Writer and wine columnist John Schreiner is Canada's most prolific author of books on wine. he is the gentleman I often go to for information on the wines and wineries of British Columbia. I have followed him since day one. Today I read his recent blog. A twinge of jealously ran through my body. For he wrote "CheckMate winemaker Phil McGahan sent me the most recent releases from the winery: four Chardonnays and two Merlots." "
I have never tasted a wine from Checkmate. They are priced beyond my means with prices ranging from $85 to $125 a bottle. John has twice awarded their Chardonnay a score of 100. An unheard of score. That was for their Little Pawn Chardonnay 2015 and 16. He only gave the 2017 a 98.
The winery located in Oliver is owned by von Mandl family. They own Mission Hill and Martins Lane.
On their website they write "The region is the ecologically pristine Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, Canada, north of the 49th parallel and 105 miles long. Glacial fed lakes stretch along a narrow valley floor at an altitude of more than 1200 feet. As the world warms, cool regions such as the Okanagan Valley provide a new frontier for world class Chardonnay and Merlot. Cooler regions are now consistently providing sufficient warmth during their growing seasons to fall within the climatic envelopes for these classic Burgundian and Bordeaux varietals."
"Phil began his wine career in Australia’s Hunter Valley and continued it with the Williams Selyem winery in Sonoma before being recruited for CheckMate, one of the most prestigious wineries owned by Anthony von Mandl. Phil acknowledges that the Okanagan’s cold winters pose some viticultural challenges. Those are manageable. The reward is that the vineyards produce fruit that is clean and pure. “In Hunter Valley and in California, it was never like that,” Phil remembers. “There was always the pressure of being in a humid area [in the Hunter]; or from the marine air and the moisture” of Sonoma.
The high quality of Okanagan grapes is reflected in the purity of aroma and flavour in the CheckMate wines. CheckMate produces just Merlot and Chardonnay, selecting its fruit from Von Mandl’s best vineyards in the South Okanagan. " - John Schreiner
John gave their Merlots scores of 98( Border Vista) and 97(Jagged Rock) depending on the vineyard where the grapes come from
They have 5 vineyards stretching north from Osoyoos.
1. Dekleva Southwest of the town of Oliver, this vineyard contains what may be the oldest Chardonnay plantings in Canada. Located beneath Mt. Kobau and the Thompson Plateau, these vines were planted 40+ years ago. An extraordinary distinctive Chardonnay clone, to this day of unknown origin, that we call Dekleva.
2. Jagged Rock Nestled in the Okanagan Highland foothills of the Black Sage Bench just southeast of the town of Oliver, these Chardonnay blocks were planted in 1999 on a west-facing plateau.
3. Border Vista This single block, planted in 1997 to the Dijon clonal material, is a mere thirty feet from the BC-Washington border on the east side of Osoyoos Lake.
4.Sunset Vineyard Situated to the south of the Barn Vineyard, this vineyard was planted to clones Dijon 76 & 95 over 20 years ago. The vineyard’s unique row orientation combines with variations in elevation between the two micro-blocks and the porous soils of the Black Sage Bench to create distinctive fruit.
5. Combret Vineyard Checkmate’s estate vineyard, neighbouring the Dekleva Vineyard, is perhaps the oldest Chardonnay planting in Canada. The gnarly vines, of unknown clonal origin, are deeply rooted in the Golden Mile Bench soils and utilize them to full potential.
Wine Spectator's Bruce Sanderson "These are some of the best young wines coming out of Canada"
The CheckMate tasting room is a clever pop-up structure designed by Tom Kundig, the star Seattle architect who redesigned Mission Hill Family Estate winery two decades ago. There a hints that CheckMate will explained its patio and add food options Perhaps a restaurant. The line-up will be down the hill and around the bend.