SUMMERHILL Pyramid Organic Winery

Some Summer Summerhill…

This is not a conventional winery.  For good reason this is perhaps the most visited and extraordinary award winning winery in Canada.

photo: d. king

Located in Kelowna, British Columbia, Summerhill has a breathtakingly extensive view overlooking Lake Okanagan coupled with an organic farm-to-table bistro offering culinary creations by award winning chef Jeremy Luypen who works closely with local farmers and growers (I had lunch there and it was excellent) and of course there’s the wine…

great setting for a wedding reception wouldn’t you say? Photo: d. king

Brut on the Beach

Recently I was very fortunate to be a guest of Summerhill’s most interesting and entertaining proprietor Stephen Cipes and his gracious wife Rie at their lakeside home.  It was there, and at the winery tasting room that I got to sample most of the Summerhill wines (all of them organic by the way) that I was not familiar with.  What a treat!

 Before this I cannot believe that I was accustomed to only drinking Summerhill’s “Alive” label red and white wine  (also vegan) bought at my local wine shop.  Back at the winery I discovered so much more. I liked the Robert Bateman series Merlot the best out of all the reds and ended up buying several cases of a mix of red & white varietals with a few rosé & bubbly thrown in.  I’m really picky regarding rosé wine, however for me, theirs is the best I’ve come across to date.  It’s a gorgeous coloured medium-bodied delight.  Plus it’s still summer and Rosé is a solid summer staple. We enjoyed a few bottles at my friend Margeaux’s after leaving Kelowna and moving onto Castlegar.

On their website I discovered so much more information which I’ll share a bit with you below.  For full story you can visit: https://www.summerhill.bc.ca/

The Summerhill *Pyramid is second only to the Great Pyramid of Egypt for alignment and precision. Please see link below for the incredible description because the story  is quite amazing.

Photo: d. king

Driven by conscience and passion:

A former New York commercial real estate developer, Stephen Cipes was the recipient of the prestigious Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, seemingly more a spiritual visionary than Wall Street hard-nose.  One day he just decided to pick up and leave the rat race for cleaner living.  With a dream and a vision,  the Cipes family bought Summerhill Vineyard in 1986, and moved to Kelowna from New York the following year. 

Stephen had a vision to preserve the pristine conditions of his family’s new home in spite of the rapid agricultural and civic development. To protect the Okanagan’s lake and inhabitants, Cipes set out to prove that organic wines are better in every wayin the way they taste and make you feel as well as in their impact on community and environment. The result is that Summerhill has been a hub for organic viticulture in Canada. 

Be a conduit and allow your vision, your dream to come through – and fortify it every day.” – Stephen Cipes.

Photo: d. king

Almost as soon as the Cipes family arrived, the vineyard was transitioned to organic maintenance and replanted with European vinifera winemaking grapes imported from France and Germany.

Summerhill’s first experimental crush of wine was in 1990. This was the same year as the formation of BC VQA (Vintners Quality Assurance), in which the Cipes family took an active role developing. Preliminary meetings to form VQA were hosted by the Cipes family at Summerhill Vineyard.

Stephen’s New York business sense drove the tiny Okanagan wine industry forward in those early years by focusing on making traditional method sparkling wine, producing the most expensive wines the valley had seen to that point, creating the region’s first destination tourist attraction winery, and by bringing international attention with write-ups and glowing wine reviews in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

Photo: d. king

His vision was that the pristine Okanagan valley, the northernmost desert viticulture region in the world, had the potential to make the finest wines in the world and bring pride to all Canadians.

Summerhill has accomplished a long list of “firsts” on the way to making this vision a reality.

  • We are Okanagan Valley pioneers in making organic wine, ultra-premium quality wine, and in establishing the model of a tourism destination winery in this beautiful place. We have worked with our provincial government to change rules so as to allow wineries to cater to wine tourists, establishing over twenty new policies for the entire province including the allowance of restaurants at BC wineries.
  • Our team members have sat on boards and committees to help draft the national organic standards for wine in Canada, and we have worked with the BC chapter of Demeter to certify the first biodynamic vineyard and wine in our province.
  • We have integrated Permaculture design principles into our farm and business.
  • The Summerhill Pyramid is the first wine cellar in the world to knowingly integrate sacred geometry for the benefit of the wine.

*https://www.summerhill.bc.ca/Story/The-Pyramid

Can’t get enough of the view from all angles. Photo: d. king

https://www.summerhill.bc.ca/Visit-Us/Pyramid–Kekuli-Gatherings

A Note to Vegans

Summerhill uses no animal byproducts in its winemaking, and is therefore vegan friendly. Some animal byproducts commonly used in winemaking include fish bladders, gelatin, egg whites, milk, and milk byproducts. Summerhill uses none of these ingredients in our wine.

We were once asked whether our Biodynamic practices are vegan friendly. Some biodynamic preparations are made with animal parts, and our farm composts are made with animal manures. These animal parts are not in the wine or in any way touching the grapes. They are used as a medium to create beneficial soil bacteria that aid processes in the grapevine’s immune system. We must leave it to each individual vegan to decide whether the biodynamic preparations are a deal breaker or not.

Be whole unto yourself at all times, and envision the world in which you want to live.”- Stephen Cipes.

The man is full of surprises.  He wrote a book I’m now reading called “All one Era“.  I’m delighted to call Stephen & Rie my friends.

 

getaway British Columbia

We’re back from a little holiday with friends in British Columbia’s beautiful Okanagan Lake Country/wine region and

View from the lake house on Lake Okanagan, B.C.  Photo: d. king

Castlegar…

Castlegar, B.C. Photo: d. king

…which is a city situated at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers in the southwestern corner of the Kootenay Rockies. Along with a day jaunt to Nelson to have breakfast and walk around, this trip reminded me of all the beauty that super, natural British Columbia has to offer and how lucky we are to make this province our home.  The road trip/staycation with friends was quality time well spent.

With my longtime bestie Margeaux in Castlegar.    Photo: Paul LeMay

Lake Okanagan, British Columbia:

If you spot Ogopogo, the legendary lake monster said to inhabit these waters, you’ll make headline news, but other than that, this 82-mile lake has many recreational activities to offer: swimming, boating, parasailing and all types of water sports.  It’s within a short driving distance from several amazing wineries.

Paul in Lake Okanagan, B.C.          Photo: d. king

Layla lounging on a watermelon slice. Lake Okanagan, B.C.    Photo: d. king

After Layla’s very first swim. She preferred staying afloat.  This photo was taken on someone’s cellphone.

On Lake Okanagan we stayed at the home of our wonderful hosts Stephen Cipes and his wife Rie.  Stephen is the owner of award winning Summerhill Pyramid Winery, the most visited winery in Canada.  The winery offers tours & tastings of organic/biodynamic wines, plus a bistro & an aboriginal gallery. The food is excellent and I brought back a few cases of outstanding wine. I got to drink and sample ones I hadn’t tried before. I’ll blog about this on a separate post next week.

I hitched a ride back to the house with Stephen.  Photo: d. king

In Castlegar. One of the bottles we opened with Margeaux, Mike (her boyfriend), Lorene (her friend & next door neighbour) and my boyfriend Paul.  Photo: d. king

Castlegar, British Columbia:

View of the Columbia River from the house. Photo: d. king

Incorporated in 1966, this relatively new mill town sits in a valley that has a rich and diverse history, steeped in the heritage and culture of the Doukhobors, who migrated here in the early 20th century.

People flock to Castlegar for many reasons – its diverse art scene, its world-class recreational activities, its rich culture, and its ideal location in the mountainous Kootenay Region of beautiful British Columbia.

One of Castlegar’s many sculptures. Photo: d. king

We stayed with my amazing friend Margeaux in her resort home overlooking the spectacular *Columbia River and swam in her saltwater pool. While in the pool we saw three eagles fly directly above our heads.  I was not quick enough to capture all three but was able to get one as it flew away.

Castlegar. Photo: Paul LeMay

Photo: d. king

Margeaux owns Kootenay Valley Water Company, providing premium bottled water and water dispensers for home and business owners throughout the West Kootenays. The company have added Arctic Spas® to their family, quickly becoming the authorized dealer in Castlegar and for the West Kootenay region. They provide full service for hot tubs and pools and some fun extras like luxurious egyptian cotton bathrobes and outdoor glassware.

*The Columbia River offers excellent fishing for multiple numbers of species from Rainbow Trout, Walleye, Bass and Whitefish.

Pool overlooks the magnificent Columbia River. Photo: d. king

Nelson, British Columbia is located in the Selkirk mountains and along the shores of Kootenay Lake. Only a half hour drive from Castlegar, it’s known as “The Queen City“, and acknowledged for its impressive collection of restored heritage buildings from its glory days in a regional silver rush. Nelson is a treat.  It’s an inspirational mecca for foodies, art-goers, music lovers, history buffs and adventure seekers.  Little local shops offer a multitude of goodies you might otherwise not find elsewhere.  It’s an old hippee hangout.

Nelson, B.C. Photo: d. king

Kootenay Valley Water & Spas:
Header Photo: Beach in Nelson, B.C.  d. king