Winner of the prestigious Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the man at “Canada’s most visited winery” seems more a spiritual visionary than Wall Street hard-nose.
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. Cipes brought grape clones from France and “personally planted them on my hands and knees.”
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 won the gold medal in Champagne France,” he beams, “against French Champagne.
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.”
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.”