BC Spotlight Phantom Creek
Dramatic Landscape Beringer’s first view of the Okanagan Valley was during the pandemic in May of 2021—when international travel was at its worst. “I flew to Seattle, rented a car and drove across the border. I immediately went into quarantine for two weeks,” he says with a chuckle. But even his research couldn’t compare to the real thing—the landscape and terroir of the Okanagan was much more dramatic than expected, “The geology here fascinates me, how the area was created and the glacial soils.” Beringer recalls the first time he saw Phantom Creek. “I drove up and got out of the car; it was such an impressive facility to see. It does look like something that would be at home in Napa. But it really stands out in the [Okanagan] Valley, especially when there are impressive wineries every 100 metres in Napa.” Gathering Ground Phantom Creek Estates, founded in 2016, is certainly one of the most striking wineries on the continent. Richmond-based businessman Richter Bai invested 100 million dollars into his project. He started by purchasing some of the most prestigious vineyards in the Okanagan—Becker and Phantom Creek. Helmut Becker established the Becker site near Oliver in 1977, and in 1993 he was one of the first to plant red Bordeaux varieties in the valley. In 1996, viticulturist Richard Cleve planted Syrah
Photo courtesy of Phantom Creek
Build it, They Will Come Some have seen the possibilities of the Okanagan Valley for decades. But it is only in recent years that BC wines have gained international acclaim that the rest of the world has discovered them. Mark Beringer is one such discoverer. “The Okanagan is like Napa was 30 to 40 years ago,” says Beringer, Director of Winemaking at Phantom Creek Estates. “I see huge potential here.” You likely recognize the name; Beringer is the longest continually running winery in California, established in 1876 by German immigrants Jacob (Beringer’s great-great grandfather) and his brother Fredrick.
While the winery was sold when Beringer was a toddler, the business was already in his blood. He worked at Raymond Vineyards, Duckhorn Vineyards and Artesa before returning home to his namesake Beringer winery as chief winemaker in 2015. When he was offered the job at Phantom Creek Estates in 2021, Beringer admits he had never set foot in the Okanagan. “I had to do as much research as I could. Luckily, I already had a friend and ally in the company. Amy Richards, our director of farming, and I worked together at Treasury [Wine Estates] (current owners of Beringer). She gave me a lot of insight,” he admits.
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