Wine News

Okanagan’s Newest Winery is BIG!

Phantom Creek Estate Winery opened in the spring

Phantom Creek Estate Winery located in Oliver has its sights set on opening in the spring of next year. On Black Sage Road where a multitude of other wineries operate nearby, they’re building a $100 million, 79,000 square foot facility with a two-storey hospitality centre, restaurant and outdoor amphitheatre, all positioned to take in a view south down the valley to Osoyoos Lake.

The winery revealed its latest construction update the other day on Instagram, and it’s huge. Big, of course, is not always a good thing, and can be an architectural challenge to make it fit to its surroundings, particularly in more serene settings.

Also, while the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen staff recently recommended the approval of the restaurant portion at the multi-million dollar winery, they had reservations about it being built on agricultural land, concerns that included:

  • “Potentially diminishing the link between the agricultural operation and the retail outlet by allowing a restaurant to exist as an independent commercial entity” – RDOS Planning supervisor Chris Garrish
  • The erosion of the agricultural land base due to larger structures and expanded parking
  • Impacts of more people, traffic, noise and trespass on adjacent farm operations (i.e. neighbour complaints)
  • Complaints and conflicts with other types of agriculture that may not fit with the “winery aesthetic”
  • Pressure for other, non-farm related amenities (i.e. meeting facilities, hotels, spas, etc…)
  • That such uses should be directed to the Town of Oliver as the commercial hub for the area

Nevertheless with construction moving forward, it’s the amphitheatre dug deep into the ground that caught my attention, as it will surely rival Mission Hill Winery’s own famed stepped grass concert seating in West Kelowna when it’s completed.

Incidentally, if you have not paid much attention to the Okanagan winery scene over the last few years, you may have missed Phantom Creek and Mission Hill duking it out. It began with Mission Hill blocking Phantom’s attempted purchase of Saddle Ridge Vineyard on Black Sage Road where Mission Hill exercised its right of first refusal. Phantom Creek then appointed Ingo Grady to be their president, a former 17 year director of wine education for the West Kelowna Winery. And now very recently, Mission Hill’s Von Mandl Family bought Road 13 Winery located next to a large plot of land on the Golden Mile Bench that Phantom Creek bought from CC Jentsch. Lots going on there.

In Phantom Creek’s Instagram post, they have asked for ideas on the very first opening act for the amphitheatre, and the replies ranged from Abba and Carly Rae Jepsen to a hologram of Tupac and Biggie – will there be a Coachellafication of the standard wine country concert circuit?

Make no mistake about the clientele the winery is after. This blinged-out ostentatious display is certain to attract a crowd to match. Phantom Creek president, Ingo Grady says the new winery will complement the Area 27 Formula One race track next door. This seemingly exclusive playground is not shy about its arriviste theme park goals and he foresees a significant number of the winery’s guests actually arriving in private jets (much of the winery’s marketing is focused south of the border). I however look forward to checking out the winery this spring in my weekend trio: Suzuki, cutoffs and flip-flops.

Architectural firm Backen, Gillam and Kroeger’s rendering of the new Phantom Creek Estate Winery.

Regarding the architecture, Backen, Gillam and Kroeger, a San Francisco and Napa firm of architects with a portfolio that includes 40 wineries, has designed Phantom Creek.

“We are building around and within the Time shell on the hill,” says John Taft, Backen, Gillam’s senior winery architect. “As you approach from Black Sage Road, you would come in from the south to the winery. You would come up through the vineyard. We are building on top of the hill, into the site to take advantage of the underground spaces which are best for barrels. We will build new on top. This is the hospitality facility. There is the restaurant where it has the panoramic view. You get amazing views from the hospitality room, looking straight south down the valley.”

Kelowna-based landscape architectural consultancy firm, Bench Site Design is also working on the project.

About the Wine

With plots purchased on the Golden Mile Bench, Black Sage Road across from the Bench, and in the Similkameen Valley, along with a recently-announced, long-term collaboration with France’s first Master of Wine, Olivier Humbrecht MW of Alsace’s Domaine Zind-Humbrecht (his only winery consulting project to date), expect Pinot Gris and Riesling, a Syrah, a “flagship” Meritage blend, and some ultra-premium small lot reds. The winery claims their bottles will be “entry level but not cheap”, whatever that means. At the wine-making helm is New Zealand-born Ross Wise, former winemaker at Flat Rock Cellars in Ontario.

Phantom Creek will have a range of varietals that the winery says will be “entry level but not cheap.”

Humbrecht will also guide Phantom Creek’s transition to organic and biodynamic farming practices, relying on traditional techniques such as the use of organic compost and hand hoeing for weed control. Currently working towards certification for all of their vineyards, they have a target date of 2020 for organic certification. “We believe certification is important in an era of greenwashing and exaggerated organic claims”, the winery says. Winery guest writer, the clever John Szabo is currently in the middle of publishing a five part blog series about the certification process that’s an interesting read for any wine geek.

Have a look at Anthony Gismondi’s (wine critic based in Vancouver) latest video of the winery shot this past August as he tracks its progress:

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