Organic wines for a true expression of terroir
Regarded as Canada’s most visited winery, Summerhill Pyramid Winery takes social responsibility to the surrounding community and the environment to the next level. Certified organic in 2007, Summerhill is now the largest producer of certified organic wines in Canada, and in 2012, received its Demeter Biodynamic certification.
Operated by the Cipes family, CEO, Ezra Cipes says, “The philosophy of winemaking at Summerhill is that organic and biodynamic grapes, grown in harmony with the ecosystem, are the starting point for authentic, expressive, terroir-driven wines.”
Ezra gives a few examples of the difference in terms of ingredients in Summerhill’s wine, compared to conventionally-made wines, including organic sugar, instead of genetically-modified corn syrup. Summerhill is also vegan-friendly, not using organic egg whites or organic milk ingredients in its wine, which are often used as fining agents in the industry.
In the vineyard, chickens roam freely, providing natural fertilizer in the form of manure, while pecking away at any unwanted insects on the vines. Ezra’s brother, Gabe Cipes, an expert on permaculture, leads the viticultural team in making compost teas to support the vines’ nourishment and ensure biodiversity by cultivating wild flowers to attract natural predators that eat vineyard pests.
Summerhill has been active helping fellow grape growers switch to organic, too. Despite the vineyard’s relative youth, its legacy on the Okanagan is marked, having supported more than 200 acres of additional Okanagan vineyards to achieve certified organic status by agreeing to purchase entire grape crops from the growers. Summerhill offered not only a secure market, but also training to growers, making the winery a hub for organic viticulture in Canada.
First Biodynamic Certified Vineyard in BC
Gabe highlights Summerhill’s motto: ‘Celebrate Nature’s Perfection’. He says this means “acknowledging that ecosystems can largely self-maintain with the help of predators and pollinators, while producing great yields.” Biodynamic agriculture recognizes the interrelationship between soil, plants and animals in a closed system, using any waste as a new input. This approach is highlighted by the diversity of plants growing between the vines that enrich the soil, as well as the winery’s dryland and wetland preserves, which attract both pollinators and predators to the vineyard.
“Grown in harmony with the environment, our grapes have a unique character which genuinely reflect their origin in the Okanagan. Above all, we are passionate winemakers and believe our agricultural practices make for great wine!” asserts Ezra.