Author Archives: Phantom Creek

Virtual Wine Tasting Event

While you may be missing touring Okanagan wine country, we are bringing the wine tasting to you with a virtual tasting experience that you can enjoy from the comforts of your own home. This is a fun way to connect, learn something new and discover your new favourite wines.

With that said, Phantom Creek Estates is pleased to offer its first ever Instagram virtual tasting event. Join our Winemaker Francis Hutt on August 27th at 7 pm PST on our Instagram account where he will be featuring our 2017 Pinot Gris, 2016 Estate Red Blend, and 2016 Becker Merlot.

This event is sure to be an interactive and personal tasting experience for all. For those interested in participating, how it works is 6 wines are delivered to you, including tasting notes and suggested food pairing options created by our own Chefs to make the most out of your virtual experience. As part of the virtual tasting special, we are offering a wine bundle which includes 2 of each featured wines as well as shipping. For those interested in purchasing the wine please visit this link: https://shop.phantomcreekestates.com/product/Virtual-Tasting-Special

Event Date: Thursday August 27th at 7PM PST

Location: Phantom Creek Instagram account @phantomcreek

Deadline for wine purchase: Sunday August 23rd

Wine Purchase Details: Purchase the virtual tasting bundle to receive 2 bottles of each wine, with shipping included.

During the Virtual Tasting you will get a chance to learn more about these selected three featured wines:

Estate Red Blend

This rich full-bodied Okanagan Red is a tribute to the art of the blend. The 2016 edition features twelve labels, each with a different photograph by local artist, Lionel Trudel. The photos were taken at our Estate vineyards and shot in the iconic “Chiaroscuro” style, literally meaning light-dark.

The 2016 RED is a blend of our sustainably farmed estate vineyards on the Black Sage Bench, including Phantom Creek Vineyard and Becker Vineyard. Each lot is made with the same exacting standards as our single vineyard wines to best showcase this unique South Okanagan sub-region.

Pinot Gris

From two idyllic vineyard blocks in Okanagan Falls, the 2017 Pinot Gris was slowly fermented to dryness over seven months by indigenous yeasts for added depth and weight. A portion was also aged in traditional oak casks, providing additional richness and intriguing spice notes. Take advantage of our online store or purchase through our cellar door when visiting us. Link in Bio 

Becker Merlot

Merlot thrives at Becker Vineyards higher elevation on the upper terrace of the Black Sage Bench. The 2016 Becker Vineyard Merlot was handpicked over six days from October 14 to 19 to ensure all blocks were harvested at optimal ripeness. The result is a full-bodied wine that combines freshness with generous, ripe fruit.

For more information feel free to give us a call.

See you on August 27th, cheers!

Chapter 10: Exceptional

Just like a fine wine, Phantom Creek Estates is complex and has multiple layers. If you had to choose only one word to describe this beautiful place, it would be “magical.”

Phantom Creek Estates is about the fine details, from farming to winemaking, to the hospitality experience. It defines who we are to the core, it’s our North star guiding everything we do every day.  Phantom Creek’s ultimate vision is to be a leading wine destination in North America and to be considered the hallmark of fine wines in Canada.

We’ve assembled a global team to support our vision. It’s a combination of talents from around the world combined with some of the best vineyards in Canada. Everyone brings their unique experience, but they all are humbled at the opportunity to learn and work in the Okanagan Valley.

More times than not, when you have a glass of wine in your hand, you’re surrounded by family or friends or both, and you’re having a good time. When guests visit Phantom Creek, we want them to experience everything we have to offer and to have the best time of their lives.

We offer wine tastings, guided tours and seasonal food and wine pairing experiences. Be inspired sitting within the 500 seat amphitheatre where concerts and performances will be held in the future.

What we’re doing at Phantom Creek Estates is world-class, and something very few wineries in the world are doing. We want to provide a sensory experience like no other, allowing guests the opportunity to immerse themselves and to tickle all their senses.

All the planets are aligned on this project. We own some of the best vineyards in Canada, a beautiful facility, a great team, and the desire to achieve greatness. All of these elements in perfect harmony will ensure we deliver on that vision. 

There’s so much more to Phantom Creek Estates than meets the eye. Visit us and experience the extraordinary. Welcome to Phantom Creek Estates!

Chapter 10: Exceptional

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Chapter 9: Experience

On June 12th, 2020, a wine experience like no other opened its doors.

Experience the immersive magic where Wine, Art, Architecture and Cuisine all intersect to create a sensory experience like no other in the wine world.

It took three years to build. But it will only take you three seconds to appreciate why. Created without compromise to stand beside the finest estates in the world, it is the realization of a dream that is destined to set a new standard for winemaking in Canada.

Our world-class team is committed to ensuring your experience in wine country is one – that lasts a lifetime. Choose between a seated premium tasting in our beautifully appointed tasting room or bask in the sunshine and taste alfresco from our stunning vineyard terrace. Your dedicated associate will guide you through a step by step tasting of our most exclusive and premium wines.

Are you ready to experience the extraordinary? Welcome to Phantom Creek Estates!

Watch Chapter 9: Experience

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Chapter 8: Expression

When you arrive at the Estate, you are greeted with marvelous and one-of-a-kind art installations that reflect the philosophies and the passion of Phantom Creek Estates.

Set at the Eastern edge of the Estate, and carved in golden Siena marble from Italy, Helios represents the Greek God of Sun— the quintessential element in the ripening of fruit and grapes for harvest. Helios was created by British sculptor Emily Young, whose work has been collected and exhibited around the world, including such prestigious museums as the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Travelling West, you will discover a narrow strip of stone set into the pathway that runs the entire length of the Estate grounds.   The texture and pattern in the stone changes at different points along the path, from rough stone at the East to a fine mosaic stone at the West.  This “phantom creek” is a reflection of the geology of the Valley itself, from the Monashee mountains, through rough gravel creeks, to the Okanagan River on the valley floor

Pro Terra et Natura, (For Earth and Nature), is an expressive figure group that represents the gentle spirits of Mother Earth and nature.  This soaring piece, created by contemporary Chinese sculptor Wu Ching Ju, greets every visitor at the entrance to our winery.

Wu merges Eastern and Western culture to create powerful yet delicate works that capture serenity, hope and harmony, drawing on the artist’s lifetime love of nature and conveying purity, innocence and vulnerability.  Wu has held over 40 exhibitions in Europe and Asia and continues to enjoy an impressive global presence in temporary and permanent collections. 

Venturing inside the Hospitality wing, you will discover “Bocci 84”, designed by Omer Arbel, suspended from individual steel cables, the handcrafted glass globes illuminate an expansive four-story staircase bringing light and balance throughout the space.

Our most exclusive experience culminates with a wine tasting in the elegant and peaceful Founder’s Cellar.  Prepare to have your breath taken away as the cellar doors open to reveal the “Imperial Topaz”.  This iconic chandelier was commissioned from famed sculptor Dale Chihuly. Considered by many to be the world’s most celebrated living glass sculptor, this delicate masterpiece is a testament to his artistry and passion. Assembled onsite by a member of the Chihuly Studio, Imperial Topaz is comprised of hundreds of hand-blown glass filaments and stands as the centerpiece of our Founder’s Cellar.

Immerse yourself in art and design. Welcome to Phantom Creek Estates!

Watch Chapter 8: Expression

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Chapter 7: Discovery

John Taft of Backen & Gillam Architects in California was the lead designer behind the Phantom Creek Estates Winery, a premier destination for wine, food and music in the Southern Okanagan.  John’s one word to describe Phantom Creek is“ephemeral”, in reference to the creeks that ran through the valley during the glacial age and inspired many of the design elements.

It was essential that the winery felt grounded in its environment. The materials used in the exterior are imported Egyptian limestone, mirroring the grasses and warm colours of the desert landscape. The bronze and natural components on the Estate complement and blend seamlessly into the surrounding countryside.

Upon arrival, you’ll discover the Phantom Creek feature that runs through the centre axis of the Estate, and represents the transition of the rough mountainous terrain through to the smooth sands of the Black Sage Bench and valley floor.

Our tasting room is the centre of the winery, and the guest experience itself.  Framed by two towers of limestone, it forms a stunning frame for both our vineyards and the South Okanagan Valley. The interior features warm bronze and golden wood tones, Italian plaster, limestone, rich leather, and Calcutta marble. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls slide open, bringing the outside in, and allowing guests to enjoy the view on our terrace.

Phantom Creek guests will experience our winemaking philosophy and methods brought to life on one of our winery tours.  The story starts in our History Room, which demonstrates the unique geography and terroir of our estate vineyards on display through custom soil monoliths. 

The journey continues outside, with a walkthrough of our biodynamic garden and art installations before proceeding to the crush pad.  Here, all the fruit is received and sorted before it continues through the winemaking process.

The guided tour descends underground into the white wine fermentation area, where our white wine ages in neutral oak, Austrian casks.  You’ll immediately feel the change in temperature as the brick cladded walls work to regulate temperature and humidity naturally.

Next on tour is the spectacular red wine fermentation area, where our red wines begin the fermentation process, followed by the barrel fermentation area to view our most prized parcels of grapes start their transformation into the wines you love.  From here, guests travel the grand staircase to the lower cellar, featuring the crown jewel of the Phantom Creek winery—the Founders Cellar, where our premium red wines are aged. In the centre of this stunning rotunda is our most treasured space reserved for the most exclusive of experiences.

Are you ready to see everything for yourself? Welcome to Phantom Creek Estates!

Watch Chapter 7: Discovery

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Chapter 6: Balance

“To live a long life, balance is key.” Philippe Melka

Philippe Melka started his career in Bordeaux working for some of the world-renowned Château Pétrus and Château Haut-Brion.  For the past 25 years, Philippe has been a winemaking consultant for some of Napa’s most highly regarded properties, producing multiple 100-point wines. In 2019, Phantom Creek welcomed Melka as the consulting winemaker for Phantom Creek’s red wine program working closely with winemaker Francis Hutt.

While travelling on Black Sage Road in Oliver, British Columbia, Phantom Creek Estates reveals itself atop the Becker Vineyard. You feel the commitment to excellence right away, and realize that you’re in an extraordinary place.

There is a shared passion and energy when you work with the people who have a love for what they’re doing. That passion is essential as there are no overnight successes in the wine business. The wine industry is challenging, and there is a ton of expertise and many hours of brainstorming to create a glass of wine. “So when I look at a glass of wine, I see all the hard work behind it.”

The hallmark for great red wines is the potential of ageing over the long term. The foundation of great wine is based on a few factors: the acidity, the alcohol, and the tannin structure—these three elements, when blended seamlessly, create an extremely stable wine that will showcase the purity of terroir for years to come.

Wine is a living product; the energy flowing out of the glass is inspiring and has driven Melka throughout his career to continue pushing the boundaries while exploring the art of winemaking and viticulture. Making wines of distinction and sophistication is the goal of the entire Phantom Creek Estates team, and we cannot wait to share that passion with every guest visiting the Estate.

As the consulting winemaker for the red wine program, Melka joins an elite team of wine legends, including Alsace superstar and Master of Wine, Olivier Humbrecht, the consulting winemaker for the white wine program and wine industry veteran Santiago Cilley as CEO.

Welcome to Phantom Creek Estates – – winemaking at its finest.

Chapter 6: Balance

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Chapter 5: Focus

Olivier Humbrecht, France’s first Master of Wine, is the owner and winemaker of Domaine Zind-Humbrecht in Alsace, France. The renowned Estate has been in his family since the early 17th century, and today is one of the world’s leading Pinot Gris and Riesling producers. Currently, he also presides Biodyvin, a prestigious biodynamic certifying body based in Europe.

Phantom Creek Estates white wine program is decidedly Alsatian inspired and includes principal varieties Pinot Gris and Riesling. Both varietals are widely produced in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley and come in an expressive range of styles from many producers. Olivier and the team at Phantom Creek are making Alsatian inspired white wines from grapes that are naturally farmed and cared for through every step of the winemaking process. Parcels of selected fruit are gently pressed over many hours to bring out the subtle nuances and complexities from the grape’s skin. The resulting juice is then wild fermented over a period of months and aged in neutral oak Stockinger foudres. Our white wines are balanced, elegant and ready to enjoy now or in the future with proper aging.

It may sound like a simple process; however, As Olivier Humbrecht says, “when you get fantastic grapes from good vineyards, you want to try to use them as much as possible. It needs to be done right from the beginning.”

A great wine, regardless of its colour, concentration or age, should not shrink the palate when you drink, it but rather open it. First and foremost, a wine’s destination is not to be smelled, it’s to be enjoyed. There needs to be a specific structure on the palate, a salinity, and you want to salivate when you drink these wines – you want to feel a certain length. At the core, you want to understand the culture of the wine alongside the beautiful aromatics, which for anyone, is truly the cherry on top of the cake!

Phantom Creek uses casks or “foudres” from the famous Stockinger family to gently age their white wines. If the ultimate goal is to produce a wine that has the right characteristics, taste and all the personality of the vineyard, it requires the perfect container to do so. The cask allows the wine to take the energy from the Earth and the environment. The wine, yeast and the bacterias within it need that influence inevitably providing structure and quality that is very important for white wine.

What’s truly important when you taste wines from the tasting room at Phantom Creek Winery is to focus on the wine. How do you feel about it? Which wines do you remember the most, and why? Even if just one wine resonates and sticks with an individual, it likely hit them where it should, and they’ll remember that wine for a long time. Wine tasting is like listening to great music. It requires training the taste buds and brain to remember what you taste. Enjoy the ride!

Sip and savour at Phantom Creek Estates!

Chapter 5: Focus

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Chapter 4: Creation

Some might make assumptions about what winemakers see when they look at a glass of wine. For Francis Hutt, it’s the same as everyone else… “I look at it and think, is this going to be delicious?

Francis Hutt, Winemaker at Phantom Creek Estates, has travelled the world making wine on both the north and south islands of his native New Zealand as well as working harvests in Oregon, Burgundy and Australia’s Hunter Valley. Honing his skills in organic and biodynamic winemaking at Carrick Winery & Vineyards in New Zealand, Francis led the transformation of the vineyards to organic certification as Head Winemaker and subsequently General Manager. In this role, he also oversaw winemaking for Kennedy Point Vineyard, Waiheke Island’s only certified organic vineyard.

A winemakers’ journey has to start somewhere, and for Francic Hutt, a seminal moment while on a hiking trip with family opened the eyes of a young winemaker to be and started him on that wine journey. The family was visiting a winery in New Zealand, where they encountered a gentleman in the vineyard. He spoke so freely to a young and enthusiastic Hutt and shared his thoughts and philosophies on honest winemaking. Now an established winemaker, the goal continues to be making honest wine that speaks uniquely to the place it’s grown.

A passion for organic and biodynamic winemaking led Francis to Phantom Creek Estates in Oliver, B.C, where we focus on single-vineyard Bordeaux reds, Alsatian whites and the Okanagan’s benchmark varieties of Viognier and Syrah all from naturally farmed Estate vineyards.

We’re fortunate to work with world-renowned consultants Olivier Humbrecht and Philippe Melka. Between all individuals, the level of depth and knowledge behind them is incomparable. It allows us to create wines that are expressive and unique.

Welcome to Phantom Creek Estates – where the magic is about to start!

Chapter 4: Creation

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Chapter 3: Character

The tradition of winemaking has been passed down through the Humbrecht family from father to son since the late 1700s. Olivier Humbrecht, France’s first Master of Wine, is the current owner and winemaker of Domaine Zind-Humbrecht in Alsace, France.  Phantom Creek Estates marks the first and only winery consulting project for the famed winemaker

Olivier is the President of Biodyvin, the prestigious biodynamic certifying body based in Europe. Biodynamics is a philosophy and method of sustainable farming that requires meticulous attention to detail, in turn, yielding exceptional, energetic wine. By farming biodynamically, we minimize off-farm inputs while developing integrated solutions for pest and weed management, maximizing vine nutrition and site biodiversity.

Understanding the energy of a grape-growing region is so important; this especially rings true for the South Okanagan, where the environment is bold, big, intense, beautiful, and vastly extreme. The landscape of the Okanagan embodies power and energy with its dramatic mountain ranges giving way to vast lake districts.

The goal for every vineyard, which is well taken care of, is to produce high-quality grapes on a regular basis, revealing the true character of the place. Setting up a vineyard so it can produce for the long term comes down to how well the site is built-up to produce something remarkable. You are the caretaker of the vineyard for your children or whoever will look after it in the future. So, you try to give it to them in a better state then you received it.

When you make wine, you’re making a cultural product. It is not just a beverage with alcohol in it. Wine must show the characteristics of a place. It’s in the way the vine explores the soil, getting every inch of the environmental aspects through the climate and vineyard composition that showcases the authentic taste and flavour of the wine. It can take hundreds if not thousands of years to build up good soil. If done correctly and well, it can truly make a winery or vineyard last the test of time and produce something remarkable.

Making great wine is the result of a team effort and is also a reflection of the culture and the people who work the land. The team at Phantom Creek is doing something that has never been done before. It can’t be understated how hard it is to develop a new vineyard. “In France, we know where all the great vineyards are. In a new region, you don’t know yet where all the great vineyards are – you have to discover by yourself.”

“My goal for Phantom Creek is to see the vineyards grow into a beautiful environment that is alive with a great ecosystem paired alongside great people working on it.” Olivier Humbrecht

Welcome to Phantom Creek Estates!

Chapter 3: Character

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Chapter 2: Natural

Phantom Creek Estates is rooted on vineyards with a deep history. Led by the vision of the Bai family and the tireless efforts of the vineyard team, our Estate vineyards are farmed organically and biodynamically.

On the lower terrace of the Black Sage Bench, the historic 10-acre Phantom Creek Vineyard (est. 1996) is planted primarily to Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Malbec as well as late-ripening Bordeaux variety Petit Verdot.  In 2017, we extended this heritage with new plantings immediately North and South totaling 33 acres.

The 51-acre Becker Vineyard (est. 1977) that surrounds the winery is planted to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Sauvignon, with small blocks allocated to Syrah, Carménère, Chardonnay and Semillon.

The 45-acre Kobau Vineyard (est. 2005) on the Golden Mile Bench is planted to Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Viognier and is historically known for producing world-class Syrah.

Evernden Springs Vineyard in the Similkameen Valley has been in development for two years. Consulting white winemaker, Olivier Humbrecht Master of Wine and owner of Zind-Humbrecht, says, “This site shows incredible potential to grow expressive single vineyard Pinot Gris and Riesling.”

Amy Richards, Director of Farming at Phantom Creek Estates, has been fortunate enough to work in many different wine regions around the world in her 20 years as a viticulturist. To her, nothing compares to the Okanagan Valley. With a high latitude, long days, warm to cold climate changes, the Okanagan has proved to show many different aspects of viticulture, making it a truly unique wine region. 

Our vineyard team is fascinated by the diversity of soils throughout all our vineyard sites. By analyzing the soil, you see the story of the farming process and how the vines grow and react to their environment. Each of the estate vineyards has a unique combination of local climate infused with the sites micro-climate, vineyard soil type, layered with the varieties that are planted. Through these natural elements and irrigation, we are supporting a unique set of circumstances – called terroir. At Phantom Creek Estates, farming is done naturally to express that terroir as purely as possible.

We farm all our vineyards following organic and biodynamic principles, eliminating the use of synthetic herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers, rather relying on traditional methods using organic compost and cover crops for weed control and soil health.

These measures support a balanced and healthy ecosystem in each of the estate vineyards, allowing our team the opportunity to get the best grapes possible while taking care of the land. Integrated pest management is a critical part of managing the vineyards. We use heritage breed chickens in our vineyards as they consume cutworms and other pests that are great for chickens but harmful to vine health. Our chickens are part of the ecosystem and do their part to support healthy vineyards, all while naturally fertilizing their workplace.

Amy’s one message to the Phantom Creek Estates visitor is that we farm naturally. Natural farming is a choice you make when you decide to be stewards of the land and commit to purely expressing the terroir of your vineyards. At Phantom Creek Estates, we believe, “What goes into the land, goes into your glass.”

Welcome to Phantom Creek Estates.

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Chapter 1: Legacy

Phantom Creek Vineyard has been consistently recognized for producing some of the best red wines in Canada. 

It was established in 1996 by Richard Cleave, a true pioneer in the BC wine industry and one of the most respected growers in the Okanagan Valley.

It has been named one of the “Top 10 Single Vineyards Around the World” by Wine Access Magazine, and has won “Best Wine in Canada” on three different occasions.

Just like great wines, Phantom Creek consists of many layers that have developed over time.

The vineyard’s rich history began over ten thousand years ago. As the last of the glaciers retreated from what is now the Okanagan Valley, they left behind massive deposits of sand, gravel and sediment and ephemeral ‘creeks’ that inspired the name Phantom Creek Estates. This perfect confluence of time, soil and sun gave birth to a truly unique vineyard.

Today, there are over 10,000 planted acres in British Columbia.  Almost half of that acreage (4,500 acres) were planted by Richard Cleave.

When Richard found the raw, untouched site that later would become Phantom Creek Vineyard, he saw what no one else could have ever known was there. He took all his years of experience and passion and focused it solely on producing the best grapes possible from this remarkable grape growing region. This tiny 10-acre site would change the way people viewed wines from British Columbia and Canada. They would become the best wines in the country.

Exceptional, unique, almost magical. Phantom Creek Vineyard is truly a paradise.

Welcome to Phantom Creek Estates: Trailer

Chapter 1: Legacy

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Philippe Melka joins Phantom Creek

We’re thrilled to announce that internationally acclaimed Napa-based winemaking consultant Philippe Melka has joined the team at Phantom Creek Estates. Melka will serve as the consulting winemaker for Phantom Creek’s red wine program working closely with winemaker Francis Hutt.

“I look forward to working with Phillipe with the goal of crafting wines that are among the finest in the world, but that distinctly express the Okanagan Valley terroir,” said Santiago Cilley, CEO of Phantom Creek Estates.  

Philippe Melka has the rare combination of unparalleled talent and good fortune, his first job out of school, was at Bordeaux’s legendary Château Haut-Brion.  From there, he took a position with the venerated Moueix Company and was sent to Dominus Estate in Napa’s Yountville district to study soils in 1991.  Napa Valley soil proved a revelation for Melka.  He set out travelling, dividing time between soil study and winemaking at esteemed estates like Badia a Coltibuono in Chianti and Chittering Estate in Australia.  He returned to France in 1993 to further develop his expertise, this time at none other than Château Pétrus.

Melka has thus been trained and influenced by some of the most notable personalities in the wine business, including Jean-Bernard Delmas and Jean-Philippe Masclef from Haut-Brion, Christian Moueix and Jean-Claude Berrouet from Pétrus, Paul Draper from Ridge, Daniel Baron from Silver Oak, and globetrotting wine consultant Michel Rolland, with whom Melka continues to work on consulting projects.  In 1994, Melka returned to Napa full time, and for the past 20 years, he has served as winemaking consultant for some of Napa’s most highly regarded properties.

 â€œI’m impressed with the biodiversity of the Southern Okanagan, and the distinctiveness of the estate vineyard’s terroir. I am energized to be working with Phantom Creek Estates and share in the team’s commitment to producing outstanding wines from this remarkable new winery.” 

As consulting winemaker for the red wine program, Melka joins an elite team of wine legends at Phantom Creek Estates, including Alsace superstar Olivier Humbrecht MW, consulting winemaker for the white wine program and wine industry veteran Santiago Cilley as CEO.

August 10th: Pop-Up Wine Tasting

We are beyond excited to host a Pop-Up Wine Tasting in Becker Vineyard on August 10th. Join us anytime from 11am to 2pm and taste among the vines as we celebrate and pay tribute to this storied vineyard. We will be pouring a selection of our inaugural releases including our 2017 Pinot Gris, Jancis Robinson’s top scoring BC white wine this year.

See the video below for more details:

The event will be held below the winery in Becker Vineyard at 4315 Black Sage Road, Oliver.

We hope to see you there!

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Meet the Team: Karin Grosstessner-Hain

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, Karin?

I was born in Linz, Upper Austria and raised there as well.

Did you do a lot of outdoor sports in Austria?

We moved to Ternberg in the Alpine foothills when I was six and that’s a paradise for outdoorsy people like me. Mostly I spent my time, hiking and biking. Further I also played Tennis and I swam every day during summer. Water is my favourite element I would say. Oh and I tried soccer, but they kicked me out as I scored an own-goal in my first game.

What is your favorite traditional Austrian meal?

That’s easy to answer. It’s ‘Eispalatschinken’. You can see I am Austrian as I love a sweet dishes and have them as a meal.

It’s a very thin pancake filled with vanilla ice cream and the toppings are: chocolate sauce, roasted almond slivers and whipping cream. It’s amazing and I could have it for breaky, lunch and dinner any day of the year.

Have you ever been visited by Krampus?

Yes, many times. I guess I was a bad kid. When you are a young adult you kind of hope to meet Krampus because usually it’s the single guys in town that dress up as the scary creature. They scare you first but then invite you for mulled wine.

What drew you to the Okanagan?

The nature, mountains, wine, lakes and the kindness of the people living here. Everyone was super welcoming and friendly when I moved here 2013. It was easy to make new friends and because of the wine industry there are so many people from all over the world living here. So everyone is new and local at the same time.

How did you first hear about Phantom Creek?

It was a job posting for my first position at PCE as an enologist. I love growing and developing things therefore it was a given that I would apply for this job. There was no building yet except for a vineyard shed that we used as our office. One of my jobs was to build up the winery lab from scratch. It was located in the shed kitchen because there was running water. We outfitted the lab with world class equipment that is still top notch located in a building where the sand was blowing through every crack. This was definitely a challenge and now that I see our lab in the new facility it makes me smile how easy it is now to keep the sand out.

What is your position at Phantom Creek?

My current position is assistant winemaker. I was promoted last year and now I have a business card, hihi.

Which are your other favorite wines or wineries locally or around the world?

I love Riesling with good structure and balanced acidity. As an Austrian you grow up with high acidity in wines. Locally I appreciate a glass of Martin’s Lane Riesling and Tantalus’ Pinot Noir. But I change my mind about varieties according to the time of the year. Worldwide I would say Leeuwin Estate  Art Series Chardonnay, their Shiraz and Fass 4 Gruener Veltliner from Weingut Ott. Very nice example of biodynamic vineyard practices and organic winemaking.

What’s your favorite Falco song?

Jeanny, quit living on dreams….

What would people surprised to know about you?

Hmm…That’s hard because I think I am an open book as I tend to say what I think. Maybe that I really like Nu metal music like Clawfinger and Rage against the Machine.  And before that I really liked New Kids on the Blocks

How do you define success?

By enjoying what you do. Then you are able to give our best.  That way your environment appreciates your efforts, can feel the passion and starts sharing the same believes. That way I am always the most successful.

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36 Hours in the South Okanagan

Known for beautiful lakes and landscapes, the South Okanagan has become a sought after tourist destination. Boasting Canada’s warmest lake in Osoyoos, this region draws people of all kinds to its lush rolling hills and gorgeous rocky cliff sides. Within these rolling hills and cliffs, there is a burgeoning wine and food scene that is capturing the world’s attention. Here are some suggestions for what you can do in a short amount of time to maximize your South Okanagan experience.

Friday

4 p.m. Wine & Wineries

Work is finished for a few days, so now is the time to relax. Most wineries and tasting rooms close between 5 to 6 pm, so we suggest visiting one or two before that happens. There is a plethora of high quality wines and wineries in this region, all of which would be more than happy to pour you samples of their delicious products.

6 – 9 p.m. Food & Drinks

Whether you are in Penticton, Oliver, Osoyoos, or surrounding areas, good food is everywhere. From the delicious Italian and French dishes of Convivia, to the plentiful pastas of Campo Marina, there is no shortage of selections. Along with wine, many wineries have incredible restaurants that are open later than their tasting rooms. Try Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek or Terrafina at Hester Creek.

9 p.m. Drink with the Locals

No one would blame you if you decided to pack it in and head to bed after dinner, but if you’re not ready, then there are some options:

The Barking Parrot in Penticton is a great place to unwind with drinks, pool, giant television screens, and a patio with a stunning view of Okanagan Lake. If you are closer to Osoyoos and Oliver, you can find the locals at either the Owl Pub or The Sage Pub.

During the summer, you also have the option of taking an evening stroll along one of our many lakes thanks to our long summer days.

Saturday

9 a.m. Coffee & Breakfast

Grab a coffee at Jojo’s Cafe in Osoyoos or Oliver Eats in Oliver to start the day out right. Newly opened Wayne & Freda coffee shop and kitchen in Penticton is another great option.

10 a.m. Hiking & Water Sports

If you are an outdoor person, there are many options in the South Okanagan. For an easy hike, try the Golden Mile Stamp Mill Trail. Located behind Tinhorn Creek Winery, the Golden Mile Stamp Mill Trail takes you through the rolling hills, rocky cliff sides and vast, blue skies of the Okanagan. For something more challenging, try McIntyre Bluff or Skaha Bluffs. With incredible views, either hike is worth it. If rock climbing is your thing, Skaha Bluffs has climbing opportunities ranging from beginner to expert. And Painted Rock is not far away to relax with a glass of wine afterwards.

If you find it to be a little hot for a hike, rent a paddle board or kayak and explore the beautiful lakes. ATB Watersports in Osoyoos and Penticton Paddlesurf come highly recommended.

12 – 1 p.m. Lunch

On a hot day, nothing is better than a shaded seat on a patio overlooking the valley. Luckily, the South Okanagan is filled with establishments that offer just that. Liquidity Bistro boasts beautiful views and a weekend Brunch menu from 11 am to 4 pm.

If you’re looking for a quick bite, try one of the local taco stands. El Sabor de Marina offers Mexican and Latin American Food – Tacos, Burritos, Quesadillas, and Tamales. With quick and kind customer service, they always deliver the goods. Highly recommended.

2 – 5 p.m. Culture & Wine Tours

If you are interested in learning about history of the area, head over to the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Center. This beautiful establishment offers various exhibitions, walking and hiking trails, as well as climbing adventures.

If wine-tasting is your thing, you came to the right place. The Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country website is a great resource for those interested in tasting some of the best wines made in Canada. To truly experience the best of what the South Okanagan offers, book a tour to eliminate to worry of driving. Experience Wine Tours comes highly recommended.

*Most wineries offer affordable shipping rates, inquire about this to avoid leaving wine in a hot car for extended periods of time

Contrary to popular belief, the South Okanagan isn’t just about wine. Distilleries and breweries have been popping up and offer delicious beverages that are a great option for those who want to try something different. Legends Distillery on the Naramata Bench and Tumbleweed Spirits Craft Distillery in Osoyoos come highly recommended, offering various gins, whiskeys, and, yes, even moonshine.

6 – 9 p.m. Beer, Wine, & Food

For food and drinks, the Cannery Brewery is a Penticton institution. Some say you haven’t lived until you’ve had their nachos. Bad Tattoo is another recommended brewery, they have a great selection of beer and unique pizzas. The Hooded Merganser, located on Okanagan Lake in Penticton, offers a diverse menu that ranges from sushi to BBQ Pork Ribs.

Sunday

9 a.m. Fresh Produce

Grab a coffee, breath in the fresh air, and head over to one of our many fruit and vegetable stands. You’ll be hard pressed to find better and fresher produce than is found in the South Okanagan. Many of the establishments also offer other homemade products such as jams and dried fruits.

11 a.m. Last Minute Tastings & Food

If there are any wineries you missed, stop by for a quick tasting before you hit the road for home. For a pre-drive or flight snack, head to Medici’s Gelateria & Coffee House for delicious gelato or Tickleberry’s for one (or more) of their 72 flavors.

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Meet the Team: Allison MacLeod

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, Allison?

I was born in Calgary and raised in Canmore, Alberta.

Did you do a lot of outdoor sports in Canmore?

I was put on skis and hauled up mountains at a very young age, as is the norm in Canmore. Despite that, I did tend to veer more toward indoor team sports as I grew older.

What drew you to the Okanagan?

Mountains, beaches, sunshine and great wine!

How did you first hear about Phantom Creek?

I could see the construction site from my backyard and decided to do a little research. At that point, they had only dug the foundation and we joked about the worlds largest sandcastle being erected on the Black Sage Bench. Looks a little different these days…

What is your position at Phantom Creek?

My position is Cellar Master.

Which are your other favorite wines or wineries locally or around the world?

For whites, I am a sucker for German or Alsatian Riesling. For reds, something massive from South Australia.

You’ve recently adopted a rescue dog, please tell us EVERYTHING

Yes! His name is Toro. He is a 5-year-old Pitbull that was found in a ditch in Mexico after being hit by a car. He was brought back to Canada and rehabilitated for a year at the Bow Valley SPCA which is where I found him. Toro likes walks, digging up my garden, sunbathing and snacks. 

Rolling Stones or Beatles?

Beatles!

What would people surprised to know about you?

Probably nothing, I’m a pretty open book.

How do you define success?

I will borrow from Maya Angelou for this: “success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

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Bird-watching in the South Okanagan

The Osoyoos and Oliver region are known world-wide for bird watching. From Haynes Point to Vaseaux Lake, gorgeous species can be seen frequently. Peregrine Falcons, White-headed Woodpeckers, Northern Saw-whet Owls, Sage Thrashers, and Yellow-breasted Chats are just a few of the incredible birds found here. At Phantom Creek Estates, we see some of these beautiful birds flying about.

Adjacent to the Oxbows, the SORCO (South Okanagan Rehabilitation Centre) is located. Here, they nurture and rehabilitate injured Raptors (birds of prey). There are multiple conservation projects aimed at protecting and preserving this unique and gorgeous area. We are grateful for to the many organizations determined to preserve these lands and protect the wildlife that call them home.

Below are some suggested bird-watching sites in the area:

Haynes Point Provincial Park

2 kms south of Osoyoos, Haynes Point Provincial Park is the home to Red-winged Blackbirds, Great-horned Owls, Canyon Wrens, White-throated Swifts, and many others. You can walk down the gravel trail for up to 45 minutes, where a “dog swimming area” awaits you and your furry companions at the end.

Osoyoos Desert Centre

A facility dedicated to preserving the natural Desert environment, visitors can walk along the boardwalk and read about the various elements that make up this unique and beautiful area. While visiting, keep an eye out for Golden Eagles, Mountain Bluebirds, Red-tailed Hawks, and Hummingbirds. As it can get very hot, during summer months it is recommended to visit earlier in the day.

Osoyoos Oxbows

An expansive wetland located along both sides the Okanagan River, the Oxbows are home to many species. When here, keep an eye out for Osprey, various species of Owls, Cinnamon Teal, the Yellow-breasted Chat, among many others.

NK’MIP Desert Cultural Centre

At the NK’MIP Desert Cultural Centre, guided and self-guided walks are provided to anyone interested in experiencing the area in its natural state. The walks focus on how the Desert land was used by the First Nations people. Here, you can spot White-throated Swifts, Lark Sparrows, Brewer’s Sparrows, and if you’re lucky, you might even get to the see the elusive Black-throated Sparrow.

Vaseaux Lake Wildlife Centre

On Highway 97, between Oliver and Okanagan Falls, Vaseaux Lake Wildlife Centre boasts a 400-m boardwalk along the lakeshore. Here, you can see Bluebirds, Woodpeckers, Swallows, Western Meadowlarks, and Trumpeter Swans, among many others.

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Phantom Creek In the News: June 2019

A lot has been happening at Phantom Creek Estates lately. Construction of our Hospitality Center continues and nears completion, our freshly planted Evernden Spring Vineyard begins to grow, and our wines continue to generate buzz in the wine world. We have collected some recent articles and publications and are excited to share them.

Jancis Robinson at the Canada House tasting in London

After our visit to London and the Canada House Tasting, wine critic Jancis Robinson awarded our Pinot Gris the highest score for BC white wines, which was 17 out of 20. Here are some of her notes on our wines:

2017 Pinot Gris – 17/20: I’m surprised that there has not been more Pinot Gris shown in this tasting. This one is so recognisably Alsace influenced! A little residual sugar and real toasty breadth on the palate. Yet thoroughly broachable and satisfying already. Food friendly. Brighter fruit than many Alsace examples. Peachy but not fat. 13%. Drink 2019-2022.

2017 Riesling – 15++/20: Olivier Humbrecht is consulting – both visiting and distantly. Pretty much all stainless steel whereas Olivier wants to introduce foudres. New winemaker from Carrick, Central Otago is arriving any minute. This is really pretty simple as a Riesling so I’m sure Olivier will beef it up a bit. Good chewiness on the end. But the flavours seem a little too reined in. Austere in the extreme. 12%. Drink 2020-2023.

2016 Syrah – 16.5/20: Really strong sage notes on the nose. Rather more complex nose than some but not that distinctively varietal. Certainly fully ripe but with fresh acidity. A good drink. 14.5%. Drink 2019-2023.

2016 Becker Vineyard Cuv̩e Р16.5/20: Originally planted to German varieties by Helmut Becker in the 1970s and converted to the three Bordeaux red wine grapes in the 1990s. 39% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon. Inky, silky, polished, glamorous red. With a touch of sage. Pretty exciting by any measure. Softer than the Phantom Creek Vineyard. 14.5%. Drink 2019-2023.

2016 Phantom Creek Vineyard Cuv̩e Р16.5/20: 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Petit Verdot, 15% Malbec, 8% Syrah, 8% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot. Deep purplish crimson. Six different varieties and a little savoury undertow thanks to the 8% Syrah. Interesting wine. Well made. Very slightly sweet overall. 14.5%. Drink 2020-2025.

Click here to order the 17 point Pinot Gris

John Schreiner on Wine

Esteemed wine critic John Schreiner recently published an article in which he writes of his experience with our wines. He writes that Phantom Creek Owner, Bai Jinping, “set out to make outstanding wines in Canada,” and that “he certainly succeeded.” He continues to write about the history and future of Phantom Creek Estates, and provides his notes and scores on fives of our wines:  

2017 Pinot Gris – 92 points: The texture is luscious. The wine beings with aromas of pear and a hint of oak. On the palate, there are flavors of ripe pear and apple with a touch of spice on the lingering finish.

2017 Riesling – 91 points: This wine is crisp and dry, with lime on the nose and palate and with a spine of minerality.

2016 Becker Vineyard Cuv̩e Р93 points: The wine has aromas of black cherry and cassis that are echoed on the palate. The long ripe tannins give the wine a generous mouthfeel and a lingering finish.

2016 Phantom Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – 95 points: An excellent vintage has produced an exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon, with aromas of cherry, black currant, blueberry and vanilla; all of that is echoed on the palate. This wine, aged 18 months in French oak, is complex, with a polished texture. 95.

2016 Phantom Creek Vineyard Cuv̩e Р96 points: This is a bold, rich wine with aromas and flavors of cherry, black current, plum and vanilla. It was aged 18 months in French oak. Long ripe tannins support the opulent texture and the persistent finish of this delicious wine. 96.

Click here to find the full review: https://johnschreiner.blogspot.com/2019/06/phantom-creek-releases-its-first-wines.html

Click here to order the 96 point Phantom Creek Cuvee

Western Living – June, 2019 Issue

In the June, 2019 issue of Western Living published an article on Phantom Creek Estates. Titled ‘Reach for the Top’, the two page spread covers the inception and execution of Phantom Creek Estates.

Click here to find the full article (page 46): https://issuu.com/canadawidemedia/docs/wl_june2019_lr_bc

Chris Boiling at Canopy

Chris Boiling covers the architecture, the team, the winemaking, the vineyards, and wines of Phantom Creek Estates in this article. Labeling it as “one of the most ambitious winery developments in Canada,” Boiling gives an in-depth look at our history, growth, and where we are currently.

As for the wines, he writes that:

“Phantom Creek focuses on single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Alsatian whites and the Okanagan’s benchmark varieties of Viognier and Syrah. Prices range from $30 to $100 a bottle. Star wines include the 2016 Phantom Creek Vineyards Cuvée ($100) and the 2016 Phantom Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($80), blended from three different clones to achieve complexity and depth. The 2016 Phantom Creek Vineyards Syrah ($75) is sourced from 1.2 acres which helped to establish the Okanagan as a source for Syrah with savoury complexity.”

Click here to find the full article: https://www.internationalwinechallenge.com/Canopy-Articles/phantom-winery-becomes-a-reality.html

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Meet the Team: John Pires

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, John?

I was born in Portugal, where I stayed until I was 8, then I moved to France, where I lived until I was 19. Then back to Portugal where I got my teaching degree in French.

What brought you to the Okanagan?

I had come a few times on holiday (I had family here, three brothers) and I loved it. When my spouse, who lived in France for 14 years, got tired of living in a small town (in Portugal), we applied to immigrate to Canada.

What do you like most about living in the Okanagan?

Everything!

How long have you been working on the Black Sage Bench?

This is my 20th vintage.

How did you first hear about Phantom Creek?

I was working on a project with Anne Vawter and when Harry McWatters sold, I was asked if I wanted to stay with them. I am the first Phantom Creek employee.

What is your position at Phantom Creek?

Vineyard Manager for the Black Sage Bench Vineyards.

I hear you have a legendary wine collection, what’s your most prized bottle?

The one I open to enjoy with family and friends.

How many languages do you speak?

I am fluent in English, Portuguese, Spanish, and French, and can have a conversation in Italian.

Who are you rooting for in the playoffs?

None, I’m a die-hard Canuck.

If you were trapped on a desert island and you could only bring 3 books, what would they be?

Any book that would help me to survive.

Any advice for a newcomer to the wine industry?

You must do the work as if it was your own place.

What would people surprised to know about you?

I was a French teacher for 8 years.

How do you define success?

You are successful if you are happy in what you do.

Thanks John!

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Biodynamic Farming: Cover Crop

Organic farming is a prerequisite for biodynamic certification. However, biodynamics is much more prescriptive than organic certification. We are strong proponents of biodynamics because it codifies good farming practices. The aim is not just to forgo chemical pesticides and fertilizers, but also to foster a self-regulating ecosystem. This means minimizing any and all interventions in the vineyard.

Our transition to organic and biodynamic farming means more work by hand in the vineyard. To eliminate the use of herbicides, we use hand hoeing for weed control. However, certain plants, known as “cover crops” are kept and allowed to grow naturally. Cover crops are a natural source of nutrients, which can be tilled into the soil during growing season. Grapevines have low nutrient requirements, so we are careful to ensure that the vines are not overstimulated. By analyzing leaves from each individual block, our vineyard managers can precisely determine nutrient requirements block-by-block, and vineyard-by-vineyard. Rather than eliminating the surrounding vegetation, we want our vines to co-exist in harmony with the natural environment around them.

Yarrow, or Achillea Millefolium, for example, grows plentifully in vineyards in the South Okanagan. It has been used as a part of healing remedies for centuries and helps to loosen the soil where it grows, allowing the roots of other plants to penetrate the soil more easily. According to our Vineyard Manager, John Pires, “Yarrow is also good for preventing Cutworm; it is our friend.” Cutworms are the larvae of various species of night-flying moths and the Yarrow drives them away, preventing the Cutworms from eating and damaging vines.

Canada Bluegrass is another species of plant used as a cover crop. Also known as Poa compressa, Canada Bluegrass grow well in dry, well-trafficked areas. The roots of Canada Bluegrass have creeping root stalks that have soil-binding characteristics, which make them very useful for erosion control. It requires a lot of sun to grow, which makes it perfectly suited for the Black Sage Bench.

White Clover, or Trifolium repens, is also found in our vineyards. It is a good companion to the other surrounding plants as it has the ability to fix nitrogen, meaning that it converts the metabolically useless di-nitrogen into useful ammonia. Much like Yarrow, White Clover has historically been used in medicinal treatments and is grown and cultivated for many purposes.

Just as our winery is coloured to blend in with its surroundings, our vineyards coexist with the flora and fauna of the South Okanagan so they can work in unison. This helps to keep the surrounding environment healthy and balanced, and our vineyards more sustainable.

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Meet the Team: Barb Houliston

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, Barb?

I was born in Hamilton and raised mostly in Winnipeg.

What drew you to the Okanagan?

The beautiful weather, and my brother.

What do you like most about living in the Okanagan?

The weather and the nice people.

I hear you’ve got a cute dog, what should we know about him?

His name is Tequila Willy the Wonder Dog. He’s a rescue dog that follows me everywhere.

How did you first hear about Phantom Creek?

I read a newspaper article and saw winemakers that I know.

What is your position at Phantom Creek?

I am the Senior bookkeeper, even though I’m not a senior yet!

What are some of your favourite local wineries?

I like Backdoor Winery, Serendipity, and Oliver Twist.

Rolling Stones or Beatles?

Both, and Garth Brooks.

If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what three movies would you want to have with you? If you also had a tv, and electricity….  

I would want the entire Survivor series, Grease, and Somewhere in Time.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I’ve never drank a cup of coffee in my life.

How do you define success?

Going to bed happy every night.

Thanks Barb!

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Meet the Team: George James

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, George?

I was born and raised in Paris, France.

What do you like most about living in the Okanagan?

Weather, lake, beach, golf and wine!

How did you first hear about Phantom Creek?

 I spent 3 years watching the construction when I was at Black Hills Winery working next door.

What is your position at Phantom Creek?

VP Finance.

What are some of your favourite local wineries?

 Black Hills, Culmina, and Liquidity. I also love the urban concept TIME is doing.

Rolling Stones or Beatles?

 Stones!

If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what three books would you want to have with you?

1984 by George Orwell, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and a desert island survival book.

What would people surprised to know about you?

I speak 4 languages – French, Spanish, Portuguese, and of course, English. I am top 20 in BC for my age in squash and have been to 60 countries

Of the 60 countries you’ve been to, could you name a few favourites?

I love Brazil, and South American in general, I traveled there when I was 19 years old. Morocco was spectacular. There’s also Iceland, we went there on our honeymoon. Australia was also great, it’s like Canada but with more heat!

You were a tour guide in North Africa, what landmarks did you bring the tourists to?

I worked in Morocco on and off for 3 years. We trekked Mount Toubkal which is the highest peak in North Africa (4,200m). We visited Marrakesh and Essaouira, and did camel rides into the Sahara desert.

How do you define success?

The harder you work, the luckier you get. Success is hard work. No shortcuts. Patience.

Thanks George!

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The Black Sage Bench vs. The Golden Mile Bench

Within the Okanagan Valley, there are official (and unofficial) sub-regions that help us understand the geography of the region. For example, Okanagan Falls and Naramata were recently officially approved and have been added to the list. Two of the most prominent regions in the South Okanagan are the Golden Mile Bench, located on the western side of the valley, and the Black Sage Bench opposite it. The two sub-regions may only be roughly 6 kilometers apart, but the differences in soil, climate, and sunlight hours between them result in remarkably different styles of wines. And, of course, how the Okanagan Valley was originally formed plays a large part of it.

The Black Sage Bench

The Black Sage Bench is located on the east side of the Valley, with hot afternoons and long days. It’s not a surprise then, that it’s known for Bordeaux red varieties, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Syrah. With well-draining sandy soils, deficit irrigation allows us to carefully control the amount of water each vine receives, resulting in concentrated, intensely flavoured fruit. However, this often means reduced yields. For example, in 2017, Phantom Creek Vineyard produced less than 2 tonnes per acre. But the results are worth it. 

Terroir

Soil: The Black Sage Bench mainly consists of sand, with small pockets of gravel. With little to no access to water outside of what is provided through deficit irrigation, vines produce less foliage and lower yields, resulting in intensely flavoured grapes.

Climate: Considered Canada’s only “pocket desert,” the Black Sage Bench averages around 2040 hours of sunshine per year with less than 20 centimetres of rainfall. The average temperature during the summer is 29 degree Celsius, making it warmer than the Golden Mile Bench.

Light: The Okanagan is known for getting more sunlight hours than almost any other wine region in Canada. And, as it is west facing, the Black Sage Bench receives an exceptional amount of sunlight. For example, the steep aspect of Becker Vineyard receives approximately 16 hours of sunlight in the peak of summer.

Signature Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah

The Golden Mile Bench

On the opposite side of the valley is the Golden Mile Bench, British Columbia’s first official sub-appellation. Although nearly due west from the Black Sage Bench, the soil and climatic conditions are dramatically different. Located on the western slopes of the valley, the Golden Mile Bench perfectly captures the radiant early morning sunrise. However, Mount Kobau shades the sub-region from the extraordinary warmth of the summer’s late afternoons. This, combined with complex, gravelly soils, results in exceptional, structured wines that balance ripeness with fresh acidity.

Terroir

Soil: Gravelly Sandy Loams (rich soil made from a combination of sand, clay, and other organic materials)

Climate: Even though the Golden Mile Bench receives less sunlight hours than the Black Sage Bench, it still collects plenty of sun. This level of sun, mixed with cooler afternoons, provides the grapes with an environment to ripen fully while also retaining acidity and freshness.

Light: As the Golden Mile Bench faces East, during the summer it receives sun from the moment the sun rises to when it sets behind Mount Kobau in the evening. Though the Golden Mile Bench doesn’t receive as much sunlight as the Black Sage Bench, it receives more than enough to ripen Bordeaux red varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

Signature Varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Chardonnay

Which Bench is Better?

There’s no right answer – it all comes down to personal preference and style. The wines from the Black Sage Bench can be rich and opulent, whereas the Golden Mile Bench produces mineral-driven, structured wines. In short, both benches have the potential to produce delicious, outstanding wines.

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Meet the Team: Bill Doerr

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, Bill?

I was born in Tonasket, raised in the Columbia Basin in Quincy.

What drew you to the Okanagan?

My family.  My mom was a Canadian citizen, she was born and raised in Beaverdale and Keremeos.

How did you first hear about Phantom Creek?

I was working on this vineyard when Mr. Bai purchased it for Phantom Creek Estates and I’ve been working here since!

What is your position at Phantom Creek?

I’m a tractor driver and planter.

How long have you been driving tractors and planting?

 Seven or eight years.

Have you planted or driven tractors on different benches in the valley?

Just the Black Sage, I know it very well.

I hear you’re a wine guy, what are some of your favourites?

Lang’s Foch, Burrowing Owl’s Chardonnay, they’re all good!

How long have you had that mustache?

Since I got out of the service, I’ve had it since Vietnam. I Immigrated up here in ’71, so since then.

Rolling Stones or Beatles?

Both. Can’t pick, they’re classics!

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I’m a pretty ordinary guy. I guess my time in the Marine corp. could be surprising, I was purifying water in Vietnam. Luckily never had to fire my weapon.

How do you define success?

Enjoying what you’re doing.

Thank you Bill!

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Thank You, Ross

The entire team at Phantom Creek Estates would like to recognize and thank Ross Wise for his tireless contributions over the last 2+ years. Ross’ attention to detail and pursuit of excellence is evident in all of his work, and he has made a lasting impact on Phantom Creek for years to come. We are committed to continuing the high standard that Ross has established, and look forward to sharing the winery’s opening with him in June 2019.

-Phantom Creek Estates

 

A Master of his Craft

We’re thrilled to welcome our first guest writer of the year, Chef Michael Allemeier CMC.

Despite the perceived romance of the restaurant industry, it is not easy being a Chef. If you crave chaos, then perhaps this position is suited for you. The stress is high. We deal with an inventory that has ever-rising costs, and yet is very perishable. It is not the glamorous industry portrayed by the Food Network.

As a Culinary Instructor at SAIT, I teach in the Professional Cooking and the Apprentice Cook Programs. I came to SAIT with 25 years of industry experience. That translates to 25 years of working an average of 80 hours per week.

Unlike other trades, cooking is very much a craft. Cooking is not just about technical skills. They are important, but all trained Chefs share the same relative technical base. It is the personal creativity of the Chef that takes a dish to the next level. This artistic component – drawing up unique flavours, presentations, and experiences – brings me back to the kitchen day after day.

image2.jpeg

Chef Michael Allemeier CMC with his commis

I have always loved this profession. You must if you want to be a successful Chef. A lot of my own growth and passion for this craft comes from the fact that I always keep pushing myself. I’ve never been complacent.

In 2011, the Canadian Culinary Federation launched the Certified Master Chef or CMC program. In the spring of 2013, I became a CMC candidate. My road to becoming a CMC took four years. Candidates have a total of five years to complete all the components – including 11 exams. Currently, the pass rate is only 5 percent.

Of the 11 exams, six are academic programs. Each of these programs is eight weeks in length, with an average commitment of 20-25 hours per week. The academic courses are:

  • Pastry and Baking: the theory behind the craft of baking and pastry
  • Garde Manger: the elements of the cold kitchen
  • Nutritional Cuisine: the science of nutrition (including dietary restrictions), body metabolism and chemistry
  • Entrepreneurship and Hospitality Marketing: the business and marketing principles specific to a successful business
  • Facility Design and Management: the theory of kitchen and equipment design, including designing a HACCP certified kitchen
  • Product Knowledge, Purchasing and Cost Controls: professional purchasing standards, accounting practices, inventory, and auditing controls

These courses involve complex projects, cited researched papers, and weekly assignments and videos. In addition, a CMC must also complete the WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) Level 2 Wine and Spirits designation.

All candidates must then pass four rigorous and extremely technical kitchen exams. As these exams are held in Toronto, it required cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen under the scrutiny of a demanding group of Master Examiners. The kitchen exams are:

  • Pastry and Baking Exam: a two-day exam testing proficiency in bread making; fabricating molded and hand-crafted chocolates; skills in gateau and cakes; and creating three different plated desserts for 12 guests.
  • Garde Manger Exam: a two-day exam to create a formal buffet platter for 12 guests with terrines, pates, and forcemeats, complete with appropriate garnishes and sauces. In my case, mandatory ingredients were foie gras, venison, quail, pheasant, morel mushrooms, white asparagus, spinach, and dried apricots.
  • Black box gastronomic meal: a six-course menu with wine pairings. This exam expects the candidate to cook a creative, elegant, and formal menu displaying skills and techniques in the moment with a supplied “black box” of mandatory ingredients.
  • Nutritional exam: while this is the shortest kitchen exam, it is equally as hard. I had to create a three-course lunch suitable for vegans, lacto-ova vegetarians, and diabetics that was then thoroughly analyzed for nutritional accuracy.

These exams are physically and mentally demanding. They are meant for the individual to display and successfully demonstrate a career of experience and to show workmanship at the highest level. The process is as much a test of skills as a test of the individual.

This June, I became the third Canadian Chef to earn the CMC designation.  I join Chef Judson Simpson, who runs the kitchens at the House of Parliament in Ottawa, and Chef Tobias McDonald. The road to becoming a CMC has been a very humbling experience. I have a profound respect for the physical effort, business acumen, and artistry that is required to not only become a CMC, but to be in a trade that demands all these things from a Chef.

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Chef Michael Allemeier after receiving the CMC designation

As a CMC, I am now part of an elite group that becomes the custodian of this craft. I will work to find others who possess the qualities that make up a Master Chef. I love my craft, and I want to continue to be actively engaged in it.

Chef Michael Allemeier CMC has traveled the world and Canada learning his craft. Prior to joining SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology) as a Culinary Instructor, Chef Allemeier ran some of Canada’s most recognized kitchens, including Bishops Restaurant in Vancouver and Teatro Restaurant in Calgary. During his career, he’s earned numerous accolades, including being honoured with leading one of the “Top Five Winery Restaurants in the World” while at Mission Hill Family Estate. Most recently, Chef Allemeier earned his Master Chef certification, becoming only the third in Canada to receive the prestigious designation.

Inaugural Sparkling Wine Harvest

We are kicking off the 2017 vintage this week with our inaugural sparkling wine harvest, beginning with Pinot Noir from East Kelowna. The harvest began with a celebratory toast led by Ingo Grady.

Celebratory Harvest Toast

Toasting the start of vintage

The 2017 vintage got off to a slow start after a cool, wet spring. However, warm summer temperatures quickly accelerated the pace of the growing season. This, combined with cool nights, resulted in fruit reaching optimal ripeness with balanced acidity.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir from East Kelowna for sparkling wine

Ross Wise says, “It is shaping up to be a very good sparkling wine vintage. Tasting the fruit, there’s a combination of exceptional balance and purity of flavour.”

Sorting Table

Karin, Ryan, and Calli on the sorting table

Grapes for sparkling wine are typically harvested early to retain crisp acidity.  Our sparkling wines will be made in the time-consuming traditional method, with prolonged aging in bottle. The first sparkling wine release is anticipated in 2020.

We will begin our harvest for white and red still wines over the coming weeks. Stay tuned by joining our mailing list:

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Wine Summit 2017

Photo credit: Post Hotel

The Wine Summit at the Relais & Château Post Hotel in Lake Louise has just concluded, and the 13th edition of Canada’s premier wine and food event lived up to its billing once again, largely thanks to our gracious hosts, the Schwarz Family.

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From June 1 to 4, some 120 devoted wine aficionados packed the luxurious yet cozy Rocky Mountain chalet for a three-day celebration of great wine, fabulous food, and newfound friendships. The Post Hotel and its team radiated a sense of warm hospitality and guests were thrilled to have unprecedented access to the winemakers and owners, not just to taste their wines and learn about their regions, but to share breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the weekend.

Well-known wine writer, Anthony Gismondi, expertly moderated the tastings and discussions of the wines. Both Old and New World wines shared the spotlight and left lasting impressions on the tasters.

Leading off was Maison Louis Latour, family owned and operated since 1797, with a Corton Masterclass lead by the charming Mark Allen. This “once in a lifetime” Grand Cru tasting featured Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs grown on the limestone-clay-marl soils of Burgundy’s most famous ‘Hill’: Corton Charlemagne 2015 and 2014; Corton Clos de la Vigne Au Saint 2015, 2014, 2010, and 2006; and Château Corton Grancey 2015, 2014, and 2010. The latter wines are unique and exclusive (to Latour) blends of four south-west facing Grand Cru sites, which combines the strengths of several parcels across the appellation. My overall impression: across the board, the wines illustrated inimitable Burgundian winemaking, perfectly balanced precision fruit, and tension with density and power. This doesn’t happen everywhere. I will never again describe non-Burgundian Chardonnays and Pinot as “Burgundian-style.”

Next up was Castello Banfi, the pioneering Tuscan estate founded in 1978 by the Italian-American Mariani family from New Jersey. Legendary winemaker, Ezio Rivella, guided Banfi to become one of the most important producers of Brunello until his retirement in 1999. Co-CEO, Cristina Mariani-May, together with General Manager, Enrico Viglierchio, gave a dynamic account of Banfi’s ground breaking research on the Sangiovese vine. Cristina suggested that Sangiovese mutates readily into its environment, and “is not a variety, but a family of varieties and dialects.” With more than 45 registered Sangiovese clones, Banfi today works with 15 unique clones (registered for all to share). The nine wines presented wowed the audience: Brunello di Montalcino 2004, 2007, and the classic 2010; Brunello di Montalcino “Poggio alle Mura” 1998, 2001, and 2004; and Brunello di Montalcino Riserva “Poggio all Oro” (Montalcino’s Hill of Gold) 2004, 2006, and 2007. Overall impression: careful selection and painful attention to detail result in an astounding range of age-worthy Brunello wines.

Simone Horgan-Furlong is the charmingly elegant dynamo and co-CEO at Leeuwin Estate. The winery’s Chardonnays are widely considered to be Australia’s finest, and the Cabernets among Western Australia’s most sought-after reds. Some of the lowest yields in Australia and a near-perfect microclimate lie at the root of this estate’s success. According to Simone, “here on the western edge of the continent, where the temperate Indian Ocean meets the cold Southern Ocean, magic happens.” A vertical tasting of her family’s Art Series Chardonnay was the highlight of her animated presentation.

Closing out the day was a classic pairing of Champagne and caviar: Graham Gaspard’s farm-reared Black River Caviar and Taittinger 2006 Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs (10-years on lees – grapefruit, tension, salinity). What an utterly fascinating and wildly indulgent tasting! One of the truly great prestige cuvées together with a pioneering Southern Hemisphere caviar producer. Four different malossol (little salt) caviars from Uruguay’s Alcade Family in the Rio Negro region were on offer: Siberian (jet black, fine saltiness, creamy finish), Oscietra ‘Royale’ (light green, more savoury than salty), Oscietra ‘Master Reserve’ (light greenish-brown, fresh, precise, great flavour intensity), Kaluga Hybrid (light brown, saltier, intense marine flavour). Altogether a wonderful learning experience, particularly for the chance to try this New World generation of caviars which represent the future for this rare, luxury product.

When one thinks about Austrian wines and its famous Grüner Veltliner and Riesling producers, none are more iconic than Weingut Bründlmayer, one of the world’s top white wine producers. The estate’s engaging Thomas Klinger explained Austria’s classification system of 2010 with a range of shockingly good ‘Erste Lage’ or ‘First Growth’ wines, all Reserve wines from the estate’s most pedigreed vineyard sites in the Kamptal appellation (DAC). First up a mini-vertical of Langenloiser Käferberg Grüner Veltliner (2015, 2014, 2013, and 2011), then turning to their top Riesling ‘Erste Lage’, Zöbinger Heiligenstein, the Bründlmayer ‘Grand Cru’ (2015, 2014, 2008, 2003, and 2001). Overall impression: finesse-driven, powerful, dry wines that are subtle and restrained in their youth, but can attain an almost biblical age.

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The extraordinary tasting program concluded with two legendary family wineries from France.

Exciting things are happening at Paul Jaboulet Aîné where the new owners, the Frey family of Bordeaux’s Château La Lagune, are restoring this historic house to its former iconic status. Under the watchful eyes of oenologist Caroline Frey, innovation rules: organic conversion, biodiversity, low yields, concrete eggs, etc. Export Director Arnaud Trouvé’s presentation was ‘All About the North’ – the northern Rhône that is. Two powerful Marsanne-Roussane Hermitage blends led the way to a La Chapelle masterclass. At only 60 hectares, the south-facing Hermitage appellation on the east bank of the Rhône is tiny but with an enormous reputation. Jaboulet’s ‘La Chapelle’ bottlings are among the most collectible. Made exclusively from vines aged 60-100 years old, and with ridiculously low yields, the wine is typically blended from a mosaic of different parcels and soils, and is considered at its peak after 20 years. Arnaud treated us to a memorable vertical tasting of vintages 2013, 2005, 2003, 1998, and 1985. Overall impression: slow to mature, more savoury than sweet.

Château Angélus – for the past eight generations, Château Angélus has been the work and passion of the de Boüard de Laforest family. Co-proprietor Jean-Bernard Granié delivered a compelling study of the Saint-Émilion appellation, highlighted by a vertical tasting comprising the 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2006 vintages. In addition, Jean-Bernard shed light on some of the viticultural changes that have allowed Bordeaux vintners to make more consistently good wines in every year, virtually eliminating “bad wine” altogether, namely: more severe selection (pre-1970s “everything was picked and often chaptalized”), green harvesting, shoot thinning, and lower yields. Therefore, the noticeable shift in Bordeaux style and quality may not be entirely due to Robert Parker and Michel Rolland after all!?

In addition to the seven seminar tastings, the weekend packed in several wine-paired meals featuring many other exciting and top-level wines. Lunches and dinners were expertly prepared by the Post Hotel’s executive chef, Hans Sauter, and his culinary brigade.  Of special note, the concluding Gala Dinner featuring these seven flagship wines:

Taittinger Brut Préstige Champagne Rosé

Weingut Brűndlmayer 2012 Grűner Veltliner Langenloiser Käferberg Reserve, Kamptal

Leeuwin Estate 2012 Art Series Chardonnay, Margaret River

Domaine Louis Latour 2010 Corton Grand Cru

Château Corton Grancey Castello Banfi 2007 Summus, Tuscany

Paul Jaboulet Aîné 2006 Hermitage La Chapelle, Rhône Valley (from magnum)

2010 Château Bellevue Grand Cru Classé, St. Émilion

Even though some of the tastings took place right after breakfast, all of us were keen to partake, which reminded me of a favourite response when asked about the best time to drink wine: “You have the difficult choice between breakfast and dinner.” For this audience, with this caliber of wines, the answer was clearly anytime.

Final tally: 3 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 3 dinners, more than 120 wines poured from 900+ bottles into more than 12,000 hand-polished glasses, and $115,000 raised for Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta.  Net proceeds from the Wine Summit have raised more than $935,000 since the inception of this annual extravaganza of wine appreciation and education. Those donations would not be possible without the generosity of the many vintners who have shared their wines and their time over the years.

All the lucky attendees salute George and André Schwarz, not only for their exceptional hospitality, but their spirit of generosity!

Volcanic Wines in British Columbia and Abroad

This is part two in an introduction to volcanic wines by guest writer John Szabo, MS. Read part one here. 

Where to Find Volcanic Wines

There are many volcanic wine regions around the world, some obvious, others less so. Mount Etna on Sicily’s northeastern corner, for example, is regularly in the news as Europe’s most active volcano, and the occasionally perilous home to vines for the last 3000 years. Today, about a hundred winemakers are actively producing Etna Rosso and Bianco, among Italy’s hottest wines these days.

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Mount Etna, Italy
Photo by John Szabo, MS

Much of Campania on Italy’s mainland is likewise obviously volcanic, looming under the shadow of the world’s most famous, and dangerous, volcano, Mt. Vesuvius, as well as the nearby Campi Flegrei, or “Fields of Fire”, on the other side of Naples. Many of southern Italy’s finest reds and whites grow here in soils heavily laced with volcanic ash from countless eruptions. Seek out aglianico-based reds from the Taurasi appellation, and star whites Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino, among Italy’s most ageworthy.

The aerial view of Santorini leaves little doubt of this Greek island’s volcanic underpinnings, blown into a sliver over successive cataclysmic eruptions. Santorini’s white wines from the ancient assyrtiko grape are considered Greece’s most distinctive, the very definition of salt, grit and power, eked out of parched volcanic pumice under the hot Aegean sun.

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Kál Basin, Hungary
 Photo by John Szabo, MS

Hungary may not leap to mind for either wine or volcanoes, yet this small central European country has plenty of both. But while the volcanoes are long extinct, the wine industry has been heating up since the end of communism in the early 1990s. Tokaj, Badacsony and Somló are the names to look for, strikingly mineral dry white wines from various indigenous grapes, and lusciously sweet when named tokaji aszú.

Other wine regions are less uniformly volcanic, such as Soave near Verona in northern Italy. Here, garganega produces fragrant and finessed whites from vineyards on limestone, and more deeply coloured, dense and powerful wines from basalt soils – proof positive that soil matters.

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Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Photo by John Szabo, MS

Similarly, the mid-Atlantic isles of Macaronesia (Madeira, Canary Islands and the Azores), slices of Alsace and Germany, and swaths of Chile, northern California, Oregon and Washington, to name just a few of many more, each have their volcanic wine treasures to offer the world.

And In British Columbia, too…

British Columbia lies along the so-called Pacific Rim of Fire, a 40,000km stretch of hyperactive seismic and volcanic activity that runs around the Pacific basin from Patagonia to New Zealand. BC is home to hundreds of volcanoes, mostly extinct or dormant (49 have erupted in the last 10,000 years, making them technically dormant, not extinct), in addition to numerous hot springs, additional indicators of volcanic activity.

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Similkameen Valley, British Columbia
Photo Credit: Wines of British Columbia, WineBC.com

Soils derived from their various lavas sprinkle wine country, too, most notably in West Kelowna on the slopes of the 60 million year-old stratovolcano Mount Boucherie. The volcano’s namesake winery, as well as Volcanic Hills Winery have vineyards here. The Similkameen Valley, too, has volcanic underpinnings – the craggy Cascade Mountains that loom above the valley are peppered with volcanoes. For a spectacular example of columnar basalt, visit the Keremeos Columns Provincial Park just north of the town of Keremeos, where these striking skyscrapers of basalt can be seen. Or, simply taste one of the crunchy, salty Similkameen wines for a more visceral volcanic experience.

I’d say it’s time to add the word “volcanic” to your wine vocabulary.

Master Sommelier John Szabo is the Author of Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power, published in October 2016. When not drinking the essence of lava, he writes for WineAlign.com, or can be spotted somewhere around the world researching his next book project.

What’s a Volcanic Wine?

We’re thrilled to welcome our first guest writer to Pressing Matters, John Szabo, MS. His excellent book, Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power, recently won the André Simon Book Award in the drinks category. This is part one of his two-part introduction to volcanic wines. 

What’s a Volcanic Wine?

You’ve heard of organic wine, and maybe even of biodynamic wine or ‘natural’ wine. But volcanic wine? With the wine industry evermore preoccupied with uniqueness, there’s a new, but very ancient fascination: wines grown on or near volcanoes, or more properly, on soils derived from parent volcanic material.

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Mount Pico, Azores. 
Photo by John Szabo, MS

Although volcanic soils account for only about 1% of the world’s land surface, grapes occupy a disproportionate share. That’s because these soils in general, despite wide variation even within the category, have many useful properties that make them especially suited for high quality wine.

So What’s The Secret to Quality?

For one, young volcanic “soils” formed on recent lavas are often more rock than soil – they haven’t had time to weather into water-retentive clays – and thus hold little moisture. It’s well established that less water favours higher grape quality. Volcanic ash and sand likewise drain readily, and by the nature of where they form, volcanic soils are often on hillsides where water runs off.

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The diversity of volcanic rocks on Santorini. 
Photo by John Szabo, MS

Secondly, despite their reputation, the best volcanic soils for wine growing are infertile. Although lavas contain generous amounts of nutrients (and a wider range of minerals than most other rock types), they’re not readily available. That’s because these elements must first be weathered into available form, and then be dissolved in water to be taken up by roots. But water, as we’ve just learned, is not often available, and minimally weathered soils/rocks release precious few nutrients.

Thus vines get a broad diet, but in small quantities (low fertility but without particular deficiencies), which triggers them to focus on ripening fruit rather than growing shoots and leaves. Semi-parched, semi-starved vines produce less fruit, smaller bunches, thicker grape skins (where most aromas and flavours are stored), and result in more concentrated, structured, age worthy and complex wines.

The Common Elements

Styles vary given the range of grape varieties and climates, and the precise makeup of soils, not to mention variable winemaking approaches. But there are some recurring features: a mouth-watering quality, more savoury than fruity flavours, and a density that can only come from genuine extract. Volcanic wines can be gritty, salty, powerful, maybe even unpleasant to some, but distinctive.

Volcanic Wines and Minerality

“Mineral” is also a term frequently applied to volcanic wines (though by no means exclusively), a term that raises some eyebrows. Geologists will tell you than minerals have no taste or flavour (with the notable exception of sulphur compounds), and that whatever sensation being described as mineral is really caused by odorous organic compounds. This is undoubtedly true. But aside from the metaphoric use of the term (which I’m comfortable with), I’d like to propose a tighter definition, more scientifically verifiable.

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Pico vineyards in the Lajido de Criança Velha UNESCO zone. 
Photo by John Szabo, MS

In my world, minerality is a texture, gently astringent, and more importantly, a taste sensation, not an aroma or flavor. More specifically it’s a salty taste sensation. I speculate, but the palpable salty taste of certain wines leads me to the hypothesis that there are measureable quantities of various mineral salts in wine. Sometimes it’s just garden-variety sodium chloride from seaside vineyards (well established scientifically). But salty wines from inland vineyards lead to the tempting possibility of other types of salts present in wines, i.e. potassium, calcium, and magnesium salts, and other possibilities.

Furthermore, certain acids have a salty taste (they’re called acid salts), in addition to the tingling sensation they cause, and wines contain several types of acids. While salt compounds usually precipitate out of solution during winemaking (like potassium bitartrate or cream of tartar), some wines are just too salty to not contain some residual. But to be clear, I don’t know of anyone who has measured this, or even if it’s chemically possible.

Related to minerality and other sensations in wine not linked exclusively to climate, grape variety and winemaking technique, a few other areas of investigation I’d like to propose include the electrical conductivity of wine (salty water is a good conductor of electricity, so perhaps “mineral” wines may be super conductors). And even further out there, magnetic resonance (volcanic rocks have higher values compared to many other types of rock). If all this seems to complex to contemplate, just keep using the term mineral in a metaphoric sense and nobody can argue with you.

Master Sommelier John Szabo is the Author of Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power, published in October 2016. When not drinking the essence of lava, he writes for WineAlign.com, or can be spotted somewhere around the world researching his next book project.

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Photo Gallery: Spring Racking

We’re currently racking all of our 2016 barrels for the first time. The purpose of this racking is to take the wine off its gross lees – a combination of spent yeast cells and grape solids – barrel-by-barrel.

Racking: moving wine from one vessel to another

Karin transfers the wine from barrel to a temporary tank, cleans the barrel, and then moves the wine back to the same barrel. This approach is more time consuming, but allows us to evaluate the sensory profile of each individual barrel. We can then refine our selection of barrels – whether by cooperage, grain tightness, or toast level – for the next vintage.

Ingo on Tony and Kasey’s Best of Food & Wine

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Ingo was recently featured on Tony and Kasey’s Best of Food & Wine. The full interview is available on their website. Below are some edited excerpts from their conversation:

 

On joining Phantom Creek Estates

On Phantom Creek Vineyard

On Olivier Humbrecht MW

On biodynamics

On our blog, Pressing Matters

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