When Stephen Cipes first visited the Okanagan in 1986, the New York developer believed he'd found unique conditions to produce "intensely flavoured small grapes"--the perfect base for sparkling wine.
He had a vision to preserve the pristine conditions of his family’s new home in spite of the rapid agricultural and civic development. To protect the Okanagan’s lake and inhabitants, Cipes set out to prove that organic wines are better in every way – in the way they taste and make you feel as well as in their impact on community and environment
Cipes brought grape clones from France and "personally planted them on my hands and knees."
Stephen Cipes was co-founder of the Okanagan's most visited winery Summerhill Pyramid Winery located in Kelowna over looking Okanagan Lake.
Summerhill follows organic growing practices. No herbicides or pesticides "keeps the lake clean and our grapes don't taste from the chemicals," says Cipes. "These grapes are happy guys, they're flourishing. Our wines are allowing nature to speak for herself." Summerhill wines are regularly honoured in international competitions. "We've won gold medals in France and the trophy for Best Bottle Fermented Sparkling Wine in London, England!" he beams.
There’s much to do at the winery, from dining at The Sunset Bistro (where, obviously, all the ingredients are organic) to taking self-guided tours to the pyramid, biodynamic vineyards and Canada’s only Exhibit of First Contact — the Mallam house and the Makwala Kekuli.
Cipes is extremely proud of the winery’s relationship with the First Nations. “To be able build a true replica of the sacred building, the Kekuli, and to have the sacred fire in it. The fire represents a tradition that they have had for thousands of years which is that the ancestors who they call the grandmothers and grandfathers are living through the sacred fire and when you sit around the fire and drum, and dance and be respectful they come through and they can talk to you.”*1
In 2017 Stephen released his book All in One Era. The book is written to catapult this era which lifts us into a fantastic journey of freedom in our souls and a joining to achieve prosperity on all levels! This book opens the doorway for those who choose to save ourselves and our precious planet. It is filled with original treasures and ideal subjects for workshops.
Philosophy of Business: "We love to be hosts. We want people to feel genuinely welcome in our home," he says. "I try to empower my employees to exude that love. That's ideal for what we do here. We're welcoming people from around the world." Cipes promotes from within and believes in being up-front. "I'm there for people," he says. "I take phone calls. I put my money where my mouth is. I own the business in my own name and I put my name on the product."
Philosophy of Life: "Be whole unto yourself at all times," the winemaker advises. "Allow your grand self to come through in your regular self."
We are pioneers within our industry and community, both locally and globally. We push the boundaries of what has and can be done in business and in life by acting according to our values and creating the world in which we wish to live.
Accomplishments: "My four sons are accomplished, fun-loving, warm-hearted people. That's the best thing a dad could have."
Advice for Entrepreneurs: "You can't focus on the monetary or material result. Be a conduit and allow your vision, your dream to come through -- and fortify it every day." How? "By taking every possible step to achieve your goal -- like making sure there is toilet paper in the washrooms, the music is playing, the bottles are dusted and the chef has had his hug."
Winner of the prestigious Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award
Inducted into B.C. Restaurant Hall of Fame 2019
Where he was born: New York, NY
His education : School of life. Some college courses, no degree.
Business profile before the winery
Stephen started buying, fixing up, and selling boats while a teenager. He moved to real estate in his early twenties and also became a broker for sales of companies. He was known as “the boy broker”. Eventually he became a real estate developer, pioneering “cluster zoning” in New York state to protect steep slopes and wetlands. Stephen built his own real estate holdings in New York, which he has kept and manages still.
Why he started a winery
Stephen was incredibly proud of his new home in beautiful British Columbia and wanted to bring pride to Canada by bottling and promoting organic wine and inviting the world to visit.
Stephen’s maternal grandmother was from Winnipeg and he was always attracted to Canada. In the mid-80s, he envisioned a major life change and moved to the Okanagan Valley, home to about 40 000 people at the time with no urban centre nearby. Everyone called the country south of here “the excited states” at the time, and he loved it.
Spouse, children, interests beside wine
Stephen is married to Rie Oshita Cipes, and they have one daughter, Esther Ehisa, together. From previous marriages he is father to Matthew, Gabriel, Ezra, and Ari.
Note: Summerhill Pyramid Winery is among the first and best Sparkling wine producers in Canada. A visit from the late California vintner Jack Davies of Schramsberg Winery in the late 1980s, recognizing the potential of Okanagan grapes for sparkling wine production, inspired Summerhill’s founder, Stephen Cipes, to open Canada’s first ‘Champagne House’. The 1991 vintage of Cipes Brut was among the inaugural offerings for the winery, and it was released to instant critical and public acclaim.
*1 Vancouver Sun Anthony GismondiI