there’s just no place like it in north america.
spirit ridge vineyard resort & spa has a perfect setting: on a ridge in canada’s famed okanagan valley, with emerald vineyards above, and the sapphire lake osoyoos below.
it’s surrounded by lush orchards that made the okanagan name so famous, and the ripening grapes that have put the place on the world winery map.
spirit ridge is part of the growing nk’mip (pronounced in-ka-meep) destination being developed by the osoyoos tribe.
once near-bankrupt, the 400-member tribe is thriving, having established the first aboriginal winery in north america: nk’mip cellars. (in the tribe’s traditional salish language, nk’mip means “where the creek meets the lake.”)
nk’mip wines are winning international awards and global attention for the tribe’s bold economic development plan.
the winery is at the edge of the resort, and only steps from the main lodge. there are tastings and tours at the winery, and a patio restaurant overlooking the pastoral landscape. at spirit lodge, another restaurant, passa tempo, leased from the tribe by chef-owner paul lagrange, also overlooks the vineyards.
the setting is very tranquil, amid the vineyards. and villas are all named to suit — chardonnay, merlot, pinot, shiraz.
we stayed at the riesling villas, marveling at the adobe-style architecture of soft edges, warm desert colors inside and out, and sweeping views of the vineyards and lake.
they’re luxurious beyond expectations, especially in a vacation area loaded with hotels. (bellstar hotels & resorts manages the hotel, in partnership with the oyoyoos indian band development corporation.)
suites are more like upscale homes (some with three bedrooms are almost 1,300 sq ft), with 9-foot ceilings, gourmet kitchens, fireplaces, full dining-living rooms, and elegant bedrooms.
details are elegant too, from stylized, aboriginal art on most walls, to the real deal in communal areas, such as lobbies in the hotel buildings with suites (named for desert plants: sumac, lavender, sagebrush, cactus).
spirit ridge is tranquil, a place to sit around the firebowl at night, or watch the stars from your balcony. or sit at a desk by the windows, checking email with wifi, and writing while overlooking vineyards spilling to the lake.
there’s also cable with dvd, wall stereo with cd player, and an ipod docking station; well-equipped gym, and water slide, with big pool and hot tub at the center of the resort.
there’s a more serene pool for adults only near the shiraz villas, next to the winery and vineyards.
for our two-night stay, we spent more time walking the desert trails and learning about aboriginal culture at the nk’mip desert cultural centre.
the soulful drumming in the “coyote spirit” film shown at the center offers some insight into the okanagan culture, and what it means to embrace community and honor the land.
“every square inch of this land is sacred and we have to be responsible,” says lisa, the film’s teen narrator.
she explains the groundbreaking history of nk’mip, from life on the reserve to the tribe’s determination to start its own school and student radio show. the student storytellers were so talented, walt disney wrote them a letter in 1937, praising them for a “flawless production” on national radio.
this for a tiny group on what was then a poor reserve.
now, it’s a burgeoning winery and vineyards, with lakeside camping and luxury hotel, golf course, and one of the largest RV sites next to a canadian lake.
both the hotel and RV site have expanded in the last few years, and are growing still.
chief clarence louie, honored recently by the aboriginal business hall of fame, won the highest award in his province, the order of british columbia, for leading this eco-tourism development.
next on the list: a green industrial park.