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Category Archives: Phantom Creek

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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 Cuvée – 16.5/20: 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 Cuvée – 16.5/20: 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 Cuvée – 93 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 Cuvée – 96 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: Ben King

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, Ben?

I was born and raised right here in the Okanagan Valley, though a bit more Northward than Oliver.  I grew up in Coldstream, a small town beside Vernon. 

What do you love most about the Okanagan?

The abundance and variation of everything. Our mountains, lakes, orchards, forests, vineyards, and cities are so different from each other. It is beautiful and exciting to explore everything.  I have only been away from the valley for a year at the longest and I can’t seem to stay away, it is too nice here.

How did you first hear about Phantom Creek?

I was vaguely aware of the project when Phantom Creek and Becker Vineyards were purchased, and construction started on the new winery.  I mainly found out about it as I was looking for a new jump in my viticulture career.

What is your position at Phantom Creek?

Vineyard Manager of our Kobau property on the Golden Mile Bench.

What inspired you to get into this line of work?

I have always loved working outdoors and grew up working with my father in the woodlands in the Okanagan/Thompson as he worked for the forestry company, Tolko, for the last 30 years.  After completing my degree in 2015, I found agriculture to be especially interesting, focused on it for my graduation project, and chose to move into viticulture as an exciting new industry to explore.

After a hard day of work, what’s your drink of choice?

Bourbon in the winter, wine in the spring and fall, and a craft beer in the summer.

Rolling Stones or Beatles?

Tough Choice, overall likely the Rolling Stones, but there are some killer Beatles classics.

What inspired your haircut?

I wanted a new look soon after moving to the South Okanagan and I owe my haircut completely to Okannogin Barbers in Penticton. It is a joint creation of the owner, Peter, and myself.

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

The Fifth Element, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Bad Boys 2.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

My wife and I have been together since we were in high school.

How do you define success?

I define success through finding joy in your work and being able to take care of those you love.

Thanks Ben!

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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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Meet the Team: Melanie Rusch

None of what is happening at Phantom Creek Estates would be possible without the incredible team behind it. With our Meet the Team Series, we will be introducing the individuals who are working hard to make all of this possible.

Where were you born and raised, Melanie?

I was born and raised in Osoyoos – my Dad had a 10 acre orchard and my Mom was the Public Health nurse for the town.

What drew you to the Okanagan?

Well, I left when I graduated high school and spent about 15 years in academics. I moved around a fair amount, spending time in Vancouver, Montreal, Baltimore and San Diego.  I left academics in 2013 and worked as a Manager of Public Health with Island Health in Victoria, where I spent about 5 years before deciding to take the plunge, move home and try working in a winery.  I had developed an interest in wine about 10 years earlier while living in San Diego and took a few courses through UC Davis, completing an online certificate in winemaking 2016.

How did you first hear about Phantom Creek?

When I applied for the position – it was the first harvest job I applied for!  The write-up for the position sounded perfect – a small team, focused on quality wines, and a prerequisite love of good coffee.

What is your position at Phantom Creek?

Viticulture Technician

You’ve worked in both the cellar and vineyard at Phantom Creek, would you say that has benefited you in your current position?

Sure!  I mean, I’ve only being doing this for a year and a half, so its great that I’ve had an opportunity to see all aspects of the process, from pruning to bottling.  I still have a lot to learn, but its great to see how the wines progress when you have a good sense of where the grapes have come from and how they’ve grown.

What data is used when working in the Vineyard?

I’ve only been in the Technician position for the last few months, so part of my job is centralizing data we have and expanding what we collect as we move forward.  I’ve been collecting data on things like cluster weights at harvest and pruning weights to help determine vine vigour; I’ll be tracking pests and disease, as well as any nutritional issues, over the season, noting where, when and how much is present.  And I’ll be starting to measure leaf water potentials soon – this assess the stress level of the vines and helps to inform the irrigation needs of the vineyards.

I would love to get your perspective on Organic and Biodynamic farming, is it the future?

This is all very new to me, but I love that our approach here is sustainable, organic and biodynamic viticulture.  And it has been amazing to have Olivier Humbrecht to learn from! 

You took some wine courses at the prestigious UC Davis, what was that experience like?

I took the first couple of courses more for fun.  I enjoyed them so much that I decided to complete the online certificate program – essentially 5 courses covering everything from wine regions and label laws to wine production to viticulture.  The courses were really packed with information and could have been overwhelming, but the instructors were fabulous.  The courses were set up in a way that provided time to interact with both instructors and fellow students, encouraging a fun, informative, group learning atmosphere – not easy to do with online courses!

You have a PhD, tell us more about that.

Yup – I have a PhD in Epidemiology.  I studied Microbiology first, then completed a Master’s and a PhD in Epidemiology.  I worked in the field of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, focusing on sociocultural factors influencing disease and barriers to accessing health services.  I worked with a lot of inspiring and dedicated people over the years and wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I always felt a pull back to the Okanagan and the land.      

This would normally be a question about your favourite wines, but I hear you’re a beer fan. Any recommendations?

Ha – yes, you can blame that on my 6 years in San Diego – along with an interest in wine, I also developed a love of well-hopped IPAs.  I don’t like to pick favourites, but you can generally find some Four Winds in my fridge – pretty much everything they make gets two thumbs up from me.  And its great that we’ve got more and more local craft breweries here in the Okanagan!  

What would people be surprised to know about you?

Well, I’m not sure this would be surprising, but I will be trying my hand at growing hops this summer!

How do you define success?

To me, it’s a about continuing to learn and grow from our experiences and sharing that with others.

Thanks Melanie!

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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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Meet the Team: Wei Liu

None of what is happening at Phantom Creek Estates would be possible without the incredible team behind it. In the Meet the Team profiles, we will be sharing words and thoughts from the people behind the scenes making it all possible.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Tunli and raised in Pandian, China.

What drew you to the Okanagan?

I heard many good things about Canada over the years. And when I decided to move to Canada, we got a friend in this area, so it’s really a no-brainer.

What do you like most about living in Penticton?

Lakes, sunshine, fruit and nice food!

How did you first hear about Phantom Creek?

I applied to work here shortly after this project started. At that time there was only one employee here. So I learnt about the owner’s vision from the interviews.

What is your position at Phantom Creek?

I am a Translator & Admin Assistant.

What’s it been like following the progress at PCE over the last 3 years?

It’s surely exciting to see the pieces gradually coming together and taking shape, especially for a project in such scale.

Being on a small team, you’ve also helped work harvest and helped in the vineyard. What have those experiences been like?

Those are really special experiences, definitely helpful for my translation job, as I got more hands-on knowledge of the cellar and vineyard. Moreover, being on a small team, we were working really closely together, which helped build good team chemistry right from the start.

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

World wise, I really like the Pinot Gris from Domaine Zind-Humbrecht.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

Although my wife is also Chinese, we actually met and knew each other in UK during our studies.

How do you define success?

Success is the result of successive well-planned actions.

Thank you Wei!

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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.

Olivier-Humbrecht-Okanagan.jpg

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

IG_Mar311

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.

PCE_Arch_Plan

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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