Tag Archives: okanagan

Philippe Melka joins Phantom Creek

We’re thrilled to announce that internationally acclaimed Napa-based winemaking consultant Philippe Melka has joined the team at Phantom Creek Estates. Melka will serve as the consulting winemaker for Phantom Creek’s red wine program working closely with winemaker Francis Hutt.

“I look forward to working with Phillipe with the goal of crafting wines that are among the finest in the world, but that distinctly express the Okanagan Valley terroir,” said Santiago Cilley, CEO of Phantom Creek Estates.  

Philippe Melka has the rare combination of unparalleled talent and good fortune, his first job out of school, was at Bordeaux’s legendary Château Haut-Brion.  From there, he took a position with the venerated Moueix Company and was sent to Dominus Estate in Napa’s Yountville district to study soils in 1991.  Napa Valley soil proved a revelation for Melka.  He set out travelling, dividing time between soil study and winemaking at esteemed estates like Badia a Coltibuono in Chianti and Chittering Estate in Australia.  He returned to France in 1993 to further develop his expertise, this time at none other than Château Pétrus.

Melka has thus been trained and influenced by some of the most notable personalities in the wine business, including Jean-Bernard Delmas and Jean-Philippe Masclef from Haut-Brion, Christian Moueix and Jean-Claude Berrouet from Pétrus, Paul Draper from Ridge, Daniel Baron from Silver Oak, and globetrotting wine consultant Michel Rolland, with whom Melka continues to work on consulting projects.  In 1994, Melka returned to Napa full time, and for the past 20 years, he has served as winemaking consultant for some of Napa’s most highly regarded properties.

 â€œI’m impressed with the biodiversity of the Southern Okanagan, and the distinctiveness of the estate vineyard’s terroir. I am energized to be working with Phantom Creek Estates and share in the team’s commitment to producing outstanding wines from this remarkable new winery.” 

As consulting winemaker for the red wine program, Melka joins an elite team of wine legends at Phantom Creek Estates, including Alsace superstar Olivier Humbrecht MW, consulting winemaker for the white wine program and wine industry veteran Santiago Cilley as CEO.

August 10th: Pop-Up Wine Tasting

We are beyond excited to host a Pop-Up Wine Tasting in Becker Vineyard on August 10th. Join us anytime from 11am to 2pm and taste among the vines as we celebrate and pay tribute to this storied vineyard. We will be pouring a selection of our inaugural releases including our 2017 Pinot Gris, Jancis Robinson’s top scoring BC white wine this year.

See the video below for more details:

The event will be held below the winery in Becker Vineyard at 4315 Black Sage Road, Oliver.

We hope to see you there!

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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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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: 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: 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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