The CheckMate Artisanal Winery is a project by the von Mandl family, who established the Mission Hill Family Estate Winery. Mission Hill won the Top Chardonnay in the World in 1994 at the International Wine & Spirit Competition in London. Their Chardonnay and Merlot vines, some which are now over 40 years old, are being used by CheckMate.
As in chess where you plan your moves in advance for your win, the von Mandl family has been planning for these new world-class wines for a while. While some may see it as a gamble to grow Chardonnay and Merlot in the Okanagan Valley, but with the global warming trend, these and other grapes are doing well here. So no longer a gamble that the grapevines would survive our cold winters.
Both wines come from the 2014 vintage. What was that year like? It was hot and sunny in June, July and the first part of August, but then the latter half of August was cool with clouds and rain. At that time 2014 was one of the hottest on record. 2010, 2011, and 2012 were all cool vintages. September was cool and this was followed with a long, warm October. So about the most perfect harvest in the Okanagan in many years.
How Were These Wines Produced?
The Merlot grapes come from their estate Osoyoos East bench. The wine is 100% fermented with indigenous yeast and the wine has extended skin contact. 100% new French oak with the wine spending 21 months in barrel. The wine is bottled, unfined and unfiltered in order to provide the most complete expression of the grape and its terroir. Only 23 barrels are produced.
The Chardonnay comes from their The Barn Vineyard located on the Black Sage Bench. 50% of the grapes undergo a wild ferment. The wine spends 16 months in 100% French oak barrels, of which 53% are new barrels. The Chardonnay also goes into the bottle unfined and unfiltered. Only 19 barrels of this wine are made.
My Wine Review
CheckMate Artisanal Winery Opening Gambit Merlot 2014 (bottle 6180) – This wine is deep garnet, about 98% opaque. It has a medium intensity nose that starts off with some smoked meat (that burns off quickly), together with ripe cassis and light touches of allspice, vanilla and oak. With decanting the wine has both smoky and floral aromas. The wine is dry, full-bodied, semi-round with a medium mouthfeel. You get waves of flavour, consisting of plums, black cherries, cassis and sweet ripe black fruit. Together with light cedar, oak, nutmeg and dark chocolate notes. Dense deep flavours. Medium tannins. With decanting the wine has a softer mouthfeel, no dark chocolate, but you now get a floral flavour. Medium plus length finishing with grippy, yet fine tannins. Black fruits and some nutmeg. This wine can easily age for 5-9 years. Delicious.
Rating: A deep, brooding Merlot with waves of cassis, black cherry and black fruit flavours. Decanting this wine brings out floral notes on the nose and palate, and softens the wine.
CheckMate Artisanal Winery Little Pawn Chardonnay 2014 (bottle 3341) – Medium intensity bright lemon in the glass. Intense, pronounced ripe tropical fruit, butterscotch and oak on the nose. This wine is dry with a thicker, buttery, round mouthfeel, that has an acidic prickle that stretches from start to finish. This acidity adds liveliness to the wine. Flavours of ripe tropical fruit, roasted apples a hint of pears, and light butterscotch. Oak and vanilla from the mid-palate to the finish. The acidity balances out with the thicker mouthfeel. This wine has a long length, finishing with tropical fruit and butterscotch, and when they fade you get citrus. It is also a bit peppery on the finish.
Rating: – A very big buttery Chardonnay packed with tropical fruit and balanced by acidity.
Where Can I Buy These Wines?
You can purchase these and other CheckMate wines from their website. They note that individual bottles are sold in cases of 3, so ensure your order has a minimum of 3 bottles.