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waters on wine

Nk’Mip Cellars, which was founded as a collaboration between Canadian wine company Vincor (now known as Arterra Wines Canada) and the Osoyoos Indian Band.Courtesy of Arterra Wines Canada

North America’s first Indigenous-owned and operated winery, Nk’Mip Cellars opened its doors in 2002 as part of a tourism destination developed by the Osoyoos Indian Band to showcase their heritage and encourage business opportunities that would create long-term employment and revenue for the band members and community. The winery was joined by a resort, golf course, cultural centre and campground located at the southern edge of the Okanagan Valley,

Nk’Mip Cellars, which was founded as a collaboration between Canadian wine company Vincor (now known as Arterra Wines Canada) and the Osoyoos Indian Band, has enjoyed commercial and critical success with the wines produced from grapes grown on community land. In June, the winery announced Justin Hall, a member of the Osoyoos Indian Band who has worked in the cellars for 18 years, would succeed Randy Picton as head winemaker.

Hall started as an intern and rose through the winemaking ranks. When he was named a winemaker at Nk’Mip in 2017, he worked with Picton on all the wines, monitoring the vineyards and tasting to evaluate the wines at every step of the way. There was a succession plan in place.

“Randy has been retiring for 15 years,” Hall says lightheartedly. “But I’m quite happy to have taken my time to be confident enough to move into the role. You need to really build a palate and understand what is going on with the grapes.”

Picton will continue to consult for the coming harvest, which will see Nk’Mip introduce another winemaking site at the newly opened District Wine Village in Oliver, B.C. The new location will be dedicated to producing the winery’s popular Pinot Blanc.

Hall says the Okanagan has just experienced its warmest June on record, with higher heat accumulation than even the extreme temperatures experienced back in 2015. That year, Nk’Mip finished harvesting most of its grapes before the end of September. A normal season would see the grape harvest extend well into October.

The prospect of another compressed harvest makes Hall grateful that Picton is available to assist and share his insights going into the 2021 harvest. But beyond the transition period, he doesn’t expect consumers will see much change in Nk’Mip’s wines.

“I was mentored by Randy. I watched his every single move. I know how he thinks – we fill each other’s sentences,” Hall says. “We’ve been working together the whole time. I think we have developed a consistency here.”

This week’s recommended wines include one of Hall’s passion projects, a reserve white made with sauvignon blanc and Semillon whose name, Merryim, means “marriage” in the Okanagan language. The vibrant and concentrated white is joined by a host of white wine styles showcasing strong examples from Canada, France, New Zealand and South Africa.

In June, Nk'Mip Estate & WineMakers announced Justin Hall, a member of the Osoyoos Indian Band who has worked in the cellars for 18 years, would succeed Randy Picton as head winemaker.Courtesy of Arterra Wines Canada

Babich Black Label Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (New Zealand), $19.95

Rating:89 /100

Babich’s Black Label sauvignon blanc offers a step up in concentration and complexity from the affordable and enjoyable white label white that’s available in most markets. Made in the typical zesty and flavourful New Zealand style, this features an attractive mix of fruit and herbal aromas and flavours with some flinty notes on the nose that add to the enjoyment. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $25.99 in Nova Scotia.

Cave Spring Cellars CSV Riesling 2018 (Canada), $29.95

Rating:93 /100

Cave Spring’s flagship Riesling is made from mature vines planted in the Pennachetti’s family vineyard overlooking Lake Ontario. The warmth of the vintage contributes to a dry Riesling with riper fruit flavours, including apricot and melon, with the freshness of apple and lemony citrus notes to balance. The complexity of floral, honeycomb and earthy aromas and serious texture make for an impressive version of Niagara Riesling. Drink now to 2030. Available at the above price direct through, various prices in Alberta.

Hampton Water Rosé 2020 (France), $29.95

Rating:90 /100

Hampton Water is a creative partnership between rock star Jon Bon Jovi, his son Jesse Bongiovi and the inventive French winemaker Gérard Bertrand, who came together to produce a rosé in the Languedoc in 2017. The newly released 2020 vintage captures the light and refreshing style of rosé from the South of France, with a depth of flavour and round texture that contribute body and weight. Drink now to 2022. Available in Ontario.

Nk’Mip Cellars Merriym White Meritage 2019 (Canada), $31.99

Rating:91 /100

This stylish blend of sauvignon blanc and Semillon from Nk’Mip delivers richness and refreshment, with some of the attractive sage notes that make white wines from the Okanagan so distinctive. The sauvignon blanc component was fermented in stainless steel tanks to preserve the freshness and intensity of the fruit, while the later-ripening Semillon was fermented in 100-per-cent new French oak barrels for added complexity and character. The finished blend shows wonderful fruit intensity and concentration, with a flavourful thirst-quenching finish. Drink now to 2025. Available direct through, $29.99 in Prince Edward Island.

Sutherland Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (South Africa), $14.95

Rating:89 /100

This dry and compelling sauvignon blanc comes from Elgin, a cooler region of South Africa best known for its apple orchards. South Africa’s winemakers are seeing terrific results from sauvignon blanc as well as chardonnay and pinot noir planted in the region. Fresh and inviting, this is a vibrant and fragrant example of sauvignon blanc that works well as an aperitif or enjoyed with a meal. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario at the above price, $16.99 in Newfoundland.

Tantalus Old Vines Riesling 2018 (Canada), $34.78

Rating:93 /100

Tantalus continues to make an impression with the serious and aromatic dry Riesling it makes from a small parcel of vines planted in 1978. The new release presents the similar ripe yet tart fruit flavours with some attractive honey and stony notes that carry through to the long, flavourful finish. Fresh, complex and complete, this is a stunning version of an always exciting wine. Drink 2022 to 2038. Available at the above price direct through, various prices in Alberta.

Villa Maria Private Bin East Coast Chardonnay 2019 (New Zealand), $17.70

Rating:89 /100

Here’s a fresh and rewarding medium-bodied chardonnay that effectively checks all the boxes for summertime enjoyment. The flavour is led by peach, apricot and citrus notes, with some oak-derived spice and vanilla in the background. The refreshing character is nicely balanced by the creamy texture and a persistent finish. Drink now to 2022. Available in Ontario at the above price, $18.99 in British Columbia, $22.02 in Nova Scotia.

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