Summerhill Pyramid Winery’s commitment to natural wine and food begins in the vineyard, where certified organic and biodynamic practices are designed to bring out the best in each grape variety.
Now, with what might be described as an early Christmas gift for winemaker Eric Von Krosigk, he is able extend the biodynamic program into the winery itself. In November, experienced artisans arrived from Italy to construct nine 10,000L tanks from European oak. The tanks are used for fermentation—which typically occurs in stainless steel tanks—and maturation.
Why? Wood is a natural home for yeast and malolactic bacteria that transform grape juice into wine. Stainless steel tanks are sterilized after each use, but in the oak tanks, the beneficial organisms will colonize the wood, allowing the Summerhill team to make consistently delicious wine without the use of laboratory-formulated organisms.
“There is nothing wrong with the store-bought yeast,” CEO Ezra Cipes says. “In fact, they are a big reason that so much consistently good wine is made all over the world. But there is something almost magical about making wine with your own colony of yeast. The tiny organisms naturalize and mutate slowly over time, creating a unique formulation that adds complexity and depth to the resulting wine.”
The large oak vats will change the style of Summerhill’s organic red wines in other ways as well. The ratio of wine to oak surface is reduced significantly compared to the 225 L oak barriques that Summerhill currently uses, so maturing the reds in the larger oak tanks will result in a juicier style. “More of the natural fruit character and more interesting fermentations will result in very appealing, totally unique wines that translate an even more profound sense of place in the glass. This is always our primary goal, and this is a huge step in that direction,” says Cipes.
Visitors to the celebrated Sunset Organic Bistro will also see some changes when it opens in March. The Bistro is currently being renovated and a new executive chef, Jonas Stadtländer is busy preparing for the season.
“I am very happy and proud to be a part of the biodynamic food model and community at Summerhill,” Jonas says. Born and raised in Toronto, Jonas is a member of one of Canada’s most acclaimed culinary families and he brings a wealth of global culinary experience to Summerhill. His expertise for working with seasonal locally-sourced ingredients developed as the scion of renowned Canadian chef Michael Stadtländer. He trained at his family’s farm-to-table restaurant at the Eigensinn Farm in the Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, cooking innovative Canadian cuisine and attending to farm chores. He helped to build the family’s new restaurant, Haisai, before venturing further afield to develop his skills.
Jonas might be familiar to visitors of the Watermark Beach Resort in Osoyoos, where as executive chef he created acclaimed menus from ingredients grown by local farmers. Before that, he worked at various positions in Japan, where he did stints at the international restaurants of Gordon Ramsay and Joel Robuchon, as well as the great Niki Club Resort in Tochigi. As well, he managed key stations at a two Michelin-starred restaurant in Stuttgart, German, at Jamie Kennedy at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and at Penfolds Estate Restaurant in Adelaide, Australia.
At Sunset Organic Bistro, Jonas will have access to fresh organic produce grown right on the property, as well as from growers in and around the region.
“We are thrilled to welcome Chef Stadtländer as executive winery chef. His rich culinary experience, passion and appreciation for local and organic ingredients will get a chance to shine brightly at Summerhill,” Ezra says.
As usual, the winemaker gets the last word.
“Under biodynamics, everything is important–healthy soil life, sub-soil life, healthy insect populations, healthy cover crops, and plant and animal life; in a word, healthy biodiversity. Ultimately this does not make it more difficult to farm, it just requires a greater understanding and appreciation of biological diversity and habitats needed to grow grapes and other crops in a healthy and harmonious way.”
Welcome to nature at her best. Taste the difference with a visit to the most-visited tasting room in the country, and in the Bistro, where the ordinary just isn’t done.
~ Lorne Eckersley