Summerhill Pyramid Winery News & Blog
Interested in organic winemaking, meeting our growers and our visionary Stephen Cipes, in-depth tasting notes, or being tantalized by Chef Jeremy Luypen's renowned cooking skills? Pick a category on the right to delve in.
The production team holds the two newly released Demeter certified biodynamic wines, 2017 Summerhill Vineyard Riesling & 2017 Summerhill Vineyard Gruner Veltliner. L-R: Eric von Krosigk, winemaker; Brett Thiessen, vineyard manager; Gary Leslie, maintenance lead; Holly Pierce, enologist; Michael Alexander, cellar master / assistant winemaker; Gabe Cipes, biodynamicist
My brother Gabe moved back to the family farm in 2004, and I followed in 2005. At that time our vineyard had been managed organically for 17 years. We noticed that the leaves were a little yellowish green and the crop was smaller than it should be. One of our mentors Gabriel Howearth described to us that no matter how you do it, farming is always mining. Crops mine nutrients from the soil, and we are hard on the land when we drive a tractor over it. Conventional farmers can add nitrogen fertilizer, but organically it is not so easy. We had to build up the soil so that nitrogen and other nutrients could be available to the vines, and so we set upon the Biodynamic path.
Biodynamics views the farm as an ecosystem, connected to the greater systems of the earth, solar system, and universe. It’s a wonderful feeling for the farmer to be a part of something greater than oneself, and the biodynamic program of composting and making special plant and manure preparations is demonstrably good for the farm. By 2012 my brother Gabe had been practicing Biodynamics for long enough that the leaves on the vines were green again and the crop level was back to a balanced, sustainable level. At that time we sought Biodynamic certification through Demeter Canada. Also at that time, we started to experiment with making wine biodynamically.
The biodynamic wine standard is quite beautiful. It describes “…the human being in the role of an artist to develop soil, fertility and plant in such a way that fruits of vital quality become available,” and then a production method so that “Nothing shall conceal the true nature of the factual properties of the produce.” Therefore when we make wine biodynamically we add no yeast or nutrient and no fermentation or processing aids of any kind. We create the right environment for the juice to turn naturally to wine, and we monitor the process. At the end we clarify the white wine with bentonite and add a little sulfur as a preservative. That’s it; that’s all.
The first year we made wine this way was 2013 with our Summerhill Vineyard Riesling. Winemaker Eric von Krosigk says the process gave him new gray hairs. The fermentation was slow and the wine developed H2S, which does not smell at all pleasant. Apparently this chemical reaction occurred because there was not enough nutrient in the juice for the yeast to do a tidy job. Eric ended up pumping that wine through the air into a new vessel so that the atmospheric oxygen could act as a nutrient for the yeast. The smell and taste of H2S receded and the wine ended up being beautiful for all its imperfection. We learned a lot about the health of our vineyard through that early trial, and have made wine in the same method from our estate grown fruit ever since. Now when we make wine biodynamically it is proof of the vitality of our vineyard.
This year we decided to see about certifying our wine as biodynamic through Demeter Canada. From the 2017 vintage we vinified Riesling and Gruner Veltliner as single estate varietal wines. Summerhill Vineyard is now healthy and vital to a point where the fermentation happened beautifully. Assistant Winemaker Michael Alexander says that the process is still stressful for the winemaking team, as the transformation of sugar to alcohol does not happen as quickly as when we add organic yeast to the crushed fruit, but after a few slow days it happens naturally and efficiently enough to show the true nature of the fruit and of the farm, and creates wine with an individualism that is the essence of the aesthetic pleasure a bottle can provide.
-Ezra Cipes, August 14, 2018
This week we heard from a concerned group about our use of the Om symbol on our Organic Meritage label. The concern raised was about using the deeply meaningful, spiritual icon on a bottle of wine.
Most people who know my family know us to be reverent. Our mission always includes an element of spiritualizing culture, and that is what drew us to use the Om symbol on this wine, as well as other religious iconography on some of our other bottles (use of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life on our Tiferet and Keter labels especially). We love the meaning of Om. It is a beautiful, resonant symbol.
I had the opportunity to speak on the telephone with the gentleman who brought the offense to my attention. He kindly explained to me that the nuance of the way the symbol is used is meaningful. For instance, no one is outraged that the Om symbol is used on hats and shirts, but using it on shoes might feel different, and certainly it feels different to have it on a wine label. I take full responsibility for overlooking this. Once it was explained to me, it was obvious and I immediately understood that it was indefensible. I promised right away to stop using the symbol on wine labels.
I apologize for offending and I hope this note is illuminating and helpful.
CEO, Summerhill Pyramid Winery
Job Opening: Baker
October 3, 2017
Summerhill Pyramid Winery has an immediate opening for a reliable, experienced and organized baker who will provide both desserts and baked goods for the Sunset Bistro and events.
Bakers Duties and Responsibilities
Open the kitchen in the morning
Set up for breakfast
Make baked goods for breakfast as needed
Make pizza dough
Create, in collaboration with the executive chef, desserts and dessert menus based on seasonal, organic ingredients
Document all baking and dessert recipes and keep on file
Work with executive chef to cost all recipes
Documented photos of all dessert plating
Train evening and events cooks to plate desserts
Create seasonal dessert specials
Maintain par stock and mis en place for desserts and baked goods, including frozen back ups where necessary
Keep baking area and dessert areas of fridges and freezers clean and orderly
Maintain par stock of all ingredients for dessert/baking area, passing order lists to executive chef
Oversee and adequately train assistant(s) during the busy season
Ensure appropriate par stock on days off
Baker Competencies and Qualifications
Minimum of 3 years experience in baking or pastry
Prefer a baking or cooking graduate
Highly organized and self motivated
Accustomed to working with recipes
Large quantity experience
Good communicator to stay abreast of all functions
Passoinate about seasonal, local, organic ingredients
Clean, organized and focused
A reliable “morning person”
Able to make seasonal adjustment of volume and labour
Respectful of co-workers, rules and regulations
Summerhill Pyramid Winery is a seasonal, hospitality based business and therefore requires staff that can adjust to seasonal fluctuations and be counted on during the busy season. You must be willing to work weekends and holidays and the occasional evening if needed. Shortlisted applicants will be called for an interview.
Hours of work:
A minimum of 40 hours per week, 6:30 AM to 2:30 PM or as required
Must be willing to work Saturday or Sunday as needed
Start date: ASAP
Remuneration based on experience
Apply with resume and references by Oct. 10th to:
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Under the Mistletoe...come join us at the Summerhill Christmas Craft Show!!!!
Summerhill Pyramid Winery is celebrating the 2017 Holiday season with Hand-made crafts and our organic wine paired together. Please read through the event detail and please apply! We will see you under the Mistletoe!
Saturday, November 25, 2017 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Extensive P/R provided. Organic foods and beverages will be available for sale at the event. A KIDS KORNER with face painting, ginger bread house decorations and much more!
SUMMERHILL PYRAMID WINERY
Address: 4870 Chute Lake Rd. Kelowna BC V1W 4M3
6’ (wide) x 6’ (deep)
TABLE & CHAIR
A Table is NOT provided. A table rental is available for extra $10.
One chair comes with your booth.
You have to share with your neighbor, but there are some outlets available. Please bring your own extension cord if you are going to use the outlet.
$50 included one chair and a glass of Summerhill wine!
All products must be original.
Every artisan must have their products juried even if sharing a booth.
Exhibited work must be consistent with photos submitted to jury.
All products must be of high quality and hand-crafted.
Your product will be juried for quality, durability, originality and presentation.
We will not accept artisans who use manufactured goods or kits.
Fees are fully refundable up to October 15th. No refunds will be given after October 15th.
Contact Ria Cipes at firstname.lastname@example.org for applications.
Join us Sunday, September 24th from 11am - 4pm at Summerhill Pyramid for our 12th Annual Organic Okanagan Festival featuring Live Music, Organic Food Court, Green Living Marketplace, Certified Organic Farmers' Market and more! We hope to see you there!
Vintage 2017 is right around the corner. The season started late and wet. Budding was about three weeks late and there was quite a bit of mildew pressure. Thankfully Summerhill vineyard manager Willem Semmelink was able to keep all fungal diseases under control using biodynamic preparations and organic sprays. The vineyard looks clean and beautiful!
It was a weird year. The summer was very dry with filtered sunlight through smoke filled skies due to the record breaking wild fires British Columbia suffered. The smoke kept the temperatures hovering around 30 degrees celsius through most of the year, which apparently was perfect for grape maturation. The vines caught up and we are now almost perfectly on a historically normal ripening schedule. And incredibly, the smoke started to clear just as veraison began in our vineyards. After veraison, there is a chance that smoke can taint the character of the wine. Veraison is when the grapes start to change colour and turn from hard little things to soft, juicy berries with softer skin.
Here follows photos of how the various varieties we grow at Summerhill Vineyard are looking on August, 28, 2017:
Riesling is king at Summerhill Vineyard. Our most planted grape is fermented into both sparkling and still wines from subsequent picks.
Pinot Meunier is one of the three classic grapes of Champagne, France. We grow a few rows for our Traditional Cuvee. You can see that veraison is underway but not yet complete.
Gruner Veltliner, the most widely planted white wine grape of Austria, is proving its value in the Okanagan Valley. The grapes are already sweet and some of them even have mature brown seeds, showing that harvest may not be far away.
Pinot Noir grown especially for sparkling wine. The soils under these vines are chalky limestone.
On our highest slope grows Chardonnay. Made into sparkling, still or Icewine, this block is consistently awarded among the wine world's highest honours. The 1991 vintage of Cipes Gabriel (100% Chardonnay) was awarded a gold medal in France, and the 2005 vintage of the same wine won the Denbies Trophy for "Best International Bottle Fermented Sparkling Wine" at the 2010 International Wine & Spirit Awards in London, England.
Recently two of Summerhill’s icewines have received incredible honours. Our 2013 ‘Small Lot’ Semillon Icewine was awarded a perfect 100 point score and a Double Gold Medal from the San Francisco International Wine Competition, and our 2014 Chardonnay Icewine was the highest scoring wine at the 2017 Chardonnay du Monde Competition in France.
Icewine is a controversial subject in British Columbia. Canada’s international wine reputation has been historically all about Icewine, and quality wine producers here chafe at the notion that Icewine is the only relevant wine we can produce. But there is a legitimate case to be made that we can make Icewine here better than anywhere else on Earth, as these recent awards testify.
To make great Icewine, first you must be able to grow great wine, and then have a winter cold enough to freeze it naturally on the vine. When Icewine is pressed whatever is present in the fruit is concentrated. 2013 and especially 2014 were excellent vintages in the Okanagan Valley. Notice that we did not win these awards with 2011 Icewine, which was not a great vintage in the Okanagan Valley. It is not enough to be able to grow any old grapes and freeze them. (Note we made delicious Icewines in 2011 nonetheless.)
The other issue with Icewine is that drinking dessert wine is simply not a part of very many people’s regular habits. This is true across all wine markets in all territories. No one is drinking a lot of Icewine. But this does not mean we should not produce it. This is a product that the Okanagan Valley can serve to a niche global market. It is something rare, unique, and beautiful that we can produce here better than anywhere else. This will always be sought out by culinary adventurers and those wanting a prestigious souvenir of Canada to share with loved ones. Nor should we expect people to suddenly begin drinking more Icewine. It is so rich, so magnificent, and so expensive to produce, that its occasional use is part of its appeal. When I share a meal with friends and don’t want the evening to end, bringing out a bottle of Icewine to share as a cherry on top of the meal always creates an impactful memory, one that would be diminished if it was expected.
So cheers to beauty, cheers to indulgence, and cheers to the magnificent Okanagan Valley, one of the most unique and greatest wine regions of the world!