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Chapter 1: Legacy

Phantom Creek Vineyard has been consistently recognized for producing some of the best red wines in Canada. 

It was established in 1996 by Richard Cleave, a true pioneer in the BC wine industry and one of the most respected growers in the Okanagan Valley.

It has been named one of the “Top 10 Single Vineyards Around the World” by Wine Access Magazine, and has won “Best Wine in Canada” on three different occasions.

Just like great wines, Phantom Creek consists of many layers that have developed over time.

The vineyard’s rich history began over ten thousand years ago. As the last of the glaciers retreated from what is now the Okanagan Valley, they left behind massive deposits of sand, gravel and sediment and ephemeral ‘creeks’ that inspired the name Phantom Creek Estates. This perfect confluence of time, soil and sun gave birth to a truly unique vineyard.

Today, there are over 10,000 planted acres in British Columbia.  Almost half of that acreage (4,500 acres) were planted by Richard Cleave.

When Richard found the raw, untouched site that later would become Phantom Creek Vineyard, he saw what no one else could have ever known was there. He took all his years of experience and passion and focused it solely on producing the best grapes possible from this remarkable grape growing region. This tiny 10-acre site would change the way people viewed wines from British Columbia and Canada. They would become the best wines in the country.

Exceptional, unique, almost magical. Phantom Creek Vineyard is truly a paradise.

Welcome to Phantom Creek Estates: Trailer

Chapter 1: Legacy

Watch Chapter 2

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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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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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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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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