Fully certified biodynamic and organic, Summerhill is destined to be known as the first 100% organic wine cellar in BC. Summerhill wines have consistently won gold medals from perhaps the most prestigious wine challenges worldwide, proving that flavour begins with a healthy terroir and organic grapes. “Summerhill is”, as proprietor Stephen Cipes states, “a co-venture with man and nature.”
Summerhill hosts 1000-3000 visitors per day; it is the most visited winery in Canada, and for good reason. The peaceful atmosphere, award-winning wines, and superb dining experience are all worth the visit, but these key elements are just the beginning of the adventure.
Let’s begin this wild wine tour with the pyramid. An impressive four-story structure that is, in Steve’s words, “second only to the great pyramid of Egypt for precision and alignment”. It is aligned to true north and creates a sacred geometry chamber where all the wines are clarified. The organic VQA certified wines are brought to maturation and finished in the pyramid. Unconventional perhaps, but a tried, tested, and tasted process that surprises the most skeptical oenophile. The opportunity to experience the essence of the chamber is offered on the very popular tours at noon, 2, 4 and 6 pm daily.
Visitors are encouraged to enjoy and explore Canada’s only First Contact Exhibit, and grounds that connect to an 8-acre nature sanctuary and the source of the Seven Springs water that is soon to be bottled.
A stroll past the biodynamic gardens leads visitors to the original log cabin museum authentically furnished by the heritage society. Venturing further down this path leads to the experience of entering the Makwahla memorial Kekuli, an authentic reproduction of the original winter home of the Okanagan people.
Every new moon and full moon, people gather round the sacred fire in the Kekuli, drumming, telling stories and dancing, “it’s a great community thing to gather round the fire,” says Cipes, and it is this community-minded philosophy that lies behind the free meditations in the pyramid and gatherings in the Kekuli. These inclusive events help maintain the connection between people and land, and as he states, “Honoring the moon cycles is how First Nations people have stayed in touch with nature, and it is through this connection we develop a love of nature, and we learn how to love life, so we don’t go wanting for the rest of our lives. Love of nature is love of life.”
The traditional Kekuli holds the magic of the sacred fire where the grandmothers and grandfathers, those who have passed over, live. In respect for this ancient tradition, no ceremonies can be held without permission and no alcohol, drugs, or idle talk is permitted. Summerhill and the Cipes family are deeply honored that the Westbank Nation has allowed the Kekuli to be built. To their knowledge, it is the first time that such an honour has been bestowed upon a non-aboriginal family.
Past the Kekuli, a picturesque Japanese bridge leads to a Shinto Torri gate, marking the entrance to the sanctuary, and the transition from the profane to the sacred, from the mundane to the inspired.
The Cipes family has gone to great lengths to set a precedent of harmony and oneness with nature. The philosophy behind the biodynamic practices is not just about being sustainable it’s about permaculture and giving back to ensure the fertility of land for future generations.
It’s reassuring to know that when people buy Summerhill wine they take part in stewarding the land. Indeed, each guest is considered an integral part of the process, completing the biodynamic life cycle from soil, to vine, to wine, to the guest who shares the bounty.
Not many men build a pyramid so when one does, it’s worth checking into. Undeniably, the pyramid at Summerhill has stood as a beacon to businesses throughout the Okanagan; proving that an organic business can be a thriving business, and that working with nature works for man. It is a simple recipe for success built on values that resonate with millions of visitors from all around the world.
Will visitors to Summerhill be inspired? Yes. Will they find it mundane? Never.
Is this the most unique winery in the world? Most definitely!
~ Henrietta Poirier