Grapes at Flathead Lake in Montana. Photo: Sul Lago Wine and Coffee
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Salish and Kootenai citizen wins award at international wine competition

A citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes who is one of the few Native winemakers in the country is basking in praise for his work.

Gary Sloan, the owner and winemaker of Sul Lago Winery and Coffee, won "Double Gold" at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in March. The award means his wine, a red Barbera variety, earned a unanimous vote from the judging panel.

The medal isn't Sloan's only recent honor either. A white wine produced from grapes grown on the Flathead Reservation, where his tribe is based, won the People's Choice at the Montana Grape and Winery Association competition last month.

Gary Sloan, owner and vinter of Sul Lago Winery & Coffee. Photo: Sul Lago

Though Sul Lago is based in neighboring Washington, Sloan hopes to keep tapping into the unique nature of the Flathead Lake region. His L’acadie Blanc, the white variety that was popular at the Montana competition, was grown there.

“I think that Flathead has an interesting terroir," Sloan said this week. "There is the potential to produce some fine wines from this area.”

Sul Lago is located in Vancouver, not far from the Washington border with Oregon, and not far from the reservation of the Cowlitz Tribe. Sloan incidentally worked on the tribe's land-into-trust application when he was employed as a realty specialist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Sul Lago became licensed in 2015. Since then, Sloan's wines have been recognized at a number of competitions.

“I think that I’m the only one that works for a licensed winery," Slaon said of his status as a Native head winemaker. "It would be good to know if there are any tribal members working in making wine."

A few tribes have gotten into the wine business in recent years. The Cedar Band of Paiute Indians, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, also known as the Tigua Tribe, are among those producing or marketing their own brands of wine.

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Eastern Shoshone man plans to release Eagle Eye Wine label (June 13, 2014)
Tribes in US and Canada diversify into winemaking industry (June 11, 2013)
Richard Gomez: Chumash Tribe ready to launch own wine label (April 11, 2013
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