The GOODS from Summerhill Pyramid Winery
Kelowna, BC | The next time food and wine lovers dine at the Sunset Organic Bistro located at Kelowna’s Summerhill Pyramid Winery, they will have a choice to order not just wine, but beer or spirits as well. However, this is not the case yet at every winery restaurant in BC. Most are located on the Agricultural Land Reserve and subject to special rules that prohibit all business activities that are not agricultural or ancillary to agriculture. Under these rules, wineries may operate lounges where food is served, but the only alcoholic beverage they may serve alongside the food is wine that they themselves grow and produce.
After pursuing the issue for over a decade, Summerhill Pyramid Winery, the most visited winery in the Okanagan, has been granted its food primary license for their onsite bistro. This allows the restaurant to serve alcoholic beverages other than just their own wine, offering greater flexibility to its guests. Summerhill plans to use its new license to offer BC made organic products from Pemberton Distillery, Crannog Ales, Nelson Brewery, and Rustic Roots Fruit Winery alongside their own wines and selected organic wines from around the world.
This licensing change also enables the winery to provide a greater spectrum of beverage choices for weddings and other catered events. Previously, Summerhill’s guests have had to apply for Special Occasion licenses from BC Liquor Stores in order to serve beer and spirits at special functions held at the winery. It is Summerhill’s objective to showcase locally-made and organically-produced products alongside food sourced from dedicated organic BC farmers, including Summerhill’s own half-acre culinary permaculture garden, which provides the kitchen with a wide spectrum of biodynamic heirloom vegetables, herbs and berries.
In order to achieve this unprecedented move forward, the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) has granted the winery a ‘Non-Farm Use’ exemption to the ALC Act, to which most BC wineries are subject. It should be noted that this exemption does not constitute an overall shift in the mandate of the ALC, which prohibits commercial activities that are not ancillary to agriculture on the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). In a progressive move, Summerhill has offered to include 0.2ha of land not currently within the ALR in order to support the Non-Farm Use allowance.
This is not the first time Summerhill has acted as a leader in this arena. In 1997, Summerhill was granted one of BC’s first ‘J’ licenses, which allowed them to provide food service during lunch only. Prior to this, the outdated liquor laws would not allow seats at the tasting bar, or even crackers served as palate cleansers. The ‘J’ license was a new precedent that founder Stephen Cipes worked tirelessly to attain. It was this license that became the template for the ‘Winery Lounge Endorsement’ that currently allows numerous wineries in the Okanagan Valley to operate onsite food service.
In related events, Oliver’s Burrowing Owl Estate Winery applied for a Non-Farm Use exemption in 2009, but was turned down by the ALC in 2010. Most recently, Burrowing Owl, Tinhorn Creek Vineyards and Hester Creek Estate Winery, have applied for a Non-Farm Use utilizing the precedent set by Summerhill. Their applications are currently before the ALC.
Ezra Cipes, CEO of Summerhill Pyramid Winery, had this to say about the license change: “This was a long, hard process of getting all parties on board, and summoning the political will to start reforming our industry for the future. Ultimately I believe we were successful because the Agricultural Land Committee recognized how the wine industry in BC is developing. We are becoming a world-class wine tourism destination, and we have to be able to provide our guests with a world-class dining experience that shows our wines in context. That includes having options for aperitifs, digestifs, and locally-brewed beer.”
He further offered, “Maintaining a land base for agriculture in BC is the core mandate of the ALC, so including new land into the agricultural reserve was what made it possible in this case for the committee to say yes.”
For diners to show their support of this licensing change, the Sunset Organic Bistro is currently open every day from 11am to 9pm. Sunday Brunch is served from 11am until 2pm. Reservations are recommended by calling 1-800-667-3538.
Ezra Cipes: CEO
Eric von Krosigk: winemaker/viticulturist
Jesse Croy: winery chef
Gabe Cipes: biodynamics/permaculture
Stephen Cipes: founder/proprietor
ABOUT SUMMERHILL PYRAMID WINERY
Summerhill Pyramid Winery is a pioneering Okanagan Valley winery established in 1991. Owned and operated by the Cipes family, the winery has been a leader in organics, converting their own vineyard holdings to organic status shortly after the property was acquired in 1986, and helping to convert over 200 acres of Okanagan vineyards to certified organic status since then. The home vineyard in Kelowna is, as of 2012, BC’s first Demeter certified biodyamic vineyard. Summerhill considers their plots to be ‘vineyard ecosystems’ rather than viewing them as industrial farms. The philosophy of winemaking is that organic and biodynamic grapes, grown in harmony with the ecosystem, is the starting point for authentic, expressive, terroir driven wines. The portfolio of Summerhill wines has earned Summerhill the title of ‘Canadian Wine Producer of the Year’ from the IWSC in London, England (2009).
Summerhill has also been at the forefront of sparkling wine production in the Okanagan. The winery was founded with the production of Cipes Brut, a traditional method cuvee based on Riesling and Chardonnay, and has gone on to garner international acclaim for sparkling wines, including a gold medal from France (Chardonnay du Monde, 2000) and a trophy from England (IWSC, 2010), both for the estate grown Cipes Gabriel Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine.
The winery is also home to the Sunset Organic Bistro, featuring seasonal Okanagan wine paired cuisine in a rustic, relaxed atmosphere. Executive Chef Jesse Croy draws from the bounty of regional organic farmers, including an onsite half-acre biodynamic vegetable patch.