A sparkling wine 15 years in the making is proof that it really is possible to save Time in a Bottle, as Jim Croce used to sing.
Cipes Ariel 1998 is getting rave reviews, including a 92-point rating from Anthony Gismondi, who called it “stunningly fine”, and a Gold Medal from the World Wine Awards in Chicago.
“In a way, this wine represents the culmination of my dad’s original vision,” says Ezra Cipes, CEO at Summerhill Pyramid Winery. “This is a 100%  estate-grown wine from our Kelowna vineyard. It represents the high quality that can be achieved with BC sparkling wines that stand up to the best from anywhere in the world. And we’ve done it in our own, unique way that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world.”
Of course Ezra’s dad, Stephen Cipes, says that’s exactly what he set out to do when he started down the sparkling wine road back in the late 1980s.
“Cheers – with a sparkling Pinot Noir that was grown on this property and won a Gold Medal in San Francisco!” Stephen said with a smile, starting out a chat about the early Summerhill days.
“I guess this takes us back to my passion that I shared with my co-founder Eric back in the late ‘80s. We bought this farm in ‘86. It was planted to table grapes and hybrids. We did have some of the first vinifera that was ever brought in – but that was only a few rows.”
“My type of wine has always been sparkling wine”, he said. “Since I was a boy drinking beer and Riunite, I always liked sparkling wine.”
“I got very excited about the growing conditions here because it was pointed out to me by Jack Davies of Calistoga, which is in the Napa Valley. He made sparkling wine and he sourced his grapes from all over the world. He took the clones and planted them there in the Napa Valley and his wine, Schramsberg, was served at the White House. It was the pride of the United States.
He said, ‘Steve, you guys are wasting your time making table wine. You have the absolute perfect conditions for making sparkling wine here because you are so far north that you have the late evening sun and early morning sun and the plants shut down in the middle of the day anyway. You have pristine air and water. You don’t have the right grapes here but if you brought the right grapes over from Champagne, France you have the perfect growing conditions. If you guys wise up and keep the water off your grapes you can make extra small, extra flavourful grapes that can make base wine that will hold its flavour through the second fermentation in the bottle.’”
That conversation with Davies led to Stephen going to Europe and finding his first and current winemaker, Vernon-born Eric von Krosigk. The rest, you might say, is history, worthy of a toast. Cheers!
~ Lorne Eckersley