Winner of the prestigious Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the man at "Canada's most visited winery" seems more a spiritual visionary than Wall Street hard-nose.
When Stephen Cipes first visited the Okanagan in 1986, the New York developer believed he'd found unique conditions to produce "intensely flavoured small grapes"--the perfect base for sparkling wine. Cipes brought grape clones from France and "personally planted them on my hands and knees."
Summerhill follows organic growing practices. No herbicides or pesticides "keeps the lake clean and our grapes don't taste from the chemicals," says Cipes. "These grapes are happy guys, they're flourishing. Our wines are allowing nature to speak for herself." Summerhill wines are regularly honoured in international competitions. "We won the gold medal in Champagne France," he beams, "against French Champagne.
Philosophy of Business: "We love to be hosts. We want people to feel genuinely welcome in our home," he says. "I try to empower my employees to exude that love. That's ideal for what we do here. We're welcoming people from around the world." Cipes promotes from within and believes in being up-front. "I'm there for people," he says. "I take phone calls. I put my money where my mouth is. I own the business in my own name and I put my name on the product."
Philosophy of Life: "Be whole unto yourself at all times," the winemaker advises. "Allow your grand self to come through in your regular self."
Accomplishments: "My four sons are accomplished, fun-loving, warm-hearted people. That's the best thing a dad could have."
Advice for Entrepreneurs: "You can't focus on the monetary or material result. Be a conduit and allow your vision, your dream to come through -- and fortify it every day." How? "By taking every possible step to achieve your goal -- like making sure there is toilet paper in the washrooms, the music is playing, the bottles are dusted and the chef has had his hug."
Stephen Cipes - proprietor
Gabe Cipes makes and sources the nine biodynamic preparations applied to Summerhill Vineyard and has successfully led the transition to Demeter Certified biodynamic status. He is also diversifying the farm with food forests and edible landscaping, conducting experiments based on Permaculture principles to increase biodiversity within the vineyard system and grow complimentary crops between the vineyard rows. Gabe has completed courses in Permaculture Design Certificate at Selkirk College and Natural Earth Building at the Cob Cottage Company with Ianto Evans, and has completed the vineyard management courses and viticulture certificate at Okanagan College Penticton.
Gabe is inspired by the ideas and knowledge associated with creating self-sustaining food producing ecosystems and sees him self, planning and planting food forests and working with ecological communities for as long as he is able.
Aside from his work on the farm, Gabe is a visual artist, public speaker and festival producer. Over the past five years, he has produced a pan-Okanagan Art, Music, Craft and Spoken word, ecologically themed festival called Conduit.
Gabe Cipes - biodynamicist/permaculturist
Ezra Cipes is proud to carry on the family legacy at Summerhill Pyramid Winery. Since the Cipes family moved from New York to Summerhill Vineyard in Kelowna, British Columbia when Cipes was five, he has grown up in the wine industry, and feels blessed to now lead a company dedicated to creating beauty in collaboration with nature.
Cipes has a multitude of passions and talents. After working in the wine production cellar while attending public school in Kelowna, Ezra embarked on a career in music. He worked as a touring and session musician and became a published songwriter. But despite his love for music, Cipes felt called back to the vineyard. Home on the family farm, Cipes initiated a half acre permaculture garden, selling vegetables and herbs to Summerhill's onsite Sunset Organic Bistro. After reconnecting with the winery and the land, Cipes knew he needed to assume a greater role at the winery. He became Chief Operations Officer in 2008 and CEO in 2012.
Recently Cipes has taken a leadership role in the Canadian wine industry as a director of the Canadian Vintners Association, Vice-Chair of the British Columbia Wine Institute, and Chair of the BC Wine Appellation Task Group that tabled its recommendations in November, 2015.
Ezra Cipes - CEO
Born in Toronto, Willem has lived in South Africa since childhood. A graduate of the University of Cape Town, he has made a career in organic and biodynamic agriculture, notably as the orchardist, agroforestry developer, houseparent and financial manager of a Camphill Community (a biodynamic farm and assisted living community for special-needs adults), and as the farm manager of a 189 hectare poly-cultural organic farm in the heart of South Africa’s premier wine growing region. Willem has had the opportunity to work as a Sustainable Business Planner, a Rural Development Project Leader, and as an Agricultural Consultant helping to develop sustainable and organic vineyard management regimes in South Africa.
In his own words, Willem came to Canada in 2008 "… to learn northern hemisphere sustainable agriculture techniques and promote low input farming. This region is ripe for development into a truly sustainable industry, and I wanted to be here to make a contribution to that development.”
Willem brings to Summerhill a deep commitment to community and ecology, and a desire to continually improve Summerhill’s vineyards for optimal quality and sustainability.
Willem Semmelink - vineyard manager
Eric von Krosigk
Eric von Krosigk was born in Vernon, British Columbia, into a farming family. His grandfather was an orchardist and his father, Buko, a dairy farmer and brewer who founded Okanagan Spring Brewery.
Spending his summers working on the farms, Eric developed a sense of the land. While still a teenager, he knew that he wanted to grow grapes and make wine, so he wrote to Germany seeking an apprenticeship opportunity.
In 1983, at age 21, Eric left for Germany where he worked for the next three years at a grape research station and at two well known family wineries on the Mosel. Finishing his apprenticeship as a vintner, Eric enrolled in Beverage Engineering at the University of Geisenheim and began six years on the AP Commission (the official German quality tasting panel). It was during this time in Germany that he developed a special interest in sparkling wine.
The Award-winning Winemaker
In 1991, he founded Summerhill Estate Winery in partnership with Stephen and Wendy Cipes. After successfully building the winery and producing many award winning wines, Eric left to pursue new challenges and achieve success in building and rebuilding numerous wineries and vineyards. Along the way he has helped to create many thriving wineries such as Red Rooster, Adora Estate Winery, and Victoria Estate Winery (now Church and State) before returning home to Summerhill in 2006, where he successfully transitioned the cellar to achieve certified organic status, and where he is considered one of the Cipes brothers.
With a medal total surpassing 300, Eric is recognized as one of the most-awarded winemakers in the history of the British Columbia wine industry. Eric’s singularly incredible wines, his bold vision, enthusiasm and drive, and his abiding love and talent for sparkling wine are an integral part of Summerhill.
Eric von Krosigk - winemaker/viticulturist