Exceptional Wines, Extraordinary Evening with CheckMate Artisanal Winery

Through circumstance and an unexpected change of venue the evening that promised to be exceptional became extraordinary. The scene suited the wines in a way that no one could have foreseen. Imagine stepping into the D/6 Lounge greeted by members of the CheckMate team offering you a glass of 2014 Little Pawn Chardonnay and directing you to the library to further sample more incredible Chardonnay wines.

It was hard not to take in all of the ambience as you made your way through the expansive room, past the backlit bar, beyond the sumptuous charcuterie table that seemed to go on forever and into the library. But before I followed I couldn’t help but take in more of the room and I set out to do a little exploring before tasting more wine. The entire scene was somewhat overwhelming. You knew you were about to experience an evening like no other.

About 200 CheckMate wine club members and their guests strolled about the spacious areas in the room that was set with wine and food pairing stations. In the library you could pair your choice of Chardonnay with a delectable crab cake or discover another corner of the room and enjoy a different selection of Chardonnay with the never ending array of bite size sushi.

The room is dimly lit with towering ceilings and a wall of glass looking out to the darkness beyond, here was the perfect placement of two stations serving the selections of Merlot. Pair your Merlot with succulent barbecued duck with a choice of accruements or stroll back to the charcuterie table for cheeses and cured meats to be shared.

This was not a mere tasting but a wine pairing experience where your glass was filled by a member of the knowledgeable CheckMate team who was pleased to engage you in a conversation about the wine you were drinking, its origins and wine making process to the final resulting of yet another exceptional wine.

Elsewhere in the room comfortable seating arrangements allowed you to cozy up and relax to enjoy your glass of wine while you chatted with other like minded wine lovers. It was an awe inspiring wine experience quite different than any I have had the pleasure of attending before, and one that I and all the guests will not likely soon forget.

It was in this spectacular setting that we had the opportunity to chat with Bram Bolwijn, Head Sommelier at Mission Hill, who was pouring the decanted Merlots and telling us about the nuances of the wine. We discussed the process of decanting, temperature, cellaring and even suggested pairings of the Merlot. It was like a personally guided tour of each individual Merlot on offer that evening.

Many of the wines were member exclusives that, should any remain after this evening, were destined to become library wines. Something to look forward to in future wine buying opportunities.

Winemaker Phil McGahan was on hand to discuss everything wine related from the current harvest to the terrior of any given vineyard, the viticulture practices and their goals for the future.

About the wines:

2014 Little Pawn Chardonnay

A brilliant choice to start the evening. I found it to have a very light, delicate oak flavour, mellow and smoothly rich. Like every CheckMate Chardonnay it is superb. Not surprising quite a buzz on because the 2015 CheckMate Little Pawn Chardonnay was awarded 100 points by John Schreiner, so it was, there were oohs and aahs with this vintage too.

Winery tasting notes: On the palate, subtle richness, hints of cream and beautiful oak integration create a wine of restrained elegance, with substantial length. Winemaker notes: estate – Jagged Rock Vineyard, Black Sage Bench; 50% wild fermentation; 100% French oak (53% new); crafted 19 barrels.

The Library was the ideal place to enjoy the next three Chardonnays which I will list here in order of tasting.

2016 Capture Chardonnay

So smooth and delicious I enjoyed pairing this Chardonnay with some of the cheeses and breads from the Charcuterie table, adjourning to a comfortable seating area to enjoy.

Winery tasting notes: The natural ferment contrbutes a lifted, aromatic and complex nose of lychee, sndalwood and peach. The palate opens with apple blossom, mandarin, honeycomb, price and creamy stone fruits yet remains delicate with a long finish of sea salt and graphite. Winemaker notes: estate – Border Vista Vineyard, Osoyoos East Bench; 80% wild fermentation; 100% French oak (44% new); hand picked at night; crafted 6 barrels.

The small lot quantities of pre-release wines renders this 2016 Capture Chardonnay a Member Exclusive.

2016 Queen Taken Chardonnay

This wine is one of the first to be processed in their new facility. Like 2013, 2016 experienced a long fall giving this wine a classic characteristic. Scents of mahogany, pepper, spice, ever so slight oak, floral. Deeper flavour, bolder, rich and smooth. Great flavour.

Winery tasting notes: The wine has essences of white peach, pear and wet stone, combined with delicate floral notes. The palate has generous fruit flavours of peach, nectarine and apricot, layered mid-palate with richness and focused acidity, providing a long, textured mineral finish. Winemaker notes: estate – Dekleva Vineyard, Golden Mile Bench DVA; 91% wild fermentation; 100% French oak (42% new) hand picked at night; crafted 8 barrels.

The small lot quantities renders this 2016 Queen Taken Chardonnay a Member Exclusive.

2016 Queen’s Advantage Chardonnay

Scents of rose, slight oak. Light, sweetish, great acidity, okay flavour, fruity, green apples, crisp, flavourful.

Winery tasting notes: Deep, rocky soils and old gnarly vines (planted in the early 1970’s) combine to ceate a wine with an intense bouquet of honeysucle and stone fruits. The palate explodes in the mouth, being round an fleshy, yet silky all at the same time with hints of butterscotch, marmalade, butter and barrel spice. Winemaker notes: estate – Combret Vineyard, Golden Mile Bench DVA; 90% wild fermentation; 100% French oak (50% new); Hand picked; crafted 6 barrels.

The small lot quantities renders this 2016 Queen’s Advantage Chardonnay a Member Exclusive.

Moving on from the library over to another quiet corner for the next three Chardonnay wines.

2015 Knight’s Challenge Chardonnay

I found the Knight’s Challenge Chardonnay to have the most oak of the chards. It had light scents, and was refreshing and delicious.

Wintery tasting notes: This is a classic Chardonnay with complex powerful fruit, buttery notes and well integrated oak and green tea notes. Winemaker notes: estate – Sunset Vineyard, Black Sage Bench; 50% wild fermentation; 100% French oak (50% new); crafted 11 barrels.

2015 Fool’s Mate Chardonnay

I did not pick up any oak scents and just a very light oak flavour. This chardonnay is light and refreshing.

Winery tasting notes: An extremely complex wine with aromas of yellow peach, melon, perfume and caramelized oak with hints of graphite. Winemaker notes: estate – various vineyards throughout Black Sage, Golden Mile Bench DVA, Osoyoos East Bench; 81% wild fermentation; 85% French oak (46% new), 15% concrete egg; crafted 16 barrels, 1 concrete egg.

2015 Attack Chardonnay

Very light scents of oak, aromas of fruit. Easy drinking.

Winery tasting notes: Winemaking and foudre combine to impart aromas of the seashore with wet stones, flint and Asian spices on the nose combined with a tropical lift. Winemaker notes: estate – various vineyards throughout Black Sage, Golden Mile Bench DVA, Osoyoos East Bench; Foudre (50% ne, 50% once used); crafted 2 foudre.

I had concentrated on the Chardonnays for the most part and although my companion tasted the Merlots he did not really take notes, so for the Merlot wines I will rely on the tasting notes of the winery but would note that the Opening Gambit and Black Rook were young wines with noticeable tannins.

2015 Opening Gambit Merlot

Winery tasting notes: An elegant nose of blackcurrant and black fruits with creamy undertones and floral notes. The palate is charming with a rich entry giving way to dark, ripe fruits and supple tannins. Winemaker notes: estate – Osoyoos East Bench; 100% wild fermentation & extended skin contact; 100% French oak (100% new); hand picked, sorted, destemmed; crafted 15 barrels.

2015 Black Rook Merlot

Note the vineyard, Black Sage Bench. Also young but with less tannin that the Opening Gambit Merlot.

Winery tasting notes: A lifted nost of roses, aniseed, bramble fruit and coffee beans. The palate is rich with dark fruits, cassis and savoury tannins coating the mouth. Winemaker notes: estate – Black Sage Bench; 100% wild fermentation & extended skin contact; 100% French oak (100% new); hand picked, sorted, destemmed; crafted 10 barrels.

2015 End Game Merlot

Winery tasting notes: A complex, lifted nose, showcasing sassafras, licorice, spices, deep red fruits and vanilla. The palate is rich with savoury notes. Winemaker notes: estate – Osoyoos East Bench & Black Sage Bench; 100% wild fermentation & extended skin contact; 100% French oak (100% new); crafted 11 barrels.

2015 Silent Bishop Merlot

Winery tasting notes: A nose of intense red and black fruits, floral notes, coffee, tobacco and spice. The palate has well-balanced acidity, fruit and oak. Winemaker notes: estate – Western Benches (Oliver North, Golden Mile Bench & Osoyoos West Bench); 100% wild fermentation & extended skin contact; French oak (100% new); crafted 12 barrels.

I apologize for the lack of my own tasting notes for the Merlot wines. Although I certainly appreciate the quality of the wines I had decided to concentrate on the Chardonnay wines that evening. As I stated previously this was not a wine tasting but a wine pairing evening where the wines flowed generously. It was truly a spectacular night celebrating the wine making skills and the final result of crafter winemaker Phil McGahan.

If you have not visited or tried the wines of CheckMate Artisanal Winery then you really must do so.

The Installation, A Pop-up by Tom Kundig is open for tastings.Please visit CheckMate Artisanal Winery at 4799 Wild Rose Street, Oliver, BC. Tutored tastings available 11:00am-4:00pm daily to November 11 and by appointment thereafter. Appointments are strongly recommended.

To book an appointment, please complete the request form  or call 250-707-2299.  You will receive an email confirmation or alternate time options, should your requested time be unavailable.  Please allow 45 minutes for your tasting experience.  Tasting fees apply and are redeemable with purchase. In an effort to provide an exceptional experience to all our guests, please leave your pets at home.

If you have visited, and, I’m sure, fallen in love with the wines of CheckMate Artisanal Winery then I strongly suggest you become a member without delay. Due to the limited quantities of the wines produced membership is close to capacity. For membership information please click here.

About CheckMate Artisanal Winery

The von Mandl family began their journey over 40 years ago. The first sign of the real potential of the vineyards came in 1994 with a surprise win at the International Wine & Spirit Competition in London for ‘Top Chardonnay in the World.’ The family has developed exceptional vineyards with distinctive Chardonnay and Merlot clones, some of which are now over 40 years old, at what are now CheckMate Artisanal Winery vineyards.

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.

D/6 Lounge

A Vibrant Energy that Echoes Vancouver

A destination within a destination. Perched high above the city you’ll find an effortless mix of luxe touches and natural accents in this hip, vibrant space where indoors meet the outdoors.

Disappear behind an unassuming bookcase to the spacious Hidden Lounge. From the floor-to-ceiling cityscape to the sixth-floor urban park with water views, there’s no better place to drink in the sights and sounds of Vancouver.

Enjoy stunning views of The Park and skyline between sips of handcrafted cocktails made from the finest liquors and spirits. Cheers by the Lounges’ inviting steam fireplace, peruse the collection of curated titles lining the bookshelves or play a game of pool. More than just a lobby bar, discover D/6’s contemporary cool atmosphere day or night from the sixth floor of the DOUGLAS, an Autograph Collection Hotel.

Text in italics courtesy of the winery. Information and images of D/6 provided by Nadia Davare, Marketing Coordinator, JW Marriott Parq Vancouver & The Douglas. Bottle shots and feature image courtesy of the winery. The evening was complimentary for myself and a guest in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own.

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