across our entire portfolio of wines is very strong,” he said. “Winning major awards like this is always a great honour, but you’re never quite satisfied as a winemaker as you want every vintage to be excellent … that’s what we continue to strive for here at this winery.”
Picton, who has been a winemaker since 1995, said he isn’t planning retirement any time soon, but will be handing the reigns over to Hall in the not-too-distant future.
“From the very beginning, the plan was to have a First Nations leader running this First Nations winery and there will be one day when I’ll have to step back and let Justin take over and do his thing,” he said.
Three of Nk’Mip’s new premium table wine releases gained recognition for excellence at this year’s competition with the 2014 Qwam Qwmt Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2014 Qwam Qwmt Merlot and the 2015 Qwam Qwmt Riesling Icewine all winning gold medals.
In addition the winery also picked up six silver and five bronze medals for its various other wines.
The InterVin International Wine Awards consisted of a three-day intense blind tasting, where the InterVin judges were faced with a collection of more than 1,300 wines from 16 countries, which resulted in awarding 48 gold, 222 silver and 555 bronze medals.
Picton said the results are the accumulation of a lot of hard work by a lot of dedicated employees.
“I’m extremely pleased with the results,” he said. “It’s fantastic to see Nk’Mip recognized as Canadian Winery of the Year, and to be ranked so highly overall is a great achievement for both the winery, and its wines. I feel very fortunate to be part of such a talented and innovative team.”
Having been with the winery since its inception in 2002, Picton never underestimates the importance of the attention to detail that goes into growing the best grapes and producing excellent wine. This philosophy of quality and care continues inside the winery, ensuring the expression of the vineyard is deliciously represented in every bottle produced, he said.
The winery’s mandate is to produce wines made from grapes grown on indigenous native soils and the vineyards produces some of the most prized grapes in the Okanagan Valley.
Nk’Mip Cellars produces its Winemaker’s Series that includes its Qwam Qwmt and Mer’r’iym tiers. The award-winning portfolio includes favourites such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Talon, Dreamcatcher, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling Icewine.
Nk’Mip Cellars story begins with the people of the Osoyoos Indian Band; strong, independent, and proud, with a rich history as the stewards of the desert landscape.
The Osoyoos Indian Band owns the winery in partnership with Constellation Brands Canada.
Picton said he’s proud to be part of the team at Nk’Mip Cellars that has created jobs, contributed to the diversification of the OIB’s development projects and has been instrumental in promoting tourism in the Osoyoos area.