Stephen Cipes

Although he's being inducted into the BC Restaurant Association's Hall of Fame for his innovative and successful business strategies, Stephen Cipes of Kelowna's Summerhill Pyramid Winery laments that so few winemakers have embraced organic production methods.

A Kelowna winery owner who has long touted the benefits of organic production will be inducted into the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame.

Stephen Cipes, founder of Summerhill Pyramid Winery, is being honoured in the Local Champion category.

"We are recognizing him for his leadership as an advocate of the land and for bringing sustainable wines and flavours to the restaurant table," says a release from the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, which operates the Hall of Fame.

Cipes exemplifies the kind of professionalism and determination that helps the food sector thrive while always adapting to changing market conditions and consumer preferences, says Ian Tostenson, president of the association.

Cipes came to the Okanagan in 1986, when the valley's wine industry had not progressed much beyond the production of low-quality products that were protected behind high tariffs imposed on foreign wines.

The advent of free trade shook up the industry, and Cipes positioned Summerhill - now Canada's most visited winery - as an early champion for organic growing methods, then a rarity in an industry reliant on pesticides.

Though Summerhill prides itself on its organic wines, Cipes expressed regret in a 2016 interview marking the business' 30th anniversary that few others in the industry have embraced similar production methods.

"Today, there are over 300 wineries in B.C. and, sadly, less than three per cent are organic," Cipes told The Daily Courier. "I think that's a shame because we are the northernmost, desert viticulture in the world and we don't have a lot of pests.

"You can go organic here. We should be models in the world, a model of being in harmony with nature. We should not be spraying chemicals in this very fragile place we live in," he said.

Asked why organic winemaking has not spread more significantly in the Okanagan, Cipes said: "Farmers go by the book, and the book has to be changed. The book is 40-, 50 years old. And also, there's a lot of pressure from the chemical companies."

The other Okanagan inductee this year into the B.C. Restaurant Hall of Fame is Manuel Ferreira, owner of Miradoro Restaurant at the Tinhorn Creek winery in Oliver.

Established in 2005, the Hall of Fame, which is a virtual entity rather than a bricks-and-mortar outfit, has dozens of members from all aspects of the food and hospitality industry.

This year's induction dinner will be held Oct. 7 at the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver.