Canada’s most visited winery.
Visiting Kelowna and not checking out at least one winery is like going to San Francisco and not seeing the Golden Gate bridge, it’s an incomplete trip. The winery I’m most interested in checking out during my 30 Days Of Summer Kelowna adventures is Summerhill Pyramid Winery. I’ve been drinking their wines for years and really want to see the pyramid that they built to store their wine. I think it’s about time I checked it out for myself. Timing is everything though when you visit Summerhill Pyramid Winery. If you visit in the morning be warned it’s crazy busy with group tours. The afternoons are also busy but it’s a little more organic in its flow. Summerhill is Canada’s most visited winery and I want to see for myself what makes them such a hot destination, is it the wine of the pyramid that draws the crowds? Let’s find out.
Back in June during my 30 Best Patios series I was lucky enough to meet Summerhill’s CEO Ezra Cipes and the winemaker Eric VonKrosigk in Vancouver and to celebrate their Cipes Brut being named the Best Sparkling Wine of the Year at the All Canadian Wine Championship. At this celebration Ezra offered to give me a private tour of the winery which I wasn’t about to turn down. How often do you get to walk the wines with the man running the show? Not very often in my books.
I arrived at Summerhill on a beautiful Kelowna summer day (31 degrees before 2pm) just as the tour buses were finishing for the morning. While waiting to meet up with Ezra I took a look over the property and was stunned by the view. Unbelievable vistas of the vineyard and Lake Okanagan in the background. With this as my view every day I’d be hard pressed to get any work done.
When Ezra arrived he suggested we do something a little different than the normal tours, he offered to walk with me around the property to show me some of what makes Summerhill special. I’m in and our first stop is to say to his brother Gabe who is out working in one of the gardens harvesting bounty for their restaurant, Sunset Organic Bistro.
Past this garden on a wild overgrown trail Ezra shows me a sacred space on the property they built for the express purpose of winter and summer solstice celebrations. In consultation with some of the neighbouring First Nations they have built a space using hand hewn logs and earth. If you don’t pay attention you could actually walk right by and not even notice it. Pull back the rug doorway though and you are transported into a massive space that can easily hold 30+ people. Nothing to do with wine here or is it? This is my first glimpse at the philosophy that runs through the Summerhill veins. Working in harmony and balance with nature as opposed to forcing nature to create what you desire. That is what is at the core of Summerhill Pyramid Winery.
Just past the sacred space is an area under construction which I can’t reveal in pictures to you just yet. A fabulous location for small wedding ceremonies of which Ezra tells me that on some summer days they host 3 wedding parties a day! Down from there we are in one of the original vineyards on the property. The place where Summerhill wines began you could say. You may notice that the vineyard looks a little more rustic than some others you may have visited in the past. This is another example of their efforts to work with nature to help produce vibrant and alive soil which in turn creates the great flavours in their wine.
To the right of the vineyard are their own Honey Bee hives. mmmmm honey.
Ezra and I walk some more of the property which includes the area where they compost and garden. The final stop on the tour of the grounds though is what makes Summerhill famous, the Pyramid. It’s undergoing a massive face lift at the moment as the finishing pieces of marble are being laid in place. Every bottle of wine that Summerhill produces spends its last 30 days in here before it can go out for sale. Casks, kegs, bottles they all rest in here first before they go to market. I tried to capture some images for you but it was just too dark for my camera to capture. Amazingly peaceful and tranquil though with a lovely aroma of aging wine.
Our last and final stop on our tour is the one I’ve been waiting for, the Sunset Organic Bistro where we get to eat and drink. The bistro and tasting room are side by side. I suggest you hit the tasting room first, samples some of the wines then go for lunch or dinner and pair the wine you like with some great food.
Of course since I’m having lunch with the winery CEO so I’m letting him choose the wines and the food. First up is a Cipes Ariel 1998 sparkling wine which won a Gold Medal at the 2012 World Wine Awards in Chicago. I’m drinking a lot more sparkling these days and I have to say I’m loving it. Look at the view that goes with the wine, a perfect pairing. To go with our wine we order a Charcuterie Plate and a Superfood Salad with quinoa, chia seeds, hemp hearts and goat cheese. Everything on the plates is either grown at Summerhill or produced locally including the meats and the mustard. Delicious.
We are ready to try another wine and this time it’s a new label from Summerhill called Alive Organic Wine. Meant to be very approachable and easy to pair with most foods the Red is particularly tasty and paired very well with our charcuterie. Again with that view!
For our next course I couldn’t resist the organic Beef Burger and the Agro Dolce flatbread Pizza. For the burger I stayed with the Alive Red but for the pizza I switched to their Riesling. You might come for the wine but let me tell you, you will stay for the food. Fantastically delicious. I will need a wheel barrel to take me home I think.
That my friends ends my adventures at Summerhill Pyramid Winery. If you are turned off by the fact that Summerhill is so popular with tourists, don’t be. It’s worth the visit and more importantly the wines are worth it as well. This is the best place to buy their wines and if you spend over $300 or buy 12+ bottles they will ship it to you for free! Sign me up for a case of the Cipes Brut please. No visit to Kelowna is complete without a stop at Summerhill, trust me.
Summerhill Pyramid Winery, located for more than 20 years in the Lakeshore district in Kelowna, BC, is Canada’s premier certified organic winery, BC’s first Demeter certified biodynamic vineyard, Canada’s foremost producer of sparkling wine, and now Canada’s first producer of uncooked Kosher wine. Winemaker Eric von Krosigk oversees the portfolio of BC VQA wines that suit every occasion and has earned the winery the ‘Canadian Wine Producer of the Year’ award at the International Wine & Spirits Competition in London, England. The winery, owned by the Cipes family, is also home to the Sunset Organic Bistro, serving food grown and raised by local organic producers, including Summerhill’s own on-site permaculture-style vegetable garden. The mission of the entire Summerhill team is to produce exceptionally good-tasting wines organically, support local organic food growers, and provide unforgettable experiences for all guests.