June 27, 2003 Features & Images » Feature Story

A tour of Canada’s wine region 

After a decade of hard work, Okanagan wineries are going for it

Page 6 of 10

He made his first commercial batch of wine in his garage in 1991, and Summerhill was officially launched the following year to critical acclaim.

Cipes has expanded gradually over the years, and now cultivates 65 acres of land. Although he grows several different grape varietals, Summerhill is becoming well known for its sparkling wines – to date, Summerhill is the only Canadian winery to win a major international award for its sparkling wine – the French Chardonnay of the World competition.

To properly appreciate a Summerhill Pyramid wine, you have to understand something of Cipes’ philosophy.

He believes in pyramid power.

Although some European wineries have used pyramid power for generations, nobody in North America was following suit. So Cipes did an experiment. He took two parts of the same cloned vine and planted them in different pots. The first pot was left outside to grow, sheltered from the wind, and the second was placed inside a small glass and wood pyramid. Both were given the same water and the same light, but at the end of the experiment the vines looked very different. The vine that was outside sprouted in all directions, while the pyramid vine grew up straight, strong, with a noticeable counter-clockwise swirl.

That was good enough for Cipes, who now ages every bottle he produces – 40,000 cases a year – for at least three months in the pyramid.

Nobody is sure why or how, but believers in pyramid power point to the flow of positive and negative ions. City streets, rooms filled with electronics, the inside of cars, all have high quantities of positive ions, while forests, free-standing stone buildings and pyramids are filled with negative ions that have a calming effect.

Applied to wine, Cipes believes the pyramid naturally amplifies the characteristics of wine, improving the taste, clarity, fruit flavours and aftertaste.

He put his theory to a taste test over a three-year period, giving customers a sample of the same wine, one aged in the pyramid and one aged normally. Almost 90 per cent of them preferred the pyramid-aged sample.

Cipes also believes passionately about the ecology, embracing organic principles and leading a movement to convince other wineries and fruit growers in the region to follow his example.

"I don’t think that using pesticides and herbicides and chemical fertilizers is in the best interest of the lake," says Cipes. "The lake is on a hundred-year cycle, which means that it takes about a hundred years for all of the water to be replaced, so it’s very slow."

In the past, Cipes has not mentioned his organic status on his labels, acknowledging that the current market perception is that organic is more expensive and the quality is not as good.

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