John Schreiner on wine: Phantom Creek Estates raises the bar.
johnschreiner.blogspot.com – John Schreiner – April 16, 2022
If ever a winery has raised the bar for south Okanagan wineries – and the bar is already high – it is Richter Bai’s Phantom Creek Estates. As the following notes indicate, the quality of the wines is impeccable. The scores are comparable to Anthony von Mandl’s CheckMate Artisanal Winery, which just happens to get some of its fruit from vineyards neighbouring Phantom Creek’s vineyards. Obviously, great terroir makes great wine. Phantom Creek, which made its first vintage in 2016, is now producing 5,000 casers a year, with considerable potential to grow. The winery has 81 acres of vineyards in production along with 113 acres under development, both in the Okanagan and the Similkameen Valleys.
Richter Bai, a Chinese-born entrepreneur, also rivals von Mandl in another way. For more than 20 years, the Mission Hill Family Estate in West Kelowna has been the destination winery in the north Okanagan, with its iconic bell tower, its artwork, its fine restaurant, its outdoor concerts and its extensive portfolio of fine wines.
Phantom Creek has emerged as the destination winery in the south. An imposing sculpture of Helios, the sun god to the ancient Greeks, which greets visitors, was created in Italian marble by Emily Young, an artist described as Britain’s “greatest living stone sculptor.” And that is just for starters. The VIP tasting room is dominated by a glorious Dale Chihuly glass sculpture. He is an American artist with a considerable following. The tasting room and the restaurant both have great views over the Okanagan Valley. There are summer markets on the estate. This year, the winery has scheduled 15 concerts.
The wines reviewed here are but a small sample of Phantom Creek’s extensive portfolio. What struck me about the red wines in this sample is that all are anchored on Cabernet Franc. That varietal did not have a significant profile for many years, largely because of the greater acreage of Merlot. CheckMate, as an example, settled on Merlot as its red varietal because far more of that is grown in its vineyards than either Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon. Phantom Creek’s vineyards appear to be growing a bigger range of varietals. In any event, it has never been Phantom Creek’s strategy to focus on just two varietals.
Here are notes on the wines.
Phantom Creek Riesling 2019 ($33 for 260 cases). This wine was fermented with indigenous yeast in the winery’s Stockinger (Austrian) oak casks. It is a delicious wine, with aromas of quince and citrus and flavours of citrus and guava. If anything, the exotic tropical fruit has submerged the varietal character of Riesling. But if you can live without the usual racy characters of Riesling, this wine will not disappoint. 91.
Phantom Creek Pinot Gris 2019 ($27.49 for 500 cases). This wine is listed in the BC Liquor Distribution Branch. This wine, which was aged 16 months in an oak foudre, presents in the glass with light golden hue. It begins with aromas of spicy oak mingled with pear and pineapple. On the palate, the wine has a rich honeyed texture with flavours of ripe pear and pineapple and a lingering finish. 93.
Phantom Creek Chardonnay 2020 ($48 for 16 barrels). This is a wine club exclusive. There is a superb balance of fruit and oak so that the fruit remains the star of this elegant wine. It has aromas and spicy flavours of butter, ripe peaches, apricots and tropical fruits. 93.
Phantom Creek Petite Cuvée No. 4 2019 ($37.99). This is listed in the BCLDB. The wine was aged 20 months in oak (43% new). The blend is 42% Cabernet Franc, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot and 1% Syrah. This wine begins with aromas of cassis and dark cherry. Bold and ripe on the palate, the wine delivers flavours of dark cherry, blackberry and chocolate. The long, ripe tannins give the wine a persistent finish. 94.
Phantom Creek Becker Vineyard Cuvée No. 27 2019 ($60 for 40 barrels). This vineyard is on the Black Sage Bench near the winery. This wine was aged 19 months in oak (50% new). The blend is 55% Cabernet Franc, 28% Merlot, 9% Carménère, 7% Syrah and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine begins with aromas of cassis and cherry. On the palate, there are flavours of blackberry, black cherry, black currant and dark chocolate. The firm texture suggests this wine is a candidate for cellaring. The finish lingers. 93.
Phantom Creek Kobau Vineyard Cuvée No. 15 2019 ($80 for 40 barrels). This is a wine from the Golden Mile and is a credit to the appellation. It was aged 20 months in oak (36% new). The blend is 69% Cabernet Franc, 27% Merlot and 4% Syrah. It is ripe and rich, with aromas of black cherry, black currant and spice. There are layers of flavour on the palate: black cherry, black currant, coffee and chocolate. The finish is very long. 95.
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