Interested in organic winemaking, meeting our growers and our visionary Stephen Cipes, in-depth tasting notes, or being tantalized by Chef Stadtländer's mad cooking skills? Pick a category on the right to delve in.
Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Biodynamic agriculture, was also the founder of the Waldorf School system. We are lucky to have a Waldorf school just down the street from Summerhill, where both school age Cipes children currently attend (my daughter is in grade 2). Steiner was a public intellectual and a mystic. It is often difficult to describe Biodynamic agriculture when pressed by a sceptic, and it is also hard to describe what makes Waldorf education so special... but it IS!
The school is such a blessing for us. I am not the most educated person about Waldorf pedagogy, or what makes it special, but my experience is that the school LOVES the children and nurtures the children. They respect and honour my daughter at school the same way we do at home. They teach things a little differently, for instance there are regular nature walks, gardening classes, handwork classes, and lots of storytelling interweaved into the lessons. Pop-culture and screens (TV, computer, etc) are discouraged at home and not allowed at school, so the social culture is a little bit different. Anyway, all these little things add up to a very special environment that engenders in the students a love of learning. The motto of the school is "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." This seems to sum up what makes the school special well.
As parents and enthusiastic supporters of the Kelowna Waldorf School, Summerhill is one of the key sponsors (and host) of the annual Kelowna Waldorf School Fundraising Gala. Here is the poster:
The gala is open to everyone, and is a great way to meet the fantastic teachers and community of the school. Tickets are available via this website by clicking here. There is even an early bird special if tickets are purchased prior to Feb 13.
The dinner will be prepared by the Okanagan College Culinary Arts students, under the leadership of Chef Bernard Casavant. The Trips, a most excellent local bluegrass band, will play after dinner and we'll dance the night away!
Hope to see you there!
Summerhill bought itself an early Christmas present... 90 000 L of French oak storage capacity. These nine 10 000 L tanks actually function as both fermenters and maturation barrels.
This is part of winemaker Eric von Krosigk's Biodynamic program. Wood is a natural home for yeast and malolactic bacteria, or in other words, for the micro-biology that transforms grape juice into wine. These beneficial organisms will colonize the wood, and allow us to make consistently delicious wine without relying on packages of winemaking yeasts and bacteria that are made in laboratories. Although there is nothing wrong with the store bought yeasts (in fact, they are a big reason there is so much consistently good quality wine made all over the world these days), there is something almost magical about making wine with your own colony of yeast. The tiny organisms naturalize, and mutate slowly over time, creating a unique formulation that adds complexity and depth to the resulting wine - and importantly, it helps to translate a unique sense of place.
This will also change the style of the red wines made in these tanks vs the 225 L barriques which are currently used for all of our reds. The fruit will be better expressed in these larger vats because of the smaller ratio of oak surface to wine, so that the resulting effect of passive micro-oxygenation is lessened.
Here is a little photo-journal of the process:
The wood and materials arrived on pallets, sent over from Italy. Note the dried reeds used between each plank in order to make the tanks water tight.
We unloaded dozens of huge metal bands.
When the coopers from Italy finally arrived they set right to work...
... and made quick progress.
Soon the tanks were complete and filled with wine. In this image, everything is complete except for the last step of painting the metal bands red. This is done to signify these tanks are used for red wine production. Green bands would signify white wine.
Et voila, we're up and running. Note the red hose leading to the top of the tank. There is a sprinkler up there, and this hose is used to pump the fermenting wines up over the cap of grape skins that forms during fermentation. By pumping over the young wine, we bring much needed oxygen into the fermentation, and extract colour, flavour and tannin from the grape skins.
David Suzuki is a Canadian icon. I have known of him as a public figure since elementary school, and have always thought of him as a beloved national figure. But in recent years I have come to understand that he is considered a little controversial by some - that not everyone shares his point of view as I do.
In recent years, Summerhill has developed a professional relationship with the David Suzuki Foundation, beginning with the launch of our Alive Organic Wine series. When asked to provide in kind sponsorship to support the Blue Dot Tour, we did not hesitate for a second.
David Suzuki's message is brilliant and simple and true: Every Canadian should have the right to a healthy environment. We're proud to support his efforts out on the road, getting the message out there and hopefully starting a national debate on this bold and righteous premise.
Hope to see you there!
Federweisser is a name for young fermenting wine. In this harvest ceremony of thanks giving, some is poured back in to the vineyard to thank the earth, and more is enjoyed with Zweibelkuchen (onion pie) to celebrate!
This picture of a buck quite at home in the middle of our parking lot was taken in November 2012:
Later that winter, the buck and his family ate an entire block of Chardonnay hanging on the vine for icewine. The next spring they nibbled all of the green growth from the newly planted vineyard blocks:
Summerhill Vineyard was first planted to grapes in the 1940s, and it has never been fenced. The property has always contained multiple nature habitats, both wetland and dry gully preserves, as well as a meadow area. We have always considered the property to be a nature preserve along with being a farm. However, with the development all around our farm, and the proliferation of deer fencing around nearby properties, the pressure that the dear deer have exerted has become too much, and we have decided to fence the vineyard to keep them out.
The dry gully, where the deer seem to spend most of their time, will be outside the fenceline, but the wetland preserve will now be enclosed. This will have serious repercussions for the ecosystem, which we can't pretend to understand or accurately predict. We will do our best to keep the deer out, but assume the coyote will be able to traverse the cattle gaurds and will remain as predators for small mammals... or at least we hope they will remain.
This was a big decision, with much pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth. We don't take these things lightly. However, after sustaining significant losses due to deer pressure over the last three seasons consecutively, we have to deal the economic realities of farming.
Here are some more pics of the dry gully and the fenceline:
Elevage is a French winemaking term that The Oxford Companion to Wine defines as "the series of cellar operations that take place between fermentation and bottling, suggesting that the winemaker's role is rather like that of a loving parent who guides, disciplines, and civilizes the raw young wine that emerges from the fermentation vessel."
Every year we make a few investments to bring up the overall quality of our wine. Last year it was a cluster sorting table, and this year it is a new destemmer/deleafer, which our excellent winemaker Eric von Krosigk introduces in this short video: