The winemaking at Nk’Mip Cellars is led by Justin Hall, a member of the Osoyoos Band. He grew up in Osoyoos, British Columbia, and first joined Nk’Mip Cellars after completing his High School graduation. He wanted to be a mechanic, but after a few days in his job life as a cellar hand, he completely got hooked. He discovered a new passion for winemaking, and now is the Estate Winemaker at the Nk’Mip Cellars, producing amazing and award-winning wines. Justin Hall is proud to be the world’s first indigenous winemaker and protector of the land, creating delicious, unique, and meaningful wines, while taking indigenous entrepreneurship to newer heights.
The Journey from Cellar Hand to Estate Winemaker
From the beginning, Hall knew that winemaking was something he wanted to do more seriously. On the fourth day [of his first job], he enrolled himself at a local college in Penticton. He met a few friends and started tasting wines on their own, and studied the ins and outs of wine.
Hall continued to hone his skills at Lincoln University in Australia and New Zealand. Although he did not receive a traditional academic education like his classmates, he did have many years of practical experience that allowed him to connect what he had learned in the vineyard with theory.
He took evening classes at Okanagan University College, receiving his certificates in the Winery Assistant and Viticulture programs. To learn more about the complexities of large-scale wineries and the many roles and responsibilities involved in the winemaking process, Justin traveled to Western Australia to work at Goundrey Winery.
Justin returned to Nk’Mip Cellars after graduating from the University of Lincoln, New Zealand with a Master’s degree in Brewing and Viticulture, where he took on the role of an assistant winemaker.
Justin was promoted to the role of Winemaker in May 2017. Being a dedicated and devoted member of the Osoyoos Indian band, Justin collaborates with Randy Picton to create the award-winning Nk’Mip Cellars wine. He always wanted this as his profession since he states that he’s born to produce the finest of wines for people worldwide. He wants to study viticulture and oenology in New Zealand’s cooler climate and further his ambition to become a top winemaker someday. Hall’s energy is so infectious, that he’s turning out to be an inspiration for many indigenous business groups to come.
Justin Hall’s Idea Behind Wine Names
The band’s culture infiltrates Nk’Mip in different ways, starting with the names on the bottles. Its premium table wine is called Qwam Qwmt (pronounced as kw-em kw-empt), which translates as “achieving excellence”. Hall states that the name was given to reflect its excellence and perfection. He believes that there is no such word in the Okanagan dictionary or language as inherently perfect, and even the smallest things are always flawed. So Qwam Qwmt is in the stage of achieving perfection. This wine is produced in very limited quantities and is considered to be worthy of such a title, believes Hall.
On the other hand, Mer’r’iym means ‘marriage’ and is the ideal name for a wine representing the union of Nk’Mip’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc.
A Brief about Nk’Mip Cellars
Nk’Mip Cellars offers a wide range of fine wines in three levels: Winemaker’s Series, Qwam Qwmt, and Mer’r’iym. These premium wines have earned high marks and praise from critics. In fact, in 2019, Qwam Qwmt Syrah was awarded the British Columbia Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards and also received a Gold Medal.
About 500 Osoyoos Indian Band members monitor the sweet-smelling area of Osoyoos to make sure their practices are as sustainable as possible. It is located in the driest and hottest region of Canada (the southern end of the Okanagan Valley amidst the Osoyoos desert) with a land estimated to be 300 acres, producing an average of 18,000 cases per year. Hall and his troop are the protectors of the land and believe it should be left in a better place from the time of his arrival at Osoyoos in order to craft the finest of wines at Nk’Mip Cellars.
You can also scroll through their website: https://www.nkmipcellars.com/About-Us to learn more.