On my most recent trip to BC Wine Country, I included an excursion to the future site of the Phantom Creek winery, tasting rooms, restaurant, and Amphitheatre. The construction site high on a hilltop on Black Sage Road is as impressive as it is massive.
The winery has been designed for both world-class winemaking and immersive visitor experiences, including private tastings and experiential tours that conclude in a circular barrel cellar underneath an original Chihuly chandelier.
Production areas are housed underground to diminish the overall scale and to take advantage of cooling temperatures and three levels of gravity flow. Above them sits two levels of hospitality space, including a tasting room, restaurant, and private upper floors, accessible via a spiralling staircase that rises from the barrel aging cellar to the roof.
The project will not be completed until 2020 but it was interesting to view in the construction stage. When I was there in May the amphitheater was taking shape and the exterior patio next to the restaurant had just been completed. Most of the the exterior of the winery and tasting rooms were almost finished including the floor to ceiling sliding window panels.
Presently visits to the winery are by appointment only and do not include a site visit at this time. On an adjoining property there is the temporary winemaking facility. Temporary it may be but the equipment, barreling and winemaking methods are impressive.
Grapes are hand harvested with stems removed and hand sorted. By using an advanced camera analysis in a process involving bursts of air every berry is tested for ripeness resulting in a remarkable fruit loss of only 1 to 2%. Whites are whole cluster pressed with a 12-14 hour press cycle with a long wild fermentation of 10 months on lees. The 2017 barreled whites are turned three times a day. Bottling for the 2017 is projected to be July 31 and 2018 whites on January 20.
The 2017 Co-fermented Merlot blend is barrel in an oval cask and tank blended using bulldog nitronizing barrel by barrel then feed back into the same barrel. Using oak and stainless steel for the barrel fermentation. The oak toast is medium to medium light.
What I Tasted:
PINOT GRIS 2017
From two idyllic vineyard blocks in Okanagan Falls, the 2017 Pinot Gris was slowly fermented to dryness over seven months by indigenous yeasts for added depth and weight. A portion was also aged in traditional oak casks, providing additional richness and intriguing spice notes.
The Pinot Gris was light and fruity, tangy on the tongue with a very slight flavour of oak. I tasted apples, peaches, citrus. It was acidic although light it was delicious.
From a 10 year old parcel in East Kelowna, this dry Riesling was gradually fermented over four months by indigenous yeasts to bring additional richness and complexity. We used a combination of stainless steel and neutral barrels for maturation to preserve the natural purity inherent to Riesling.
Aromas of honey followed by diesel, slight scent of wet fur as it opens and diesel continues to open more. Peach flavours, complex yet light, very acidic, mild citrus with tart finish, delicate. Would pair well with lighter foods.
BECKER VINEYARD – CUVEE 2016
It has now been 24 years since Becker Vineyard was replanted to Cabernet family varieties, proving that late ripening red varieties could thrive in the South Okanagan. The 2016 Becker Vineyard Cuvée is a Merlot dominant blend, and is a true expression both of this historic vineyard and the 2016 vintage.
Scents of dark cherry and oak. A background of pleasnt musk, raisins, mushrooms. Showing more richness as it sits in the glass. Single vineyard with some tannins. A lighter, oaky taste with a flavour that grows as you continue to taste and it becomes more delectable and richer.
PHANTOM CREEK VINEYARD – CUVEE 2016
The Phantom Creek Vineyard Cuvée is our best expression of this acclaimed vineyard. In 2016, this Cuvée is a Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blend that captures the power and opulence of our namesake vineyard.
Sweet scents of cherries and plums. Smooth with tannins way in the background. Heavenly aromas, heavy flavours, rich, dark “to die for”.
The wines will eventually all be 100% estate grown, organic, and biodynamic. There are future plans for library wines. The circle on each wine label symbolizes the Upper Bench, Lower Bench and the Sun.
Phantom Creek Estates has certainly changed the landscape of the hamlet of Oliver. In a “if you build it they will come” assurance that this part of BC Wine Country is in for some big changes, more visitors, more recognition, wines of distinction and promises of an exceptional wine experience.