Over 20 years ago, a savvy New York entrepreneur and a passionate young winemaker began to fulfill an incredible dream:  to “create the finest Champagne-house in the world, right here in BC, Canada” (Stephen Cipes, Proprietor).

(Photo: Ari Cipes pouring a glass of Ariel)

Cipes and his Winemaker, Eric Von Krosigk, travelled to some of the most prestigious Champagne houses of France in search of the ‘secrets’ of perfection. They left with knowledge and conviction in their idea: that BC’s pristine Okanagan Valley had the perfect environmental conditions to produce world-class bottle-fermented sparkling wine.

The wineries they toured shared a unique French tradition: ‘marrying’ the cuveé and dosage in a special cellar constructed using elements of sacred geometry. Cipes fervently believed this was one of the most important secrets, and embarked on building a cellar in Kelowna to that effect: an 8% precision-scale replica of the Great Pyramid of Egypt.

From the beginning, both men were passionate about maintaining the land’s priceless blessings of clean air and water through organic and bio-dynamic methods.

Von Krosigk notes grapes grown for sparkling wine need to be “light and delicate, like beautiful violin notes rather than heavy Schwarzenegger fruit.” 

Cipes believes it is sparkling wine’s sublime and subtle nature that makes any chemical use much more detectable; that “being organic enhances the flavour of the grapes”.

Getting it right in the field is the first step in making any great wine. During the critical ripening time, the Okanagan’s warm days are followed by cool evenings. This allows the grapes to retain their acidity, creating a beautiful balance of fruit to acid. Sparkling wine ripens earlier than that of table wines, with a very limited window for optimum harvest. For Summerhill quality, this is just what Von Krosigk demands.

Von Krosigk’s minimal intervention style during the intricate stages of production, his widely acclaimed blending skills when creating the cuvées and the dosage, and the “marriage” in the Pyramid where the “magic” happens – results in achingly beautiful sparkling wines that have made the world take notice.

From Summerhill’s first Gold Medal win of their initial release of Cipes Brut in 1991 at the Chardonnay du Monde in France, to their trophy at 2009’s International Wine and Spirits Competition for “Best Bottle Fermented Sparkling Wine” (Cipes Gabriel), to all the accolades in between, there is plenty of proof of the quality of Summerhill’s organic wines.

Now, 14 years after harvesting, Summerhill has released its most complex sparkling wine to date. Cipes Ariel rivals the style of premium prestige cuvées of France, at a fraction of the cost. Bottled in 1999 with the secret liqueur de tirage, its extended bottle aging in the pyramid has created deep autolytic notes and elegant, creamy cashmere bubbles. 

This holiday season, celebrate with friends and family with the resounding pop of the cork from Summerhill, the ‘champagne-house’ of Canada.

 

Cipes Brut N/V $24.95  This classic Riesling/Chardonnay/Pinot Blanc-based sparkling wine has been winning gold medals every year since its introduction. Perfect for any occasion.

Cipes Rosé N/V $29.95  100% Organic Pinot Noir – Gold Medal winner (San Francisco’s Pinot Noir Summit).  Attractive pink bubbly exhibiting fruity aromas, with citrus and peach-apricot on the palate.

Cipes Ice N/V $45.00  Cipes Rosé 100% Pinot Noir Sparkling Cuvée was sweetened with a Pinot Noir Icewine dosage, enhancing its strawberry and raspberry flavour. Voila – Cipes Ice was born! 

Cipes Gabriel $65.00  100% Organic Chardonnay, Cipes Gabriel is pure and clean with aromas of vanilla and lemongrass, flavours of pineapple, apricot, and biscuit, and a beautiful fine mousse finish. Extended en tirage aging produced a wine with creamy bubbles and mouth feel. 

1998 Cipes Ariel $85.00  Summerhill’s premium prestige cuvée. Very rich, exhibiting notes of custard, Vegemite, brioche, citrus zest, apple, apricot, hazelnut, and ginger. Excellent with oysters, Dungeness crab and goat cheese. Gismondi gave it 92 points, with Wine Access Magazine’s DJ Kerney calling it ‘the best sparkling wine in BC’. Only 500 cases available at the time of writing, so don’t delay.

~ Sarah Willard

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