or maybe it’s because I’m going back to the Okanagan this week, but I wanted to check on the meaning behind some of the organic wine farming terminology. And I thought you might want to know too.
We’re all familiar with organic and how farming without pesticides is much healthier for everyone, with a very meaningful benefit to the environment.
Biodiversity plays a key role in organic farming and we’re hearing the word “Biodynamic” a lot…but what is it?
For our friends at Summerhill/Pyramid winery in Kelowna, these organic + biodynamic practices have been standard and an integral part of wine making since it was purchased by the Cipes family in 1986.
Shared from their newsletter:
Biodynamic Farming Considered the grandfather to organics, was introduced by Rudolf Steiner in 1924. This concept encouraged a more holistic approach to agriculture, prioritizing sustainable soil health and encouraging biodiversity. By balancing the interrelationship of soil, plants, and animals, we create a closed system where nothing is wasted. Summerhill was certified by Demeter International in 2012 and remains British Columbia’s only certified biodynamic vineyard.
Taken from Summerhill/Pyramid website
At the core of biodynamic farming is living in harmony with nature, harvesting soulful, beautiful food and returning nutrient back to the earth.
Biodiversity plays a key role in organic farming. Since we don’t use any synthetics in our vineyards, we must encourage nature to fill ecological niches and maintain balance. By allowing flowering plants to grow between the rows, we provide a home for beneficial insects such as ladybugs and praying mantises. The natural flora also help to improve our soil life and water retention, important elements to growing quality grapes!
Our home vineyard is 17 hectares where natural springs emerge on the property, and join with creeks to create a beautiful wetland nature sanctuary that supports a variety of species.
Summerhill is committed to producing 100% organic wine. Our Kelowna vineyard entered the certification program in 1988, and has received Demeter Biodynamic certification in 2012. In addition, our winemaking is also certified organic, allowing us to display the Canadian certified organic logo on our bottles, ensuring you can expect a high level of quality and purity.
Sidenote from Girl who would be King: might I add that their wine tastes better and doesn’t give you a headache (unless of course you really over indulge but that’s not what I’m talking about). That’s not to say that I drink “only organic” (although it is my preference to do so), however there is unfortunately not enough “all organic” wineries so I do try other wines and like many of them. My only hope is that all wineries follow suit and go the Summerhill route to a healthier way of living/drinking.
This is not a conventional winery. For good reason this is perhaps the most visited and extraordinary award winning winery in Canada.
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…
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.
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 way – in 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.
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.
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.
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.