Randy Picton admits fermenting grapes and turning them into wine was a long way from his thoughts as a youngster growing up in Yorkton, Sask.
But a childhood on the Prairies has not stopped the B.C.-based winemaker from making a successful career in the wine industry.
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As the lead winemaker at Nk'Mip Cellars (pronounced "inka-meep") in the Okanagan, Picton is proving Saskatchewan soil is capable of producing fine winemakers.
"Wine-making in general is a career that you really need to be passionate about," he said.
"There's just something attractive to creating something in a year-in, year-out basis, where you really have to not only create it this year, but you've got to follow it up with another wine the following year."
According to its website, Nk'Mip was the first Aboriginal-owned and operated winery in North America.
Picton joined the cellars in 2002 after completing a winery assistant course at the Okanagan College in 1995.
Around the same time he became a winemaker for Nk'Mip, Picton employed Osoyoos Indian Band-member Justin Hall.
Heart and soul
The pair make up two-thirds of a three-person team that has created award-winning wines, including some that have been crowned the best in Canada.
Hall and Picton have been featured winemakers at the Vancouver International Wine Festival from Feb. 11-19.
Hall said the winery, which also trains young Band-members in the art of wine-making, shows young people in the area they can work hard and achieve their goals.
"I've put in a lot of my heart and soul into the business and the business has supported me back," he said.
"And for that we also are supporting the community, showing that young people can be hard workers and stick to one job, working hard."
Picton and Hall agreed the industry accolades they had received are among the highlights of their 15-year careers at the winery so far.
But Hall said personal compliments from trusted friends are the biggest reward.
"Some of my proudest moments, and it might sound a little funny, is when you are with your friends and they taste some of your wines, they say you know, 'I really love your guys' wine,'" he said.
The Vancouver International Wine Festival ends on Sunday.