What sets wineries apart from each other? Location, terroir, the grapes planted, and the winemaker easily come to mind. But there’s another element to consider: vision!
Since its inception in 1986 under Stephen Cipes’ leadership, Summerhill winery has had a strong vision. Passion led Cipes to leave New York and journey out west to the Okanagan to fulfill his vision of making world-class wine.
The principle of Pioneership led to Summerhill being one of the first B.C. wineries to produce a sparkling wine in the traditional method. That and the principles of Planet and Abundance led to the winery becoming the first in B.C. to go organic and biodynamic, fostering a sustainable future for the environment, the employees, the Cipes family, and their customers.
I asked Summerhill’s CEO Ezra Cipes which of the seven principles in their vision has been the most challenging. “Summerhill employs a lot of young seasonal workers; we write over 270 T4’s a year. The biggest challenge is training and sharing this vision and having it live with all the people who work at Summerhill,” Cipes admits.
Cipes continues, “I don't feel comfortable indoctrinating. People have to come to these values on their own and they have to agree with them and they have to be meaningful to themselves Its not something I can tell people they have to believe or they have to embody. I can’t tell them they have to love everybody who comes through the door. It has to come to them personally.”
“It’s something we already do well because people are attracted to come and work at Summerhill for a reason and people who come are aligned with what we do and certainly our environmental practices attract a lot of people. We don’t bat a thousand and I’m preoccupied with this idea of how to be a better leader and how Summerhill can help incubate these values and be a better society starting with our team” concludes Cipes.
As we approach the festive system, I recommend Summerhill Cipe’s Brut ($26.99 on sale), which is available in BC Liquor Stores
The Brut is produced from Riesling, and Pinot Blanc, and Chardonnay, and is celebrating its 28th vintage. It’s the most consistently-awarded sparkling wine in Canada, having won a gold medal every year since release.
The Riesling adds a gorgeous apple character to the bouquet and flavour, as well as the acidity that sparkling wines are renowned for. Pinot Blanc contributes a lemony dimension and Chardonnay adds a smooth texture. Brut indicates this is made in a dry style so it is perfect with food. I enjoyed it with Haida Gwaii smoked salmon with mayo, wasabi, onion and dill. What was an added bonus as that the Cipes Brut totally cleansed my palate so I had no lingering smoked fishy taste.
The 2018 Summerhill Vineyard Pinot Noir ($35) is a complex red. The nose displays violets, prunes, earthy terroir, and gentle oak. On the palate I enjoyed the smooth, flavours of beetroot, cloves, cranberries, and spices.
I did find the low alcohol (11 per cent) made the body thin for a red wine. But I noticed that the Pinot Noir shone when served one day with a Ukranian sausage and cabbage soup as well as the next day’s pork schnitzel with a chili tomato sauce. Available at the winery and at private stores.