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Category Archives: Phantom Creek

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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

 

Passing the MW Practical Exam

Phantom Creek is thrilled to share that both Winemaker Ross Wise and Marketing Manager Geoffrey Moss have passed Stage 2 of the Masters of Wine study program, and are now one step away from becoming Masters of Wine.

What does it take to pass the MW practical exam? The short answer: a lot of work.

The practical exam features three 12-wine blind tastings, in which candidates provide written answers to questions on grape variety, origin, winemaking, quality, style, and more. This year’s exam featured a diverse selection of wines that ranged from 1999 Dom Pérignon to Yellowtail Chardonnay.

To state the obvious, it is necessary to taste broadly. This means not only tasting often, but also drawing from a range of price points and styles. Any wine that is commercially available is fair game, from everyday sippers to classics like top shelf Bordeaux and Burgundy. It is important to understand and recognize quality – and that means being able to differentiate the exceptional from the ordinary.

The practical exam is about more than just your palate. There is also the “theory of the practical.” You have to know the world of wine inside and out. At a rudimentary level, this means knowing your regions and appellations. You do not want to place Pouilly-Fumé in Burgundy or Pouilly-Fuissé in the Loire. That would be a howler – or a particularly outrageous mistake that would undermine the examiner’s confidence that you are indeed a “master.”

You must also be able to accurately describe the differences between appellations. For example, what are the sensory differences between the communes of the Medoc, from St. Julien to St. Estephe to Pauillac to Margaux? Similar to a lawyer proving their case, you must prove why that 2005 Chateau Rauzan-Segla could only come from Margaux and no other commune. And, of course, you have to know your vintages. How is the 2005 vintage tasting? Is it ready to drink or will it continue to improve in bottle?

It is not essential to get every detail correct every time, but rather to demonstrate that you have tasted the wine accurately. The expectation for wines from less common regions or varieties is to show an understanding of what is in the glass and its place in the larger world of wine. So, you don’t have to zero-in on that Xinomavro from Naoussa, Greece (although it is a nice feather in your cap if you do). But you should be able to describe its quality, style, and commercial potential. For example, where could it be sold and who would buy it?

In the 6+ months leading up to the exam, Ross and I would taste 4-5 days per week. We would each bring a flight of wines, taste, and write full answers under timed conditions (just over 11 minutes per wine). The answers would then go up on a TV screen to review and critique. There was no hiding; if we couldn’t convince one another, then we weren’t going to convince the examiner. It required a substantial amount of time – and wine.

But it’s all worth it now. Now, we’ll move onto the third and final stage of the MW program, the research paper.

 

Renaming a Historic Vineyard

We always knew we had to change the name of Sundial Vineyard. It had nothing to do with the name itself, but, well, lawyers. After careful consideration, we feel it is only right to respect the vineyard’s rich history by renaming it to Becker Vineyard.

The 52-acre vineyard was initially developed in 1977 as part of the pioneering Becker Project, which demonstrated that traditional European grape varieties could thrive in British Columbia. Led by renowned viticulturist Helmut Becker, chief of the Geisenheim Institute in Germany, the Becker Project trialed more than thirty different grape varieties over eight years. Many of these varieties became and continue to be the Okanagan’s backbone, including Riesling. During a time when the Okanagan was dominated by lesser labrusca and hybrid varieties, the Becker Project spearheaded the industry’s transition to high quality vinifera varieties.

Working by hand on Becker Vineyard on the Black Sage Bech

Becker Vineyard’s potential for late ripening red varieties was later identified by Harry McWatters in 1993. That year, the property was predominantly planted to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc by Richard Cleave. This would help to change the winegrowing philosophy of the South Okanagan, and proved that Cabernet family varieties could excel here.

Tucked up against the Okanagan Highland mountains, the steeply sloped topography of Becker Vineyard means it basks in the Okanagan Desert’s afternoon sun while also capturing the last rays of sunset. The vineyard’s higher elevation, on the upper terrace of the Black Sage Bench, results in a more gradual growing season in comparison to Phantom Creek Vineyard. The wines are richly concentrated, but maintain a sense of vibrancy and freshness.

We can’t wait to share our first vintage of single vineyard wines from the historic Becker Vineyard with you. Join the wait list for our wine club by clicking here.

A Journey Continues

Acclaimed Canadian wine writer Anthony Gismondi recently revisited Phantom Creek to see first hand the latest progress at the winery. With a camera crew in tow, Anthony toured our newly acquired vineyard on the Golden Mile Bench as well as the burgeoning construction site. In the cellar, he enthusiastically tasted “the impressive pinot gris and…the much vaunted syrah from the original Phantom Creek Vineyard site on Black Sage Road.” The stunning footage is now available to watch here:

 

 

Read Anthony’s full article at Gismondi on Wine.

Olivier Humbrecht MW joins Phantom Creek

We are pleased to announce a long-term collaboration with Olivier Humbrecht MW of Alsace’s Domaine Zind-Humbrecht. Phantom Creek is Olivier’s first and only winery consulting project.

Olivier Humbrecht, France’s first Master of Wine, is the owner and winemaker of Domaine Zind-Humbrecht. The renowned estate has been in his family since 1620, and today is one of the world’s leading Pinot Gris and Riesling producers. Olivier initiated the winery’s transition to organic and biodynamic practices in 1997. He is now the President of Biodyvin, a prestigious biodynamic certifying body based in Europe.

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As we expand our portfolio to include Pinot Gris and Riesling, two of British Columbia’s signature grape varieties, Olivier will be instrumental in helping to select and develop vineyard sites that have the potential for excellence.

“Having visited three times already, I know the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys are capable of producing exceptional Pinot Gris and Riesling with great vineyard character,” said Humbrecht. “With the ambition of ownership and the skilled team at Phantom Creek, I am enthusiastic about what we can achieve.”

Working closely with Winemaker Ross Wise, Olivier will have an integral role in Phantom Creek’s white winemaking program. Our state of the art winery, including an Alsatian inspired foudre room, was designed with Olivier’s input.

Olivier will also guide our transition to organic and biodynamic farming practices. Our 67 acres of estate vineyards on the Black Sage Bench, including the historic Phantom Creek and Sundial Vineyards, have been farmed according to organic practices since 2017.

“We believe organic and biodynamic farming will result in the highest quality fruit from our estate vineyards,” said Ross Wise. “As the authority on biodynamic farming, Olivier is an indispensable source of knowledge.”

Our inaugural wines will be released in Spring 2019, coinciding with the opening of the winery.

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:

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

Introducing Phantom Creek Estates

Phantom Creek Estates has been over two years in the making.

The journey began with the Bai family’s vision to build one of the leading wineries in Canada. Their search took them to the Black Sage Bench with the acquisition of three vineyards, including the historic Phantom Creek and Sundial Vineyards. The estate currently grows predominantly Bordeaux reds and Syrah.

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A new state of the art winery, designed by Napa firm Backen Gillam Kroeger, will be built on the Sundial Vineyard property beginning in Spring 2017. The winery is projected to open in Spring 2019. The first vintage, now maturing in barrel, was made in a temporary facility on the property in 2016.

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Phantom Creek Estates is led by President Ingo Grady. He is joined by Winemaker Ross Wise, Vineyard Manager John Pires, and Marketing Manager Geoffrey Moss. The team works closely with James Cluer MW, Project Strategist, as well as consulting winemaker Annie Vawter and viticulturist Cameron Vawter.

Be sure to follow this page as we launch Pressing Matters: A Blog by Phantom Creek Estates. The blog is our opportunity to share what’s happening at Phantom Creek and the world of wine at large. With contributions from the entire team, we hope you’ll join in with your own thoughts or questions.

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