Northwest Food and Drink – Connie Adams – August 2022
Penticton, Okanagan Valley
Phantom Creek Estates
Phantom Creek Estates celebrated the 25th anniversary of Phantom Creek Vineyard in July 2022. The vineyard was established in 1996 by viticulturist Richard Cleave. This vineyard is known for producing some of the best red wines in Canada from the lower terrace of Black Sage Bench, sitting just above the valley floor giving it afternoon sun. It is now planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Merlot.
Going back a bit further, the viticulturist Helmut Becker began a project growing over 30 different Germanic white grape varietals at what is now Becker Vineyard to show that traditional European grape vines could survive in B.C. As we know now, it worked. In 1993, Becker Vineyard was replanted to show the potential for late-ripening Bordeaux red grapes. That also worked. Becker is now planted with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Carménère, and Syrah.
In 2005, Kobau Vineyard was planted and now boasts Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Viognier, and Syrah. Located in B.C.’s first official sub-appellation, Golden Mile Beach, wines from this vineyard have a minerality that comes from the gravelly soils paired with morning sun and afternoon shade.
In 2016, Richter Bai purchased Becker and Phantom Creek Vineyards, followed by Kobau Vineyard in 2017. In 2018, Phantom Creek Estates entered into a long-term collaboration with Olivier Humbrecht, Frances’s first Master of Wine. He is the owner and winemaker of Domaine Zind-Humbrecht in Alsace, an estate that has been in his family since 1620. It is now of the world’s leading producers of Pinot Gris and Riesling. He moved his winery to organic and biodynamic practices in 1997. He is part of Phantom Creek’s move to add Pinot Gris and Riesling to its portfolio. Influenced by Humbrecht and having a vision of building a winery that will be here for 100 years, Bai began transitioning the vineyards to organic practices. Kobau became certified organic in 2020, joined by Phantom Creek in 2022. Becker is also certified organic. Evernden Springs Vineyard in nearby Similkameen Valley, planted after Bai purchased it, added a fourth vineyard, which is also certified organic.
Mark Beringer, the Director of Winemaking, is the great-great grandson of Beringer Vineyards’ founding brother Jacob Beringer. After getting his Enology degree from California State University in Fresno, he worked at Benziger in Sonoma in the cellars, then moved to Duckhorn in 1992, starting as Enologist and working his way up to VP of Winemaking. In 2009, he went to Artesa as VP and Winemaker, returning to Beringer Vineyards in 2015 before coming to Phantom Creek Estates in late July 2021.
Chef Alessa Valdez helms the kitchen at the Restaurant at Phantom Creek Estates. She took culinary arts in high school and has worked in Toronto at Buca Yorkville, Alobar, Oliver & Bonacini’s Auberge de Pommiere and Canoe, and Gusto 101. She worked in the kitchen at Phantom Creek before being promoted to Chef, and works closely with the winemakers to ensure dishes work with Phantom Creek wines, using locally grown ingredients.
Menu items all have interesting twists, like the Tanto Latte Burrata with apple, green apricot chutney, sunflower seed, pea shoots, and bee pollen. The suggested paring is a 2019 Viognier. 63 Acres Beef Tartare included pickled shimeji, caperberry, xo yolk caramel mushroom dust, and tendon chips. Suggested pairing is the Petit Cuvee. Currently her food can be enjoyed by everyone for lunch in the restaurant, and for private events in private rooms, patios, and the Founder’s Cellar.
The winery itself is quite impressive, designed by Napa firm Backen Gillam Kroeger. 78,000 square feet hold a wine cellar, tasting room, restaurant, amphitheater, production area beneath the winery, picnic areas, private rooms, gift shop/retail wine sales, members-only areas, and more. Tours can be booked online. Driving up to the winery is a moment to be savored with landscaping surrounding the buildings and two large angels hovering over as you enter the grounds. If you’re looking for a wine experience that is more than just a tasting and you love ‘fabulous’, Phantom Creek Estates should be on your must-visit list.
4315 Black Sage Rd
Oliver, British Columbia
To read the full article with images: Northwest Food and Drink