Tag Archives: Vineyard

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

Phantom Creek In the News: June 2019

A lot has been happening at Phantom Creek Estates lately. Construction of our Hospitality Center continues and nears completion, our freshly planted Evernden Spring Vineyard begins to grow, and our wines continue to generate buzz in the wine world. We have collected some recent articles and publications and are excited to share them.

Jancis Robinson at the Canada House tasting in London

After our visit to London and the Canada House Tasting, wine critic Jancis Robinson awarded our Pinot Gris the highest score for BC white wines, which was 17 out of 20. Here are some of her notes on our wines:

2017 Pinot Gris – 17/20: I’m surprised that there has not been more Pinot Gris shown in this tasting. This one is so recognisably Alsace influenced! A little residual sugar and real toasty breadth on the palate. Yet thoroughly broachable and satisfying already. Food friendly. Brighter fruit than many Alsace examples. Peachy but not fat. 13%. Drink 2019-2022.

2017 Riesling – 15++/20: Olivier Humbrecht is consulting – both visiting and distantly. Pretty much all stainless steel whereas Olivier wants to introduce foudres. New winemaker from Carrick, Central Otago is arriving any minute. This is really pretty simple as a Riesling so I’m sure Olivier will beef it up a bit. Good chewiness on the end. But the flavours seem a little too reined in. Austere in the extreme. 12%. Drink 2020-2023.

2016 Syrah – 16.5/20: Really strong sage notes on the nose. Rather more complex nose than some but not that distinctively varietal. Certainly fully ripe but with fresh acidity. A good drink. 14.5%. Drink 2019-2023.

2016 Becker Vineyard Cuv̩e Р16.5/20: Originally planted to German varieties by Helmut Becker in the 1970s and converted to the three Bordeaux red wine grapes in the 1990s. 39% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon. Inky, silky, polished, glamorous red. With a touch of sage. Pretty exciting by any measure. Softer than the Phantom Creek Vineyard. 14.5%. Drink 2019-2023.

2016 Phantom Creek Vineyard Cuv̩e Р16.5/20: 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Petit Verdot, 15% Malbec, 8% Syrah, 8% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot. Deep purplish crimson. Six different varieties and a little savoury undertow thanks to the 8% Syrah. Interesting wine. Well made. Very slightly sweet overall. 14.5%. Drink 2020-2025.

Click here to order the 17 point Pinot Gris

John Schreiner on Wine

Esteemed wine critic John Schreiner recently published an article in which he writes of his experience with our wines. He writes that Phantom Creek Owner, Bai Jinping, “set out to make outstanding wines in Canada,” and that “he certainly succeeded.” He continues to write about the history and future of Phantom Creek Estates, and provides his notes and scores on fives of our wines:  

2017 Pinot Gris – 92 points: The texture is luscious. The wine beings with aromas of pear and a hint of oak. On the palate, there are flavors of ripe pear and apple with a touch of spice on the lingering finish.

2017 Riesling – 91 points: This wine is crisp and dry, with lime on the nose and palate and with a spine of minerality.

2016 Becker Vineyard Cuv̩e Р93 points: The wine has aromas of black cherry and cassis that are echoed on the palate. The long ripe tannins give the wine a generous mouthfeel and a lingering finish.

2016 Phantom Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – 95 points: An excellent vintage has produced an exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon, with aromas of cherry, black currant, blueberry and vanilla; all of that is echoed on the palate. This wine, aged 18 months in French oak, is complex, with a polished texture. 95.

2016 Phantom Creek Vineyard Cuv̩e Р96 points: This is a bold, rich wine with aromas and flavors of cherry, black current, plum and vanilla. It was aged 18 months in French oak. Long ripe tannins support the opulent texture and the persistent finish of this delicious wine. 96.

Click here to find the full review: https://johnschreiner.blogspot.com/2019/06/phantom-creek-releases-its-first-wines.html

Click here to order the 96 point Phantom Creek Cuvee

Western Living – June, 2019 Issue

In the June, 2019 issue of Western Living published an article on Phantom Creek Estates. Titled ‘Reach for the Top’, the two page spread covers the inception and execution of Phantom Creek Estates.

Click here to find the full article (page 46): https://issuu.com/canadawidemedia/docs/wl_june2019_lr_bc

Chris Boiling at Canopy

Chris Boiling covers the architecture, the team, the winemaking, the vineyards, and wines of Phantom Creek Estates in this article. Labeling it as “one of the most ambitious winery developments in Canada,” Boiling gives an in-depth look at our history, growth, and where we are currently.

As for the wines, he writes that:

“Phantom Creek focuses on single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Alsatian whites and the Okanagan’s benchmark varieties of Viognier and Syrah. Prices range from $30 to $100 a bottle. Star wines include the 2016 Phantom Creek Vineyards Cuvée ($100) and the 2016 Phantom Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($80), blended from three different clones to achieve complexity and depth. The 2016 Phantom Creek Vineyards Syrah ($75) is sourced from 1.2 acres which helped to establish the Okanagan as a source for Syrah with savoury complexity.”

Click here to find the full article: https://www.internationalwinechallenge.com/Canopy-Articles/phantom-winery-becomes-a-reality.html

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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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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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Pruning 101

Pruning_3.jpg

Pruning on a gorgeous spring day with the Okanagan Highland foothills in the distance.

So, why do we prune? To state the obvious, it’s important to remember that a grapevine is a vine. When you find grapevines in nature – and you do throughout Canada and the United States – they’re often crawling up fencing, houses, or trees. This is not what you see when you drive past a vineyard.

Left on its own, a vine will continually grow. This is problematic in a vineyard for a number of reasons. For example, vines will begin to shade one another, resulting in uneven fruit ripeness. Pruning is one of the means by which to limit the growth of the vine.

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Ernesto removing last year’s canes, which will be tilled into the vineyard.

When we prune, we’re removing much of the growth from the previous year as well as establishing how the vine will grow in the upcoming season. This is critical because it is the first chance to set the balance and yield of each vine. On a vine-by-vine basis, we’re determining how many buds to retain, which will determine how much fruit is produced.

To Cane or Spur Prune

Vines are typically pruned in two different ways: cane or spur pruning. The former keeps one or two canes from the previous year, which are tied down to the trellis wire.

Cane Pruning

Cane pruning

Spur pruning retains short canes, or spurs, on older wood called a cordon.

Spur Pruning

Spur pruning

At Phantom Creek, we typically use cane pruning. This is more laborious and time consuming, however we believe it is ultimately better for the health of the vine. With fewer cutting wounds and less old wood, there is reduced potential for disease or virus. Grapevines are similar to people in a lot of ways. Cane pruning also helps to keep yields low and vines in balance.

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Ignacio cane pruning Block 1E, Cabernet Sauvignon, on Sundial Vineyard. Our vineyard team uses electric pruners to save time and prevent repetitive strain injury.

However, we’re not dogmatic. Some vines we may decide are best spur pruned for the upcoming growing season. We are also testing a spur pruning trial on a block of Syrah on Sundial Vineyard. This trial is based on our Vineyard Manager John’s recent visit to Côte Rotie, where he saw winegrowers retaining fewer spurs closer to the head of the trunk. The thought is that this technique may promote more balanced fruit ripeness.

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A spur pruned Cabernet Sauvignon vine on Phantom Creek Vineyard.

As we finish pruning both Phantom Creek and Sundial Vineyards, it is a sign that spring is (finally) approaching. And we can look forward to budbreak and the start of the growing season in the weeks to come.

Have questions about pruning? Reach out to us on Twitter (@phantomcreekest) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/PCEWine).

EN FR ZH-TW JA