Trailblazers of the Okanagan: Part 2 Checkmate Winery
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Trailblazers of the Okanagan: Part 2 Checkmate Winery

Checkmate Winery

Production: 300 cases Chardonnay

Grapes: Chardonnay and Merlot

Vines: Chardonnay 40+ years old

Winemaker: Phil McGahan

Photo: Michael McDuff 


Checkmate also focuses on two main varieties, being Chardonnay and Merlot.  What is particularly interesting and fun about this winery is that no matter which plot the grapes come from, they are all made in the exact same way.  This allows for each site to express itself differently, by their given terroir in the Okanagan Valley. The project for Chardonnay is special here as McGahan is working with very old vines which is producing low yield fruit with plenty of concentration and complexity.  “There is quite a bit of elegant spice coming through in these wines.  There is a lot of sandy soil, but plenty of organic material.  Everything is hand harvested, and each bunch is inspected before it is de-stemmed.  At this point, even the individual berries are sorted to get down to the very best fruit. “ Phil McGahan, Checkmate Winery

The 2014 Chardonnay line up has seen a little less oak than previous years, in an effort to allow the fruit to shine a bit more as the 2014 vintage produced particularly ripe grapes.  A month before bottling, it was left to tighten a bit in stainless steel tanks.  With the 2013 Merlot, wines were aged roughly 21 months in oak, then unfined and unfiltered before bottling.

Tasting Notes

End Game Merlot 2013

IP: 13496623  $85.00

Deep, rich and luxurious, this wine displays ripe cherries and black berries mixed with dark chocolate and attractive cedar. There is a depth and richness balanced by a very good acidity and tannins that are youthful and medium grained.  A long, sweet spicy finish with a little streak of earth.  Elegant wine with great structure for further ageing.  Drink now or in the next 6-8 years.

Opening Gambit Merlot 2013

IP: 13387865  $85.00

Intense notes od cherries, plum, blackberries with plenty of cigar notes and bits of vanilla.  The soft, dark fruit is complimented with a fresh acidity with fine grained tannins.  The oak is balanced with the bramble fruit and the extra bits of spice.  Long and finely balanced finish that is silky and smooth without being too plush.  Such a vibrant wine, with lots of elegance and grace.  Such a pleasure to sip.  Drink now or in the next 6-8 years.

Little Pawn Chardonnay 2014

IP: 13496607  $110.00

With grapes coming from their Black Sage Bench plot, this wine was aged on French oak, with 53% aged on used oak.

This Chardonnay is round and textured, with plenty of crisp acidity and bright fruit. We are talking candied lemon, grapefruit and ripe pineapple.  This also has a little nutty character to it as well as some elegant spice. The palate is supple supported with an excellent acidity and a very long, creamy finish.  Excellent wine.  Drink now or in the next 6-8 years.

Fool’s Mate Chardonnay 2014

IP: 13387890  $80.00

A 100% Chardonnay, this wine is an assemblage of 5 different plots in the Okanagan Valley: Grange, Sunset, Border Vista, Dekleva and Combert vinyeards.  85% of the wine as aged in French oak (43% new French oak) with 15% in concrete egg.

There are pronounced notes of citrus and pineapple fruit, along with peaches and cream.  The mouth-filling palate has loads of fruit, with a nice hit of acidity and a slight saline component.  Very well structured, as it goes from fruit to acidity to cream, with everything in great balance and form.  It has a superb finish, leaving a very lasting and elegant impression.