The tourists are practically all gone here in Kelowna making it possible for me to explore the parts of the Okanagan I love most. Traffic is less hectic and the beaches are no longer packed from end to end. The wineries and their bistros are still open and I can stroll into any of them without a reservation. This is the Kelowna I love most – when it is given back to the locals.
For this Sunday Dinner Series I wanted to focus on a winery I’ve had a complex relationship with. Summerhill Pyramid Winery, one of Canada’s most visited wineries and famed for their delicious sparkling and ice wines. Their pyramid, a replica of the Pyramid of Giza, is said to intensify the flavour of the wines and so each bottle spends some time within it.
Our precarious relationship all started at the Wine Bloggers’ Conference in 2013. The wine maker from Summerhill, Erik Von Krosig, rolled out a very special and unreleased sparkling wine (a bit of their specialty) from a 1996 vintage at a speculated $35(ish) CAD. The wine blew everyone away and many wine aficionados were shouting out their orders of full boxes from the floor. The wine maker said all they were waiting for the label and would call it something like Cipes Vintage.
Cut to 2014. I e-mailed the winery and talked to their social media manager to no avail. They didn’t reply to any of my inquiries about the wine I had been boasting about to friends and family. The social media manager at first had no idea what I was talking about. So I went in and tried to order it. The staff looked at me puzzled and instead offered me a $88 bottle, their Cipes Ariel.
I was at a loss. This winery is right around the corner from my home and I would stop in often after hearing about a new release to come out. Eagerly I would attend the wine bar looking to try the new addition. One after another they released the Blanc de Noirs, Blanc de Blanc and Blanc de Franc yet no 1996 sparkling.
Alas, it is now 2016 and the mystery has been solved…
In preparation for this post I visited their online shop and what do I find? The 1996 Cipes Traditional Cuvée. The golden goose I has been so illusive. Yet the $35 price is no where in sight leaving me to believe they used the Wine Bloggers’ Conference to test the waters and price. It’s a whopping $101 CAD. And I don’t blame them. Many of the bloggers in attendance were from the USA and very skeptical of the Okanagan wine valley. It was rumoured that one popular yet controversial blogger wrote a very in depth blog post about why he was boycotting the conference that year due to the selected Canadian destination. Boy did they miss out!
The mystery definitely left a bad taste in my mouth. But they have since won me over with their Blanc de Noirs, a “poor woman’s” sparkling wine at $35.
So that’s my beef with Summerhill Pyramid Winery. We’re all good in the hood now and with their new chef they have even won me back as a patron at their restaurant. This time last year if you asked me whether or not I would recommend the Summerhill Bistro I would have given a weary answer and surely the look on my face would have turned you away entirely. The primary culprit being a very terrible whey popsicle with frozen vegetables served at the Feast of Fields in 2013 or was it 2014?
Anyways, I have always loved their sparkling wines and even their reds have graced my cup more than a few times at home. But when it comes to their restaurant their reputation has been a little shaky. Their winery is organic and biodynamic with chefs having their own interpretations of what that means for food. I think they finally found the right balance where guests are happy and so too are the winery owners.
This year I can honestly say they have made the necessary adjustments for me to warrant them a solid recommendation to visitors. Okanagan native Alex Lavaroff has really turned their menu around for the better. Albeit, the prices are heftier than when I first started frequenting the bistro 10 years ago with a smaller charcuterie listed at $18 and mains at $27+.
Arctic char with the most amazing Israeli couscous at Canada’s most visited winery, Summerhill Pyramid a Winery.
A photo posted by Murissa Shalapata (@wanderfulltraveler) on
Otherwise how can you beat the view as you dine at one of Canada’s most unique wineries.