The first winery completely owned and operated by Okanagan Aboriginal people is now 100% operational.
Aptly named Indigenous World Winery, the facility in West Kelowna is owned by the chief of the Westbank First Nation, Robert Louie with his spouse Bernice. Louie was born on Sylix First Nations land, educated in B.C. with a law degree and has a variety of business interests in the Okanagan region.
Another winery in the southern part of the Okanagan, Nk’Mip Cellars, bears a First Nations name but is actually operates as a partnership between the Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corporation and Constellation Brands, a beverage conglomerate that operates world-wide. It opened in 2002.
Indigenous World released its first wines in 2015 but kept a low profile because their retail operation wasn’t open to the public yet.
Those wines include the Simo, a red blend in honour of the original name for Chief Louie which means connected to the land. The brand so far is Indigenous World’s most awarded label, having won gold at a variety of wine festivals such as Finger Lakes in New York State, the San Francisco International Wine competition and a bronze at the Decanter.
Another award winning wine is the Hee-Hee-Tel-Kin label, a collection of affordable red and white blends. The ceremonial name is actually the traditional Sylix name of the Louie’s youngest son Trenton. Loosely translated, it refers to a mystic stag with big antlers. Prices range from $17.50 for the white blend and $18.50 for the red.
Trenton Louie is 18 and is apprenticing at the winery under winemaker Jason Parkes, who works for Indigenous as well as nearby wineries like The Hatch and Perseus in Naramata.
Wine is not a traditional First Nations beverage or product; however the wine produced at Indigenous World is created using some grape varieties cultivated on Sylix First Nations lands. Most of the wine however is made with grapes sourced throughout the area.
In respect to the traditions of the community, the winery takes great pains to ensure that every aspect of the business is done in a way that is respectful to the environment, to the land and the people.
Indigenous is a showcase of that Aboriginal heritage. The restaurant offers daily Native-influenced menu selections and wine pairings. The facility is located in a high traffic area off Highway 97 in West Kelowna next to Safari Ridge Paintball, housed in a modern building featuring plenty of glass and a flat-roof. With as many as 60,000 vehicles passing by the location every day, traffic has been great so far.
The main building is low to the ground with two large outdoor patios and spectacular views overlooking Okanagan Lake. In total there are 80 acres at the Indigenous site with future plans for expansion. Included in those plans are a distillery, a craft brewery and a 1,500-seat amphitheatre.
It is now the latest member to join the Westside Wine Trail, a cluster of world class wineries on the West side which includes Mission Hill and Quails’ Gate.