Category Archives: Winemaking

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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!

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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 Chateau Petrus and Chateau 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 Francis 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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