My connection to Summerhill Pyramid Winery dates back to the late ’80s. Since I was 5, my family spent our summers camping at West Bay Beach Resort on the Westside of Kelowna. I’d lay on a lounge chair for hours peering through binoculars to the other side of the lake. I’d eye up mystery mansions and catch glimpses of the infamous Ogopogo (whom we all know is real!) Another curious item I’d spot, however, was a massive pyramid halfway up the mountainside.
TASTE TESTS PREVAIL
The pyramid belongs to Stephen Cipes, proprietor of Summerhill Pyramid Winery. What some considered ‘pie in the sky’ thinking has aided in evolving people’s perceptions. Thousands of successful blind taste tests, years of stats and a slew of gold medals have proven what Stephen has known all along. Wine, in fact, tastes better after spending time inside Summerhill’s sacred geometric chamber.
A LEADING WINERY
I recently chatted to Ezra Cipes, Stephen’s son and current CEO. His enthusiasm was abundant for a recent accomplishment. This past May, Summerhill Pyramid Winery became Canada’s first winery accredited as a Certified B Corporation®. The two-year process required assessment in four areas: governance, workers, community and environment. This accreditation recognizes that profits are secondary to the well-being of staff, the community and the environment.
The accomplishment wasn’t a give-in. Governance was a challenging sector to earn points due to the company’s entrepreneurial style. Some of the formalized policies and structures that B Corporation® requires don’t yet exist at the winery. Thankfully, Summerhill excelled in the other sectors, particularly in the environment, in order to earn the necessary points to obtain their B Corporation® certification.
LET’S TALK ABOUT VISION
Partway through the accreditation, Ezra spearheaded another company-wide project, the formalizing of a company vision. The process wasn’t intended to shift or redirect path. Instead, the finished vision acts as a legacy for Stephen which future employees can learn from and refer to moving forward.
The vision, which revealed itself as a multi-layered triangle, is a symbol for the incredible intention behind the founder’s decades-long passion. And visually, it gives visitors and wine lovers a tangible concept. A concept already felt by stepping onto the property or by enjoying a bottle of Summerhill wine at home.
The triangle projects Gratitude, People and Planet as top priorities. Ezra cemented that achievement in any area can only happen if gratitude is given the right of way.
“Gratitude is a practice. We are all flawed beings so when we remember to have gratitude, our outcomes are going to be better. We’re able to embody the other principals with love in our actions and with our words.”
THERE’S ALWAYS ROOM TO GROW
With such mammoth projects accomplished in 2019, I inquired as to what might be around the corner. Ezra paused and met me with a simple answer: “some creative things are happening.” Keeping details close to his chest, he did infer that there’s always work to do in the vineyard.
Summerhill’s Demeter Certified wines (aka biodynamic) include Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. All the nutrients and yeasts needed to make these crushed grapes into wine come from the grapes themselves, nothing is added. So for those wines to be good, the vineyard has to be in fine-tune. The winemaking team uses these wines as a scorecard for how healthy the vineyards truly are.
“These are the vineyards I’m most proud of, the most beautiful and most inspiring wines to drink. Vibrant, exciting and healthy. Our goal, the vanguard, that’s where we learn. That’s what we’re working together on, our North Star for winemaking.”
The following wines were gifted for me to review. Summerhill has a core of approximately 12 wines with another 20 or so that are made depending on vintage conditions. There is complexity, diversity and depth throughout their entire portfolio. The fact that it’s also flexible and malleable, depending on the vintage, is how you can truly tell that they’re in it for the love of wine.