Our guest this evening has been involved in his family winery since he was five years old. After working in the wine production cellar, he became a published songwriter. But despite his love for music, he felt called back to the vineyard and in 2008 became Chief Operations Officer in 2008 then CEO in 2012.
Recently he has become a director of the Canadian Vintners Association and Vice-Chair of the British Columbia Wine Institute.
And he joins me live now from his winery: Welcome to the Sunday Sipper Club Ezra Cripes of Summerhill Pyramid Winery!
What was the exact moment when you realized that you wanted to leave the music industry and come back to wine? Tell us exactly where you were? What triggered the thought? How did you feel? What was the next step you took to get going on the path to winemaking?
What’s your favourite failure? (Let’s avoid bad weather ;) Where were you? What happened? How did you feel? What did you do to recover? What did you learn from this experience that made you stronger or better in some regard?
Now take us to the best moment of your wine career: what happened? (Let’s avoid awards and reviews ;) Where were you? What happened? How did you feel?
What’s the most memorable thing someone has ever said about your wines?
What is something that you believe right now that some people think is insane?
What’s the harshest criticism you’ve received about your wines? Here you can also say how you’d refute that criticism or if it was a misunderstanding – or how you changed your winemaking to correct whatever the issue was.
What was something you were wrong about as it relates to making wine?
Tell us about how the pyramid plays a role in making wine at your winery.
What makes a wine vegetarian?
The difference between vegetarian and vegan wines?
What’s the difference between vegetarian/vegan wines and organic wines?
What’s the difference between vegetarian/vegan wines and gluten-free wines?
If the label doesn’t say vegan on it, are there other words that might indicate the wine could be vegan?
Are there any health benefits to vegan/vegetarian wines?
Is it mainly vegans and vegetarians who drink this wine?
Why do winemakers fine or filter wine?
What types of fining agents do they use?
Could someone allergic to eggs, fish or milk react to these wines?
Why did you choose to make vegetarian/vegan wines?
What are the unique challenges?
What do you mean by a zoological free winery?
Do you think ingredient lists should be on the wine label?
Can you pair vegan wines with meat?
Are you a vegetarian? Why or why not?
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Summerhill Pyramid Winery Cipes Blanc De Blanc 2012
Okanagan Valley, British Columbia BC VQA, Canada
Summerhill Pyramid Winery Alive Organic White 2017
Okanagan Valley, British Columbia BC VQA, Canada
Summerhill Pyramid Winery Alive Red 2016
Okanagan Valley, British Columbia BC VQA, Canada
Ezra Cipes – CEO, Summerhill Pyramid Winery
Ezra Cipes is proud to carry on the family legacy at Summerhill Pyramid Winery. Since the Cipes family moved from New York to Summerhill Vineyard in Kelowna, British Columbia when Cipes was five, he has grown up in the wine industry, and feels blessed to now lead a company dedicated to creating beauty in collaboration with nature.
Cipes has a multitude of passions and talents. After working in the wine production cellar while attending public school in Kelowna, Ezra embarked on a career in music. He worked as a touring and session musician and became a published songwriter. But despite his love for music, Cipes felt called back to the vineyard. Home on the family farm, Cipes initiated a half acre permaculture garden, selling vegetables and herbs to Summerhill’s onsite Sunset Organic Bistro. After reconnecting with the winery and the land, Cipes knew he needed to assume a greater role at the winery. He became Chief Operations Officer in 2008 and CEO in 2012.
Recently Cipes has taken a leadership role in the Canadian wine industry as a director of the Canadian Vintners Association, Vice-Chair of the British Columbia Wine Institute, and Chair of the BC Wine Appellation Task Group that tabled its recommendations in November, 2015.
Natalie: 00:00 what’s the difference between say Vegan and
vegetarian wines and organic or gluten-free or biodynamic?
There just seems to be all sorts of different categories these
days, which are interesting and exciting but can be confusing.
Well, our guest tonight is going to explain all of this to us
because he makes them wonderful Vegan and vegetarian wines
at his winery.
Natalie: 01:55 welcome to the Sunday Supper Club, Ezra Cipes. Hello Ezra. Hi.
Hi. Great. All right, let’s get you back here. Okay. this is a great
topic, a lot of interest in this even before we started tonight. So,
but before we go right into it, answer, can you tell me the exact
moment when you realized that you wanted to leave the music
industry and come back to wine? I know you’ve grown up on
the family winery, but what really made you come back to it?
Ezra: 02:52 It was just all of the currents of my life lead me there. My Dad
was shifting his role at the winery. He had professional
management coming in for the first time. my partner Rio, her
family lived in Kelowna and we were in Vancouver together and
she thought, oh, wouldn’t it be nice to move back there? That’d
be a great place to have kids. And my brother Gabriel was really
encouraged me. He said, you know, it’s time for us to go back
and I just read the signs. That was it.
Natalie: 03:24 Oh Wow. Okay. Read the signs. That’s a double meaning for us
tonight, here. that sounds fantastic. So if we kind of look at the
sort of, the best and the worst so far of your wine career
meeting, what is your, I like to call it your favorite failure, sort of
something that happened, but you took a lot away from it. You
learn something, it made you better at what you do, who you
Ezra: 03:48 you know, you know, I, I’ve learned to be more prepared, which
is something I didn’t do that well for this interview. But we’ve,
put on it. I’ve, I’ve gotten by, you know, a lot of the times on,
you know, charm, my dad when I was looking at, he told me
show up and look good, you know, that’s half the battle and I’ve
done that a few times until I, we did a seminar when we first
were biodynamic when we first got our certification in 2012
and everybody in the west coast wine industry came out to see
Eric and I and we put on a little seminar about it and that was
kind of early days for biodynamics. People didn’t really know
about it, so I really wanted to demystify it and I wanted to,
explain it simply.
Ezra: 04:32 And it’s fundamental things not talk about. I didn’t want to talk
about anything that can be construed as like witch-crafty or like
moon cycles or anything like that. I wanted it to say like, what
was the meaning for the wine, what does it do for the wine,
how does it relate to the wine and why does a healthy
ecosystem in a vineyard make good wine. And so, you know, we
just showed up and talked about it and, and it was a little, little
bit of a miss. I kind of regret that one. I learned a lot from it, you
know, people in their feedback that you should have brought a
cow horn with you and showed us the preparations and all this
stuff. They wanted the mystery. They wanted all of the
accouterments of biodynamics and the show.
Natalie: 05:14 Yeah. Well, that sounds like it was a great experience. Now take us
to the best moment, one of your favorite moments so far from
your wine career. I’m sure there’ll be more, but what, what
Ezra: 05:31 Well, the best moments of the wine career are always in
enjoying wines and in, in when, you know, why can we when
And that’s something I’ve learned that sometimes the wines fall
apart before the tannin’s in the half and everything comes into
harmony and there’s not much to enjoy with there if they’re like
that when they’re young, sometimes they are like that when
they are old. I’ve learned quite a bit, which is on the only gain
from experience, right? It’s following these wines through is
what makes a really ageable wine and what. That’s something
I’m just sort of starting to really understand and develop an
appreciation for it. And I do love mature wines. That’s where my
Natalie: 08:42 What is it about mature wines that you love? Especially.
Ezra: 08:45 I think the thing about wine is that, you know, it’s not an
industrial product, right? It’s not like Coca-Cola, there’s no
recipe. Right? And so you have few ingredients to make great
wine and one of them is time, right? That wine has a life just like
avocado is, is hard, and then it’s ripe. And then it’s brown
over a much longer time span. Wine is a fresh product like that
as well. And there it has a progression and a life to it. And the
time is an incredible factor in wine appreciation.
Natalie: 09:18 Wow, that’s a great way to put it. I love that element of time and
Ezra: 10:00 When my family moved to Kelowna, it was like the roadside
attraction place. There was a Flintstones park with 30 foot high
dinosaurs made of fiberglass and there was water slides and all
sorts of stuff like that. And this great family. This man named
Peter Saying how to workshop my dad made friends with him.
He made all that stuff for the old school, you know, roadside
attraction Kelowna. And my dad hired him to make that for the
winery and it’s a little remnant of the old days of Kelowna. I just
love it and I love that story. He looked back on that old art and
you realize that it was actually real. Like it wasn’t that it wasn’t
appreciated as an artist. This man, you know, because it’s bulky
and it’s commercial. But looking back at his career and what he
did, it was actually very cool. Like culturally, like significant. I
think it’s great.
Natalie: 10:50 Okay. So, and what is the pyramid, what does the pyramid play
a role in your winemaking? Because of you anyway, you take it
from you. Yeah, sure. Yeah, sure.
Ezra: 11:15 Yeah. That was my dad’s inspiration. You know, my dad is the
founder of Summer Hill. I don’t know if we send that along with
our winemaker, Eric, and my mom was there in the early days
and when, you know, we take it for granted that that wine kind
of makes itself and you grow the grapes, right? And you create
the right environment and the right conditions for the juice to
turn into wine and to mature and that’s how you make great
wine. We kind of take that for granted, but when you first get
into the industry, that’s sort of a profound realization to go
through. And my dad had that insight when he was in
champagne, in the, in the caves, the limestone soils, the
champagne in France, where the bottles of sparkling wine age
on the lead and that’s when he really understood that the
environment shapes the wine and its part of the process. And
he took that insight and said, I need to make a very special wine
cellar. So he, he took the concept of the sacred geometry of these
ratios that exist in nature, and encoded into this perfect
the geometry of the pyramid shape and aligned it with the stars, or
you built it with no metal and no electricity and he made a, like
a temple for aging wine, cellaring wine.
Natalie: 12:27 And is there any illusion or nod to Egypt and the Pyramids
there? Or is it just more just the geometry?
Ezra: 12:33 Well, for me personally, the way I think of it is about geometry
and nature and that sort of esoteric wisdom of nature. But my
dad is very interested in Egypt, , personally and like he, he has
some friends were Egyptology and interested in sort of ancient
civilizations and these questions about what we think we know
the sort of what do you say this sort of accepted a wisdom
about when these monuments were built and by whom and for
what purpose? He’s really into all those questions and thinking
about ancient civilizations and what our real history might be,
you know, that we don’t really understand. I mean, it’s pretty
Natalie: 13:12 Yeah, for sure. Absolutely, Let’s get to the meat of this
conversation. So I always Vegan and vegetarian. All right. so
let’s start off with what makes a wine vegetarian. Ezra.
Ezra: 14:18 Yeah. For the animal, byproducts come into winemaking in a
the process that we call finding, which is really a clarification
the process of winemaking. So there are sort of suspended solids in
wine, in the tank or in the barrel and the barrel with red wines
typically we will like we talked about time, we’ll just use them
the element of time and eventually they’ll settle out or white wine.
Sometimes we want to get them into the bottle when they’re
fresh and vibrant. So, winemakers, we’ll add clarifying agents
of finding an agent. And what it does is do you stir it in and it, it
sort of. I don’t know. Again, I’m not really a scientific person so I
may get this slightly wrong, but it basically binds. It has like an
electro-charge, like a magnetic charge that binds with some of
these suspended particles in the line and then they form larger
and larger particles and once there have, have a certain weight,
then they sink to the bottom of the tank where the barrel and
then you can draw the juice out from on top of them and have a
clear line. So that’s finding and it’s distinct from filtering. It’s a
Natalie: 15:24 Okay. And infiltrate. It would be just at a high level. What’s
filtering, how is it
Ezra: 15:29 filtering? Is like running the wine through a filter of some kind.
Okay. Gotcha. Yes. so some of the common finding agents are
animal products. Egg Whites is a very common one. Milk
byproducts is a very common one which is derived from a
sturgeon bladder I believe. And I think that they actually can be
very useful in winemaking. I’m not a winemaker myself, but my
understanding is that they can do nice things to the wine, like
red wines. We talked about tannin’s, acidity and all those things.
And I was mentioning how time can bring those things into
harmony. Well, I’ve been told that finding agents like egg whites
can a strip some of those things out of the wine and get them
ready to drink at a younger age so they can be beneficial in that
way, is my understanding. But we have decided not to use them
because we don’t want to strip anything out of the line. Right.
We want the wine to have its core. We want it to have its
authenticity and its sort of what’s the word I’m looking for?
There’s a word I’m looking for. I can’t find it right now, but
basically what I mean is we want it to have like, it’s, I don’t
know. I think I said it. Spine and authenticity.
Natalie: 16:56 Yeah. Yeah, sure, sure. That works too.
Ezra: 17:01 Be What it truly is. We don’t want to remove anything that we
don’t have to.
Natalie: 17:05 Awesome. Yeah. Okay. What was your most memorable
conversation at home, if you can remember when you were
growing? Lots of discussions. Memorable conversations
Ezra: 17:35 I don’t know if it’s suitable for the broadcast. Sit Up straight and
continues to be interesting. I Have A. my dad is very much
engaged with the winery and I have three brothers and a little
sister now too, is like seven years old, so we continued to have
interesting family conversations about all sorts of subjects.
That’s organics. Then, my dad, you know what he’s on about
now. He’s on about. He’s got a committee called the organic
Okanagan and he wants to hold Okanagan Valley to go organic
by 2020, which is not very far away. No. So a lot of our
conversations are a family are routed around that activism and
what we can do to encourage these things and change people’s
minds. Not just farmer isn’t in the vineyards, but also how the,
how the school district manages its sports fields and the city
managers, the sides of the highways and how neighbors
manage their yards and all that stuff, and how people can think
about having a more harmonious relationship with the earth. Those
are the conversations we’re having now. Okay.
Natalie: 18:43 It goes. Yeah, sure. Big Goals. That’s admirable. It really, it is.
How long does it take for all the sediment to settle?
Ezra: 19:11 Yeah. Okay. So I will say with our white wines, most of our white
wines, we do use a finding agent. We use Bentonite, which is a
very fine clay. It’s unlined elemental material and that has the
same effect, as a, as a finding agent. I mean, it, it acts slightly
differently on the wine, but that’s what we use for our white
wines to get clear white wines.we do have some labels, white
wine labels that we produce very quickly and we’ve toyed with
the idea of, of releasing some cloudy white wines, although we
haven’t yet, and red wines. Most of our red wines, the vast
majority of them are unified and we, we barrel aged them and
let them sit until we can rack the liquid or solids and then
naturally falls out.
Natalie: 20:07 Awesome. And so why wouldn’t everybody use bentonite or
Vegan-friendly clarifying agents as opposed to the egg whites
and the fish?
Ezra: 20:16 Yeah, I think bentonite is fairly commonly used. It’s not, we’re
not the only ones who use it. My understanding is that all of the
different tools have their place right. For what you want to use
them for sure. So it’s sort of, it’s a choice that we’ve made, sort
of an ideological cultural life that we’ve made to not use them.
And I told you why it’s for the integrity of the wine, which is the
word I was looking for. Integrity, integrity in the way. We
don’t want to take anything out of it, but, but that is an
ideological choice and it is not the only choice to make.
Natalie: 20:53 Yeah. For sure. Absolutely. All right. And so what would be the
difference then between a vegetarian and a Vegan wine?
Ezra: 21:01 I don’t think there would be a difference while I guess, I don’t
know. I guess you could use, if you’re an Ovo Lacto vegetarian, I
guess you could use eggs and milk and still call it vegetarian.
Natalie: 21:13 Oh Wow. Okay. And just a few little more definitions. The
difference between Vegan wines and gluten-free wines.
Ezra: 21:23 Gluten free wines is a funny one. That’s just a trendy thing, isn’t
it? Like the gluten free label on things. I’m pretty sure all wines
are gluten-free. Fairly certain if anybody’s putting it on their
label, it’s probably just to cash in on a trend.
Natalie: 21:36 Yeah. Because it’s made from fruit. There’s no,
Ezra: 21:42 there might be when you have like a barrel, like an old school,
Cooper might use like wheat paste in between the staves
maybe could be,
Natalie: 21:54 it’s like advertising calorie-free water or something that’s
marketing.so as the label doesn’t say Vegan on it, are their tips
or words that we could look for that might indicate it to,
Ezra: 22:10 if you see a wine with unfine on it, you are a Vegan and you
really care from, from a perspective of like, you know, religious
or whatever it is that you need to have vegan food. Everything
was a Vegan than unfine. It’s probably a pretty safe bet that it’s
Natalie: 22:28 Okay. Okay, great. And then finally back to as Ezra might be a
silly question, but is it, I’m mainly vegans and vegetarians who
Ezra: 23:47 Yeah. I don’t know. I’m not sure. Well no, obviously not because
you know, our wines are for everybody and if vegetarians and
vegans are the only ones who were drinking, then we’d
probably be out of business. I like putting it on the labels though
for everybody because I think it’s a nice thing to think about,
you know like I am not vegan personally. I wasn’t a deterrent
for quite a few years, but I’m actually started eating meat when
I moved back to summer hill and sourced grass-fed organic beef
with our chef at the time and I was a vegetarian for
environmental reasons, health reasons. I thought this factory
farm meat can’t be good for the planet or for my body. But then
when we found that, oh, you know, all the reasons I became
vegetarian, I could probably eat this and I still am aware of the
meat I eat and I don’t take it for granted. You know, like it’s a
big deal. There’s a lot of resources. It’s an animal’s life, you
know, you’ve got to honor and respect that and be aware of
what you put in your body and the choices you make as a
consumer. So I think that it’s just a nice thing for everybody,
whether they’re vegan or vegetarian or not to think about and
to see on a label and to reflect on. I think it’s just good, good
value and good thing to put out into the world going.
Natalie: 24:59 Absolutely. Absolutely. And you know what twig this whole idea
is I was sharing with you as right before we started was the
excellent article by the columnist for the globe and mail. He had
profiled you in this article along with a couple of other
winemakers, but he had some interesting stats there. A two
point three percent of the Canadian population declares
themselves vegan, which is about 870,000 people. So not a
huge percentage. And then they estimate that for every vegan, I
guess vegetarian too. They saved 200 animal lives a year by not
eating the meat. Anyway, I just was fascinated by the statistics
of it. Yeah. So kind of interesting and that why people become
vegans and vegetarians, the sort of the caring for animal life,
the environment, you know, and of course health issues
depending on, what you believe. So, but can you, back to vegan
wines? Would it be perverse to pair your vegan wines with
Ezra: 25:59 No. No, actually I’ll say this. There was one chef who I won’t
mention too. I felt like you wanted to throw me out of his
restaurant. I went to the forum the wines and then he’s like, we
need again. I can fell a vegan steak for more than $20. Why
would I want this one? And he was like offended by it. But, I
don’t think that that was a rare exception. That was the
exception. Most people, I don’t think about it. I mean, I
don’t think people. I was the only time anybody ever come
across that way to anybody that I’ve noticed. Yeah, I think most
people take it for what it is,
Natalie: 26:37 right? Yeah, absolutely. Well, let’s take this for what it is. I’m the
people are interested in. People are asking for vegan wine and I
had no clue that it was a thing or that people cared about what
we’ve been vegan for a long time. I thought, sure, I’ll put it on
and then I’ve grown to really like it. I really think it’s a very
cool thing to have on there, but that was it. That’s why it’s now
on all of our wine. That’s good. I just thought it was fascinating.
Natalie: 28:01 Yeah. I wouldn’t think it’s as big a risk as declaring yourself
organic in that, you know, bad years, mildew, rot, a disease you
might have to backpedal. But with vegan, I would think the
clarifying agents are a little easier to control year on year.
Ezra: 28:15 Oh, I see what you mean. Like less risky as a producer. Yes, yes.
Yeah, yeah, for sure. Yeah. No, there’s no need for animal
byproducts in the winemaking process. You don’t need bright.
Very nice. They’re a nice thing to have if you want to use them.
Yeah, absolutely. Okay. By the way, same with organic. You
don’t need anything static. Anything to have a healthy organic
being or control mildew yes. You’re operating without a safety
net. Yes. If you have mildew, then there’s not much you can do
about it. As an organic producer, you can keep it at bay, but you
can’t. It’s very hard to deal with it once you have a bad
infection. But that just means you have to work hard to prevent
it and to have a good ecosystem. And we’ve been doing this for
30 years now organically and we’ve learned a lot along the way
and it is not at all impossible for any farmer of any scale to do.
Natalie: 29:12 Okay. Well, there you go. Okay. So let’s taste this one as read
the alive organic white. Here we go. So you’ve got the same
wine there and this is so lovely and floral. It is reminding me of
walking through this meadow that’s on the label. So the
significance of the, of the various.
Ezra: 30:09 Yes, please do all of those plants and things are what’s growing
in the vineyard. So there’s a chicken feather. We got chickens
on the farm, whereas the camera, there it is. Can you see it?
Yep. We’ve got a clover, which is a plant we encourage on the
vineyard. A ground cover. Yeah, .we have dandy lion right there
and horsetail and yarrow flowers and those are three things
that we make biodynamic preparations to a. I’m really bad at
talking and using the camera anyway. They’re all things that we
use to make our fertilizers and preparations for mildew control
and or that we encourage on the property to keep the
ecosystem vibrant and healthy. So that’s the story of that label.
Natalie: 30:59 Awesome. This is a lovely wine, nice and floral, springy, fresh,
beautiful. Is it a blend?
Ezra: 31:06 It’s a blend. So the alive wines, we blend them with sort of a
goal in mind, which is to be extremely user-friendly, you know, a
wine that nobody is going to, that we know everybody’s going
to like, they’re dry wines, so some people don’t like overly
aromatic wines. They’re dry light wines, but they have enough
aromatics to keep them interesting and fresh and vibrant and
kinda just delicious, right? Highlander, aromatic wines. I think
with delicious they’re dry wines that they’re
not so dry that they’re searing, well I call them like California
dry. So it’s kind of like under six grams per liter residual sugar.
And by the way, that unfermented grape juice is what that
sugar is. There’s no sugar added, right? They really kind of hit
all the marks you want to dry light wine rather than a sweet
aromatic wine, but it’s just a little bit of aromatics and not so
dry that it steering or, or painful to drink. So that’s how we
blend the white wine and we started dating at all. No.
Yeah, no, no. It’s, yeah. This one is super. This is young, right?
This is 2017 and it still has years flew over the country to get
to you, mind came right from the cellar where it was made. So I
don’t know about yours but mine still have like a little bit of, for
dante like that, the carbon dioxide that was just a product of
the carbonation is still like in the wine like it’s very, very fresh.
Natalie: 32:34 Yeah. Oh, it’s lovely though. I smelled the meadow in the
bees. It’s very, very lovely. Oh my goodness. And the price point
on this is about, is it
Ezra: 32:47 in bc. It is, I think 1850, I believe. awesome.
Natalie: 32:54 I know everything’s been going on in the courts and everything,
but do you do have a wine club or do you ship?
Ezra: 32:59 Oh goodness me. Every. Our constitutional right. Of course we
Natalie: 33:04 Okay, well you heard it here and I’m happy to promote that.
Excellent. And Laurie has a great question. many people say
they’re allergic to sulfur, do vegan and vegetarian wines have
Ezra: 33:17 Organic wines have less sulfur. So sulfur. I met somebody. I’ve
met one person who is allergic to sulfur. she works in the hotel
trader name Is star and star came to visit us at Summer Hill and
we were crushing grapes. It was a harvest. So we were out on the
crush pad and stars like, yeah, I can never drink wine. I’m
allergic to sulfur. And we’re like, oh, well this is your lucky day.
You can drink the wine juice before it starts fermenting. We
haven’t added any full for two and star had a sip of the juice and
started having an allergic reaction just from the sulfur. That was
great. So that is a sulfur allergy. Okay. Very few people are
allergic to sulfur, but sulfur, you can be sensitive to it in larger
amounts and it can double the character of wine in larger
amounts. So I think with CFIA allows up to 350 parts per million
of sulfur added. Who’s the CFIA? The Canada food inspection
agency. So like health, the health rules are making wine or that
there is 350 parts per million of sulfur allowed. Yup. And then
under the organic a program, you are allowed up to 100 parts
per million of sulfur per leader. I think a hundred parts per
million. I don’t know. I don’t know how that works.
Ezra: 34:51 And, yeah. under organic. So there’s little couldn’t be less I think
is the answer.
Natalie: 34:59 And you’re both organic and biodynamic, are you as well? Yeah,
Ezra: 35:02 yeah. Our vineyard in Kelowna is certified . And that is, I think
the world’s first organic certification and still one of its most
stringent. It has extra rules above and beyond organics.
Organics sort of the baseline, which means that there are no
synthetics being used basically. And then, and then there’s
guidance on things they want to see about soil preservation and
biodiversity and things like that. But really codifies that you
have to have at least 10 percent of your farm giving a given over
to natural habitat. And we have, I think about 20 or 25 percent
of our farm that’s, that’s a wetland. We have a dry land, we
have meadow habitat and then you really, you really view the
farm as an ecosystem. You integrate animals and animal
manures and you really focus on making your own fertilizer is
from things you grow on the farm.
Ezra: 35:57 And so our own, we make a horsetail tea for mildew control.
We make large amounts of compost and we add these herbal
preparations for the compost to aid processes of
decomposition. We spray a, a special preparation called prep
500, which is basically a bacterial broth that we spray all over
the farm that aids the life force, if you will, in the soil. But
basically the soil food web, all of the micro rise, and
beneficial bacteria and all that stuff that lives in the soil. It’s
like, it’s like a starter preparation for those things to establish.
Natalie: 36:40 Awesome. Do you bury the bull’s horns or do you also bury the
Ezra: 36:44 Yeah. The way you make those preparations is I’m really far out.
It’s really cool. Actually. My brother Gabriel is the farms by
dynamics and he makes all of this stuff and it’s really cool and it
has an element of spirituality to it. He times the things he does
with the moon, he uses, he packs the manure of a lactating cow
into a cow’s horn and buries it under a moon phase in one
season and dig it up under another season. And it’s quite
beautiful actually. It really connects him to the universe, gives
them meaning in his life and it’s quite amazing to see the
transformation that happens in those. How horns, you know,
when it comes in and when it comes out, it’s like a caky, black
substance with all the white mica riser running through it. It
smells like sweet earth. Like it’s really quite an incredible
transformation. And then we use that to make the bruise and
he stirs it. It’s quite beautiful.
Natalie: 37:46 Yeah. And what I’ve heard too about biodynamics, no matter
what you think of it, it’s close attention to the vineyard, to the
land, to the seasons. And that has to be a good thing. Whether
or not you believe in biodynamics or not, like even if you’re a
big skeptic, I still think it means paying very close attention to
your vines and so on.
Ezra: 38:05 Yeah, well it’s been demonstrated there are more earth berms in
biodynamic farms and either organic or conventional farms sort
of scientifically proven thing and I think that’s a pretty good
indicator that the farms are healthier.
Natalie: 38:18 Absolutely. There are so many amazing organic farmers and
talented winemakers that are creating outstanding products.
Hats off to you. I love what you’re doing and predict there will
be many more vegan vegan choices on restaurant menus and
wine lists in the years to come. Awesome. Okay. And Steven
Andrews going to mention your wines to the big. All his friends.
Ezra, your dad has a book on spirituality. How much has this
translated into your life? Oh, I didn’t know that.
Ezra: 38:51 Is that true? Yeah. My dad is just, wrote a book, I think he’s
revising it for a second edition called The All One Era, and huge,
hugely, profoundly. You know, it’s funny. It’s like my dad is an
entrepreneur. You always have been, he’s, he was driven to in
business and to make money and to succeed in life at that early
age, he actually retired to the Okanagan and couldn’t stay out of
business. He opened the winery. Yeah, there’s a retirement
project. and you know, with all of these values in everything we
do and everything we purchase and the choices we make as a
winery, there always is a deeper meaning beyond just making
money. Of course, it’s a business and of course you have to
make money or else you are not in business. But if my only
purpose in life every day with to wake up and make money, I
don’t think I would be as happy a person as I am. Right. And I
don’t think I’m going to hold it would be as amazing a place as it
is. Right. Those values are, you know, we get wonderful staff
who come because of the values-driven organization and
because there is, it is a spiritual place, for lack of a better term,
a place that takes into account just the sacredness of life and
the meaning of people’s time and energy. You know,
Natalie: 40:13 this is so holistic, I’m loving this and at least 27 people agree
with you. Alright, so let’s take a look at your vegan red wine.
Sure. As wrath. Like I’ll hold that one up to another beautiful
field like the label. Very nice. all right. So do you have a favorite
pairing for this red?
Ezra: 41:10 Well, just like the white, the red is blended to be extremely
versatile and just to go with, with just about anything go. It will
go great with red meats and a right, there’s no question about
it. It’s got everything that a wine needs to stand up to that kind
Natalie: 41:31 Grass-fed beef though. Grasping for photographs
Ezra: 41:34 that beef myself. That’s what I think in cows at least. Right. Well
look, that’s what. That’s cow stomachs are designed to digest.
Now that you’ve got quite an interesting wine glass there. Hold
that one up, please. This is my favorite red wine glass is an
earthenware goblet. Oh wow. Very game of thrones. My,
Ezra: 41:56 my wife brought these goblets home from like, I’m from like a
thrift store and I was like, oh, get out of here. I said I will never
drink out of those. You’ll get no bouquet and data about it. And
I was totally snobby about the wine glass thing and then I
started drinking from them and I was like, ooh, red wine taste.
Ezra: 42:14 Good. I’m like this primal appreciation for it and then become
my favorite red wine glasses. These goblets and I love them
feeling very Henry the eighth or something, something
medieval. Something about it feels good. It’s good to drink out
of them. Yeah. Connected, rooted. Absolutely. Yeah. This is
lovely. Lovely berry. Wild field, berry aromas, very juicy to very
mouthwatering juicy. That’s. Yeah, that’s my word for it. Makes
my mouth salivate to saying the word juicy. So. Very nice.
Awesome.so what are the big challenges in making a vegan
one? Is there anything, in particular, that’s more challenging
about making a vegan wine then? Yeah, I mean it’s basically, it’s
just fewer tools, right? Okay. Yup. You have less tool so you have
to get it more right in the vineyard and that’s all. That’s all it is.
Ezra: 43:09 Wine, by the way, is a very Okanagan wine. Three. I think there are
three different grapes in here. It’s mostly Shiraz, Merlot, some
cab franc and Shiraz’s are developing reputation in from the
Okanagan Valley because that’s quite distinct, right? They have
it, it’s not, it doesn’t taste like the road and it doesn’t taste like
Australia. It tastes like the Okanagan valley and it tastes good.
So Shiraz is kind of a thing. and Merlot’s could be a thing from
the right sites in the Okanagan Valley. There can be an incredibly
expressive from the Okanagan. they can be very structured and
age-worthy. and quite beautiful and much more right. Bank
Bordeaux, then central valley, California, right from the
Okanagan valley. However, you know, people plant Merlot
because they at the time they were planting it. Everybody was
buying my low so people weren’t really thinking about the site and
growing it for quality wine when they were planting it. so like I
say, there’s a caveat when I say I could be a great wine from
the Okanagan valley if they’re planted and grown to be a great
wine in the Okanagan Valley. And then Cabernet Franc, which is
also, of course, does very well in Ontario and the Okanagan also
very expressive. So this is a real blend of, of winners. When the
Okanagan and blended be versatile
Ezra: 44:32 can be juicy, smooth to have some structure but not dry out
your mouth or make you pucker a beautiful mouthfeel. Yeah,
no, it’s great. It’s great. It’s like I can see it for like a large
gathering, but yet it’s not boring or anything. It’s just, it’s not
going to polarize people.
Ezra: 44:52 And this was fermented actually in 10,000-liter oak tanks with
the natural yeast that lives in them. In the tank, and you can, you
can taste that in it. You can taste a certain thing that’s not
necessarily fruit, you know what I mean? It’s like, it’s what I love
about, about a lot of French wines and European wines is that
sort of tasting the environment, tasting the cellar, you know,
and that really specific character that comes to my cellar and I love
that about this line. That makes it very boring.
Ezra: 45:22 Yes, very nonboring. These are quite the tasting notes. not
painful to drink. Very nonboring. So we should go with the
positive. I think that’s damning with faint praise. Exactly. And
Monique, she has a great question. I’m not sure if you
mentioned what would be the difference between natural
wines and vegan vegetarian wines. is there much of a divide?
That’s a good question. Natural wines are, Is an undefined term,
right? When I,
Ezra: 45:54 I think of natural wine like I think these ones you would
probably call like natural enough, right? So there is some
ideology behind them, but there are also some things that we do
like the addition of the sulfur up to 100 parts per million to
make sure that they taste like sort of a mainstream definition of
wine. Right. But they don’t sort of, oil becomes oxidative
develop, volatile acidity, things like that. They don’t spoil a
natural wine I think of as wines where the ideology trumps that
and they could be allowed to spoil. Not always. I just kind of a
weird thing to say because. But I would say natural wines are
more ideological than these and they will have less or no sulfites
added will be the difference between these wines and
something that somebody would turn natural wine. I would call
these natural enough wine.
Ezra: 46:46 Natural enough. I like that. You know, where I got that
Ezra: 46:54 from the champion of natural wines. Alice Feiring,
Ezra: 46:57 Feiring. Yes. I was lucky enough books about that. Yeah.
Ezra: 47:02 Tasted wine with her in Nova Scotia. We were both there for
the Atlantic wine symposium and I got to share wine with her
over the course of two days. And what a fascinating, brilliant
person. She is, I love tasting wines with her and she gave me
that expression natural enough, which I really, I think is the right
word for it.
Ezra: 47:19 That’s fantastic. Awesome. Good question too, Laurie asked, do
Do you use natural yeasts? Yeah.so, so part of the organic
Ezra: 47:30 is, everything that we use in the production stellar is what we
do, we have to like list it, it’s like a bureaucratic process and us
have to submit it to our organic certifier so we have to have a
paper trail with receipts and so on for everything that we use in
our production process. And they have to meet certain criteria.
One thing is no GMOs. So a lot of commercial youth these days
are genetically modified to have certain outcomes. So we’re not
allowed to use any genetically modified use. And we do use some
commercial yeasts for some products, but of many other
products we don’t, for instance, this red wine, it’s just the yeast
that lives in the cellar and in those tanks. Right. So I hope that
answered the question.
Ezra: 48:14 Yeah, absolutely. And Madeline Hicks was asking the grapes in
the white, which I think we reviewed, but just quickly, we didn’t
actually. Okay, good. Madeline for reminding us,
Ezra: 48:27 It’s mostly Kerner and Pinot Gris is the bulk of the blend. So the
really the base of this wine is Kerner, which is a part of the
Okanagan history, it’s a Germanic varietals wine. A current law
variety is a way to say that the dramatic variety that was
planted in the Okanagan in the late seventies as some of the test
blocks to see whether would survive the winters here and make
decent wine. Okay. yeah, it’s related to Riesling and all that kind
of stuff. And we fermented quite dry and it’s quite a steely,
acidic sort of dramatic. It really gives the wine its backbone.
And then we blend that with Pinot Gris to give it a little bit more
mouthfeel, a lusciousness and but that, those are two dry
wines. And then we blend it in very small percentages of
aromatic wines and it varies from year to year. This year was
chardonnay. I think actually and Riesling maybe just a pinch of
those wines, just a few percents each. There might’ve been a
little bit more than Chardonnay and Riesling and this blend. But
just basically it’s like using your spice cabinet, right? Mr. Bring
up the, bring up the aromatics, bring up the mouthfeel,
whatever it is you want. Bring up the acidity, whatever you
want to do with those. Those though. Blending agents.
Ezra: 49:46 Absolutely. All right. I do not want to miss this third one. Your
blanc de blanc. And Steven Andrews, I see your question and
I’m going to ask Ezra to get back to you on the Pinot. I’m in the
comments after this because you’re thinking of ordering some.
So I will get Ezra to connect with you after this. So what is this
all chardonnay or what’s? What’s in 100 percent chardonnay
and this is pre-release, so we’re just about to release this wine
any day now. It’s just about to become available. It’s sitting in
the pyramid. It was,
Ezra: 50:19 excuse me, disgorged, which means we, a traditional method,
sparkling wine. So it was the age with the yeast in the bottle. We
removed the yeast from each individual bottle only about five
weeks ago, six weeks ago. Wow. That’s nice. Isn’t that beautiful?
Yeah. And this is the 2012 vintage, so we really let it sit and
develop. And Natalie, let me just point out to you, just the
Ezra: 50:44 the cleanness, once again, to go back to a time, if the only way to
accomplish that kind of bubble architecture. It’s also a gusher.
It’s great. Very mouthwatering. I love it. Is that what that
means? Mouth gusher. the acidity, the waterfalls along the
sides of them. Well, that’s great. I love it.
Ezra: 51:09 okay. I got to just make a plug for chardonnay, sparkling wine
from the Okanagan Valley. go for it. That’s the best we have. We
have a block of Chardonnay at summer hill, vineyards and that
was planted with a clone from champagne and it has a great
the illustrious history of recognition, in the year 2000, the
chardonnay or won a gold medal in France at the chardonnay
demand, the only five five gold medals at the competition for,
for champagne and one for, for that wine. And then in 2010,
won the trophy for best bottle-fermented sparkling wine at the
international wine and spirit competition in London, England.
That’s another tough one. Very tough. That’s the top award for
bottle fermented sparkling wine at that competition, that
number one. And then it’s won a gold medal at the cantor and
you know, all sorts of other things. And this is the brand new
vintage about to be really
Ezra: 52:09 fantastic. And I see the pyramid there on the label. Very
elegant, very different, but suiting suited to this, this style of
wine, the celebratory, elegant, beautiful, beautiful champagne,
champagne sparkling wine. I almost got fooled there for a
moment. No, it’s lovely. Okay, so I do not want to run out of
time before I ask you a few questions. You had a gadget there,
speaking of sparkling wine that you wanted to share with us.
Ezra: 52:39 This is the indispensable wine gadget at my house. I’m a
lightweight like I like to drink wine with food and
everything. but I can, I’ll never finish a whole bottle even
between me and my wife. We won’t finish a whole bottle, a
glass of wine a day kind of people. So I need wine to last on my
counter in my fridge. So this is the indispensable sparkling wine.
A saver. Yeah. Right. So it’s like spring loaded. Can you?
Ezra: 53:09 Yep. Hold it up there. Yeah. Gotcha. Yep. Yep. So it really liked it.
Ezra: 53:13 Nice seal and then there’s so much pressure in the bottle. So
much carbon dioxide. It rings under the, under the glass there
and keeps the pressure in.
Ezra: 53:21 yeah, definitely that you need that because of those mushroom
corks, you’re never going to
Natalie: 53:26 get that back in the bottle.
Ezra: 53:27 Yeah. If you shove a cork back in there, what’s going to happen
is the carbon dioxide is going to fill up space, right? And it’s
going to create a lot of pressure and you in your fridge, you’ll
wake up the next day and the cork will be long gone out of the
bottle. It’ll eventually a blow and there will be sparkling wine
everywhere, right? So yes, you need something that will really
keep it in. So that is an indispensable thing.
Natalie: 53:50 Fantastic. Good gadget. Thank you for sharing that with us. So
this has been fantastic. I can’t believe how fast this has gone.
We are at five to the hour. is there anything that we have not
covered that you wanted to mention too as we wrap up this
part of our conversation?
Ezra: 54:07 Oh, where can we find you online? Oh yeah. Thank you. Yeah,
we’re, we’re summerhill.bc.ca.british Columbia Canada. That’s
where. Yeah, that’s where you can find that and we, we do ship
all over the country and it’s our policy, not just as a one-time
thing or a special thing. We always do complimentary shipping,
minimum orders, the orders, and we also have a really cool sort
of innovative wine club program that we started. We have two,
one’s like a regular subscription service and once this thing
called our ambassador program, which is, it’s almost like a
points reward thing that’s really good. It’s 10 percent of what
you buy, so if you spend $100 you get $10 credited to your
account for your next purchase. Alright, cool. And if you tell
your friends about it and they sign up on your recommendation,
you. It’s like a pyramid scheme, like multiple level marketing
pyramid schemes. We get five percent of what they buy on your
account. That’s why we call it our ambassador program, which is
pretty good as well. There’s no money, you can’t make money
doing it like a pyramid scheme. You just get more wine, more
organic wine and it’s only two levels so it doesn’t keep going
and going and going. I think it’s pretty well designed and people
who recommend things can get can drink a lot of delicious
Natalie: 55:27 Excellent. Sounds good. What is the name of the stopper?
Ezra: 55:33 I don’t know what it’s called. I think it’s called the champagne
stopper. How we, how we always term it when we order it.
Natalie: 55:38 I think there’s a number of companies that make them, but it’s,
Ezra: 55:42 Yeah. This one is like brand. I don’t know if you can see that,
but that’s our little pyramid on the top.
Natalie: 55:47 Oh, okay. You’ve got your own. Yeah. And I think also. Oh, you
sell them. Okay. Well, there you can go. Another reason to go to
their website. So Ezra Thank you so much for spending your
time with us tonight. A wonderful conversation. We could have
talked twice as long. I know but, we really appreciate, you
know, you being here tonight and that all, all that you do to
bring us these wonderful wines. Thank you. Thank you so much.
So it’s a real pleasure. Okay, take care. Okay, take care. Bye.