there are only a few vintages that stay in your memory, and ‘qwam qwmt’ is one of them.
qwam qwmt: “achieving excellence”, in the salish language of canada’s first nations.
it’s an excellent pinot noir, made even more special by its origins: ’q2′ is the top wine of nk’mip winery, the first aboriginal owned and operated winery in north america.
the man who helped make it, 29-year-old justin hall, aims to be the world’s first aboriginal winemaker.
he’s already the assistant winemaker at nk’mip in british columbia’s gorgeous okanagan valley.
hall has studied oenology and viticultre in new zealand and canada, and is learning everything from pruning vines in the nk’mip vineyards to correct aging of wines in french oak barrels.
“there’s a passion when you find a job you love,” hall says.
it’s clear he loves his work. he and winemaker randy picton have won many awards for their young wines, including platinum for nk’mip ice wine at the 2010 new world wine competition.
hall discusses nk’mip’s mission over salmon tartare, greens, sausage, yogurt cheese and preserved peppers — all house-made from local sources. (where possible, the winery buys from the okanagan native alliance in the orchards-rich region.)
also on the menu at the winery restaurant: elk, venison, bison.
the patio at nk’mip is a romantic spot for lunch, high on the rolling okanagan hills overlooking the steely-blue lake osoyoos.
the land is beautiful, with vineyards sloping to the lake. the first plantings in 1968 have helped the osoyoos band, which owns the winery, vineyard and surrounding land, to develop an eco-tourism model for a luxury resort — spirit ridge vineyard resort & spa.
the dry weather here allows visitors to golf year-round at the band’s sonora dunes course nearby.
or walk the trails through a traditional village with sweat lodge, pit houses and teepee.
the trails lead into the sagebrush desert, the only true desert in canada, less than an hour’s drive north of the u.s. border.
near the winery, on the opposite site of the resort, is the nk’mip desert cultural centre, where films, artifacts and great staff explain osoyoos history and culture.
there are also snakes: this is a research center for the largest rattlesnake population in the country.
TOMORROW: Romance, luxury at Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort & Spa