Ask folks touring the Okanagan which wineries are on their itinerary and Summerhill Pyramid Winery is recurrently top of mind. Given Summerhill’s commitment as an organic and biodynamic operation with award-winning wines and stunning setting, it is Canada’s most visited winery.
Ezra Cipes, CEO, says, “We welcome many visitors from all over the world every day and want to honour each one. To fulfil that pledge, we’re elated this season to expand our facilities, programs, and staff.”
Summerhill will grow from one to three tasting rooms with a reception gallery to greet arrivals and to direct guests to tasting rooms, tour locations, restaurant, special event spaces and other facilities. “Improving the flow and creating intuitive passageways makes it more enjoyable for everyone,” explains Cipes.
An exciting addition is a grab-and-go Food Bar section of the Sunset Organic Bistro – known for highlighting the best regional ingredients sourced from Summerhill’s own biodynamic gardens, wildlife preserves, and network of organic farmers.
“Our dining room serves relaxed, wine paired lunches and dinners,” says Cipes. “The Food Bar and picnic seating will provide a quicker, more casual experience prepared by executive winery chef Alex Lavroff and our kitchen team. Visitors can gather provisions and wine, pay at the cashier, and head to outdoor tables to picnic at their own leisure. That area has the most incredible view on the property.”
Summerhill’s culinary staff is pumped to craft highly portable, farm-to-table options, increasing their flexibility to feed guests without a reservation. In visiting, you can decide ahead whether you’d prefer a picnic or traditional restaurant meal.
The main tasting room and gift shop will be transformed for optimum convenience. For a truly distinctive tasting, the Robert Bateman Chieftain Gallery curated by Cori Derrickson, granddaughter of Tribal Chief Makwala of the Okanagan Nation, will be enlarged to encompass the reception hall, and tasting stations will be added to the existing gallery room. Here guests can sample wine while viewing First Nations fine art and crafts, and works by renowned nature artist Robert Bateman. The third public tasting room, for those wanting to focus on outdoor views, is in a covered patio across from the main building.
The tour program, too, is revamped and expanded. The Pyramid Experience, accommodating up to 40 people four times per day, will include visits to the vineyard and wine cellar, and will now conclude with a wine tasting inside the pyramid. A twice daily Terroir Tour for up to 12 people will begin with sparkling wine sabering and a walk through the vineyard to discuss biodynamic grape growing and the terroir of the Okanagan Valley before concluding with a private, seated premium wine tasting in the gardens.
For events and special occasions such as weddings, Summerhill offers remarkable photography opportunities, a ceremony site with a private room for the bridal party to prepare, plus a large banquet room.
After touring the expansion initiatives, we found proprietor Stephen Cipes reviewing plans in the tasting room. Always the gracious host, he asked, “Did you enjoy the pyramid? It’s about finding balance, bringing out the best and welcoming others to experience our connection to land and community.” Father, son, the entire Cipes family and Summerhill team are dedicated to making the most of the land and sharing the adventure meaningfully.
Who can resist a visit without a tasting from Summerhill’s award-winning and responsibly grown organic and biodynamic wines? Showing amazing restraint, I tasted just two expressions of Cabernet Franc: Cipes Blanc de Franc 2011, a superb and unique sparkling produced in the traditional Champagne method, and 2011 Knollvine Farm Cabernet Franc, a well-balanced, dark berry and subtle spice expression.
(pictured: (L-R) Scott – builder; Steve – proprietor; Maytawee – Transformation Manager;
CEO Ezra reviewing the exciting new plans for expansion)
~ Roslyne Buchanan