None of what is happening at Phantom Creek Estates would be possible without the incredible team behind it. With our Meet the Team Series, we will be introducing the individuals who are working hard to make all of this possible.
Where were you born and raised, Melanie?
I was born and raised in Osoyoos – my Dad had a 10 acre orchard and my Mom was the Public Health nurse for the town.
What drew you to the Okanagan?
Well, I left when I graduated high school and spent about 15 years in academics. I moved around a fair amount, spending time in Vancouver, Montreal, Baltimore and San Diego. I left academics in 2013 and worked as a Manager of Public Health with Island Health in Victoria, where I spent about 5 years before deciding to take the plunge, move home and try working in a winery. I had developed an interest in wine about 10 years earlier while living in San Diego and took a few courses through UC Davis, completing an online certificate in winemaking 2016.
How did you first hear about Phantom Creek?
When I applied for the position – it was the first harvest job I applied for! The write-up for the position sounded perfect – a small team, focused on quality wines, and a prerequisite love of good coffee.
What is your position at Phantom Creek?
You’ve worked in both the cellar and vineyard at Phantom Creek, would you say that has benefited you in your current position?
Sure! I mean, I’ve only being doing this for a year and a half, so its great that I’ve had an opportunity to see all aspects of the process, from pruning to bottling. I still have a lot to learn, but its great to see how the wines progress when you have a good sense of where the grapes have come from and how they’ve grown.
What data is used when working in the Vineyard?
I’ve only been in the Technician position for the last few months, so part of my job is centralizing data we have and expanding what we collect as we move forward. I’ve been collecting data on things like cluster weights at harvest and pruning weights to help determine vine vigour; I’ll be tracking pests and disease, as well as any nutritional issues, over the season, noting where, when and how much is present. And I’ll be starting to measure leaf water potentials soon – this assess the stress level of the vines and helps to inform the irrigation needs of the vineyards.
I would love to get your perspective on Organic and Biodynamic farming, is it the future?
This is all very new to me, but I love that our approach here is sustainable, organic and biodynamic viticulture. And it has been amazing to have Olivier Humbrecht to learn from!
You took some wine courses at the prestigious UC Davis, what was that experience like?
I took the first couple of courses more for fun. I enjoyed them so much that I decided to complete the online certificate program – essentially 5 courses covering everything from wine regions and label laws to wine production to viticulture. The courses were really packed with information and could have been overwhelming, but the instructors were fabulous. The courses were set up in a way that provided time to interact with both instructors and fellow students, encouraging a fun, informative, group learning atmosphere – not easy to do with online courses!
You have a PhD, tell us more about that.
Yup – I have a PhD in Epidemiology. I studied Microbiology first, then completed a Master’s and a PhD in Epidemiology. I worked in the field of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, focusing on sociocultural factors influencing disease and barriers to accessing health services. I worked with a lot of inspiring and dedicated people over the years and wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I always felt a pull back to the Okanagan and the land.
This would normally be a question about your favourite wines, but I hear you’re a beer fan. Any recommendations?
Ha – yes, you can blame that on my 6 years in San Diego – along with an interest in wine, I also developed a love of well-hopped IPAs. I don’t like to pick favourites, but you can generally find some Four Winds in my fridge – pretty much everything they make gets two thumbs up from me. And its great that we’ve got more and more local craft breweries here in the Okanagan!
What would people be surprised to know about you?
Well, I’m not sure this would be surprising, but I will be trying my hand at growing hops this summer!
How do you define success?
To me, it’s a about continuing to learn and grow from our experiences and sharing that with others.
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