Had this been the start of a normal wine touring summer, one event would have dominated the season: the opening—after three-plus years, lots of money and a crazy number of employees—of Phantom Creek, the biggest thing to hit the Okanagan since a young Anthony Von Mandl saw the potential in the pretty, but largely untested land outside of Kelowna.
Phantom Creek comes with its own shopping list of superlatives:
1. Most expensive land ever purchased in the Okanagan;
2. Most expensive winery ever built in the Okanagan;
3. Only consulting gig in the world for the world famous winemaker, Olivier Humbrecht.
And now we can add one more to the list: the only winery with a 10-part documentary series, a la Netflix’s The Last Dance, charting its creation. It’s something that could have turned cheezy in a hurry—News flash! Opening wineries is not always as compelling as Michael Jordan’s final season—but about halfway through episode one (the episodes are about five minutes long) I found myself hooked.
The episode, titled "Legacy," deals with Okanagan winegrowing legend, Dick Cleave, who sold the Phantom Creek vineyard to businessman Richter Bai to start the ball rolling on this massive undertaking. Being near the wine industry for all these years, I’ve heard Dick Cleave’s name a thousand times, but not only had I never met him, I had never really heard him speak. But here he is, with what sounds like the soundtrack to Friday Night Lights playing in the background, talking about his journey. It’s actually quite touching—it’s rare for a new owner to want to shine the spotlight on the old owner and it’s doubling so because, notwithstanding that everyone in the wine business knows Dick Cleve, he’s largely anonymous outside that tight group.
So there it is. I’m actually awaiting episode two in a promotional video for a new winery (it drops June 2). And in the coming weeks I’ll review some of the wines, which in the early vintages showed tremendous promise. Stay tuned but until then here's Episode 1.