He won the prestigious Founder’s Award at Thursday’s 2016 Wine Awards and has been producing gold medal wines for over two decades.
But now, the owner of Kelowna’s Summerhill Pyramid Winery has his mind set on a new goal that doesn’t involve trophies – and it may just be his most difficult task yet.
Stephen Cipes is attempting to get every vineyard in the Okanagan to embrace organic wine and wine-making by 2020. He has no doubt it’s an achievable goal, but says it won’t be easy.
“There are three hundred wineries and less than 3 per cent are organic. There is a lot of shoulder shaking and consciousness level raising we need to do.”
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Cipes’ winery has been organic for thirty years. He says that Summerhill’s success is a great example of how organic doesn’t mean compromise.
“We have the ideal growing conditions here to be organic. It’s very easy! We have more flavor in these grapes and we’ve been organic since we started.”
The switch to organic grape growing involves new fertilizer, less spraying, extra composting, and different soil treatment. At Summerhill, employees are believers that a lower number of chemicals means a higher quality of wine.
“Grapes have been growing for thousands of years without chemicals, so why can’t we go back to the way it was?”
“It’s a little more hands on, literally and figuratively, but it’s well worth it,” Cipes said. “The money you save on those chemicals that are hugely expensive is the money that replaces the extra labour. So it’s not more expensive.”
Cipes says his push for organic innovation has been going well. He’s got thousands of online signatures at organicokanagan.com, and has been receiving positive feedback from the community.