They are the first and only Demeter-certified organic and biodynamic wines in B.C.

The 2017 Riesling ($28), 2017 Gruner Veltliner ($28) and 2018 Pinot Noir ($35) were made from grapes grown in Summerhill Pyramid Winery's 80-acre home vineyard in Kelowna.

"First of all, the grapes and the winery have to be organic before they can be considered for Demeter's biodynamic designation," said Summerhill president Ezra Cipes.

"And then we do additional special biodynamic preparations that contribute to the life force of the soil."

For instance, in the fall, manure from a lactating cow is stuffed in a cow horn and buried in the vineyard.

It's dug up in the spring, the manure is extracted and mixed in a barrel with creek water.

The resulting solution is sprayed on the vineyard as an all-natural and biodynamic fertilizer.

It's esoteric for sure, but falls in line with the teachings of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) of Austria, the philosopher and economist who linked science and spirituality.

For agriculture, Steiner stressed every farm is an ecosystem that requires biodiversity, sustainability and soil husbandry.

His theories were the basis of Demeter International, formed in Germany in 1928, and now recognized as the largest certification organization for biodynamic agriculture with 4,500 members worldwide.

Summerhill is the only winery in B.C. with Demeter certification.

"Being organic or biodynamic doesn't guarantee flavour quality of wines, but it does guarantee unique, terroir-driven, true, authentic and pure wines," said Cipes.

Thus said, Summerhill's first three Demeter-certified wines are pure and great tasting.

The 2017 Riesling is classic of the varietal with bright and lush aromas and flavours of peach, lemon and lime.

The 2017 Gruner Veltliner ($28) is made from Austria's signature white grape and is exotic with a starfruit-pear-lemon-and-herb profile.

The 2018 Pinot Noir ($35) hasn't been released yet.

But as soon as it is, drink it to enjoy the bright and juicy cherry and raspberry flavours with a hint of earth and spice.

Summerhill's organic journey started in 1986 when Ezra's father, Stephen, bought the winery on Chute Lake Road and immediately started the transition.

"My dad is a visionary," said Ezra.

"He was championing organic when everyone thought it was crazy."

Besides the 80-acre home vineyard, which is organic under Pacific Agricultural Certification Society standards and Demeter biodynamic, Summerhill manages 16 acres of Cabernet Franc vineyard that is organic and sources grapes from 12 independent growers with 200 acres, all of which is certified organic.

The organic and biodynamic journey led Summerhill to also gain B (Benefit) Corporation accreditation.

It's separate from the agricultural and winemaking certifications in that B Corp. recognizes the Summerhill as the type of forward-thinking company that balances purpose and profit.

Summerhill scored high marks in all B Corp. categories covering governance, workers, customers, community and the environment.

By the way, Summerhill Pyramid Winery is named such because of the white, four-story, replica Great Pyramid of Egypt on the property.

The pyramid's sacred geometry, placement facing true north and construction using no ferrous metals means wines stored in the structure have more intense aroma and flavour.

*****

Christina Coletta, co-owner of Summerland's Okanagan Crush Pad, credits Summerhill Pyramid and Stephen Cipes for inspiring her to go organic.

"We have three vineyards," she said.

"Switchback and Garnet Valley Ranch are Pacific Agricultural Certification Society organic and we're just awaiting the final inspection on Secrest Mountain. And the winery is already certified organic."

Organic generally means no use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, commercial yeast or cleaners in the vineyard, wines or winery.

In reality, the practice is much more complicated.

For instance, fence posts in the vineyard can't be treated with paint or stain that contain chemicals, manure and seaweed are used as fertilizer and native yeasts on grape skins have to ignite fermentation of wine.

Cover crops of wildflowers and clover are planted so insects eat them instead of vines and grapes and near-boiling water, not chemicals, is used to wash everything at the winery.

"It truly does make a difference," said Coletta.

"The vineyards are healthier and phenolic ripeness in organic grapes occurs earlier, resulting in lower sugar levels and this translates to lower alcohol and a fresher, livelier acidity in the wine."

For instance, Okanagan Crush Pad's Haywire Switchback Pinot Gris 2017 ($27) is brighter and more vital than when it was first made non-organically in 2009, according to Coletta.

She's right.

When I tasted the Pinot Gris it popped with lime and peach flavours and finished with some herbal undertones.

Okanagan Crush Pad's Free Form 2017 Vin Gris ($27) is another example of organic quality.

It's a variant of Rose using a red grape, in this case Pinot Noir, to essentially make a white wine.

The result is a delicate wine with a strawberry and lemon flavours with a floral nose.

"Organic wines got a bad rap in the beginning because they could be inconsistent," said Coletta.

"But now they are consistently good and the consumer is demand more organic. The goal is to make exceptional wines and lead the land in better shape than we found it."

Okanagan Crush Pad has three labels – Haywire, Free Form and Narrative.

*****

Time celebrated its first anniversary as an urban winery in a refurbished movie theatre in downtown Penticton this week with a release party for its first-ever sparking wine.

Time 2018 Brut ($35) is the perfect bubbly to punctuate a special occasion like a first anniversary, or any anniversary for that matter, birthday, birth, graduation, promotion or retirement.

But Time also wants you pop open a bottle of its Brut for brunch, on a Tuesday or just because.

Time Winery owner Harry McWatters is known to say he drinks sparkling almost every day and it's his go-to drink while deciding what other wines to pair with life and food.

So, it's a good thing Time Brut is affordably priced, eminently drinkable and elegant.

Expect fine bubbles, apple, pear and lemon flavours with a touch of fresh-baked bread and a creamy texture and crisp finish.

The Brut is made of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in a prosecco-style fermented in neutral French oak barrels and stainless-steel barrels and tanks.

This is Time winemaker Graham Pierce's first sparkling.

But he made it like an expert.

He's a gifted guy that makes Time's red and white wines and used to also work at Black Hill Estate in Oliver.

While this is Time's first sparkling, McWatters is no stranger to bubbly.

He's been in the B.C. wine industry for 50 years and when he owned Sumac Ridge in Summerland, it was the first winery in Canada to make a premium methode champenoise sparkling fermented in the bottle.

Time Winery & Kitchen at 361 Martin St. also has a tasting bar, lounge, restaurant and outdoor patio.

*****

It's a bit of a full circle for Don Triggs.

He was cofounder of Jackson Triggs Winery in Ontario before it also opened in the Okanagan and became part of the Arterra Wines conglomerate.

Arterra, which is owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, also has Inniskillin, in both the Okanagan and Niagara; Okanagan wineries Sumac Ridge, Sunrock, Laughing Stock, See Ya Later Ranch, Black Sage and Nk'Mip; and international brands Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi (California), Ruffino (Italy) and Kim Crawford (New Zealand).

After leaving Jackson Triggs, Triggs opened Culmina Family Estate in Oliver with his wife Elaine and their daugher, Sara.

Over the years, they've built the Culmina brand in keeping with its Latin translation, meaning peak or apex.

However, Don and Elaine want to retire and they struck a deal with Arterra to buy Culmina for an undisclosed amount.

Sara is joining Arterra as a sales and marketing director.

"I'm immensely proud to bring Culmina into the Arterra Wines Canada family," said Arterra CEO Jay Wright.

"They have played such an integral role in building our Canadian wine industry and we are proud to continue the legacy Culmina has created."

Arterra is based in Toronto.

"We have a long history with Jay and his team at Arterra," said Triggs.

"So we are confident they will continue the development of Culmina's destiny as a producer of iconic, quality wines."

*****

Steve MacNaull is a reporter at The Okanagan Weekend. Reach him at steve.macnaull@ok.bc.ca.

Recommended for you