Sandhill2004 Malbec - Small Lots, Phantom Creek Vineyard
The Phantom Creek Vineyard belongs to Richard Cleave, a grower who has managed vineyards on the south Okanagan’s Black Sage Road since 1975. The irony is that, until 1988, most of the vineyards were planted to French hybrid varieties. Cleave did his best for the vineyard owners but he considered those varieties so mediocre that he rarely drank wines made from the grapes.
It is quite another story today. Black Sage Road has been replanted exclusively with premium vinifera, with Cleave pushing the envelope by planting varieties such as Malbec and Petit Verdot in his own vineyard. The grapes all go to Sandhill Wines (Cleave also manages Sandhill’s much larger vineyard) and Cleave proudly co-signs back labels with Sandhill winemaker Howard Soon. More to the point, he now cellars and drinks Sandhill wines, especially the reds. Cleave argued for years that a wine region would not be taken seriously until it made good red wines. With the quality of Sandhill wines, that has become a moot point.
This Malbec is one of the wines in Sandhill’s “small lots” program – the tag for the premium wines made in limited volume perhaps because the Okanagan is not growing a lot of the varietals employed. Only 152 cases of this wine were released.
A wine with an attractive ruby hue, it begins with an aroma of blueberries and flowers, with a subtle hint of oak. On the palate, there are flavours of cherries, with a touch of blueberry and chocolate. The fruit is wonderfully bright. The soft ripe tannins give this wine a long and elegant texture, with a finish that persists. This Malbec only has 12.5% alcohol, a positive in that the wine is medium in body, with an easy charm. 91 points.
Reviewed February 6, 2007 by John Schreiner.
Other reviewed wines from Sandhill
John Schreiner has been covering the wines of British Columbia for the past 30 years and has written 10 books on the wines of Canada and BC. He has judged at major competitions and is currently a panel member for the Lieutenant Governor’s Awards of Excellence in Wine. Both as a judge and as a wine critic, he approaches each wine not to find fault, but to find excellence. That he now finds the latter more often than the former testifies to the dramatic improvement shown by BC winemaking in the past decade.