Canada’s First 100-point Score Awarded to CheckMate Artisanal Winery Chardonnay
Canadian Wine Industry 'Comes of Age'
May 13, 2019
What originally began as an outrageous dream has achieved the unthinkable: CheckMate Artisanal Winery has been awarded a perfect 100-point score for its 2015 Little Pawn Chardonnay, the first time a Canadian table wine has ever achieved a perfect score.
CheckMate Artisanal Winery was born out of a bold vision that by harnessing the effects of climate change it would now be possible to produce +$100 elegant, Burgundian-style Chardonnay in a very unexpected place, British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.
“This is a momentous achievement for the entire Okanagan Valley,” said Proprietor Anthony von Mandl, O.C., O.B.C. “It’s exhilarating to taste a wine that reaches this pinnacle of quality. It’s like a beautiful work of art, every sip is telling its story about its origin and its vintage. With each vintage the quality and character of these wines continues to improve. The realization that wines of this calibre are meticulously grown in our family’s own vineyards in the Okanagan Valley make this recognition even more gratifying.”
Dr. Gregory Jones, PhD1, one of the world’s most preeminent experts on climate and viticulture commented: “Twenty years ago, it would not have been possible to make a wine of this calibre in the Okanagan. The world’s wine map is changing. This is largely the result of changes in climate that have shifted wine styles in some regions. For the Okanagan Valley, climate change has transformed it into a magical place to grow and ripen fruit and produce world-class wines such as Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir.”
Australian-born winemaker Philip McGahan was enticed to leave Williams Selyem Winery in Sonoma to come to the Okanagan with the sole purpose of working within this new climatic band for winemaking to craft ‘New World’ Chardonnay with ‘Old World Elegance’ at CheckMate Artisanal Winery. These extremely small lots of Chardonnay and Merlot display impeccable character, integrity and quality, and are the culmination of more than three decades of sustainable farming and pushing the boundaries of winemaking in the Okanagan.
“Winemaking is like the game of Chess, it requires the winemaker to think many steps ahead, anticipating the impact each move will have at a later point in time,” said McGahan. “Just like a Grandmaster has a game plan, a winemaker heads into each growing season with a clear vision, a plan for contingencies, and you must stay true to your resolve. When that resolve is to craft world-class wines and you ultimately achieve it, you have truly mastered your craft.”
There’s an interesting twist to this story, perhaps even a premonition. In 1994, the Okanagan was first placed on the world wine map with a surprise win by Mission Hill Family Estate for ‘Top Chardonnay in the World’ at the International Wine & Spirit Competition in London. The grapes for this award-winning wine were grown in the same vineyard used today for CheckMate. This site is home to possibly the oldest vines in Canada, dating back some 45 years, including a mysterious Chardonnay clone of unknown origin that formed the backbone of the 1994 ‘Best Chardonnay in the World’ Trophy winner in London and this 100-point Little Pawn Chardonnay.
The 100-point score was awarded by John Schreiner, wine writer, sommelier and author of over 15 books on the subject of Canadian wine. In his review of the 2015 Little Pawn Chardonnay he noted: “It takes a considerable investment to make wines like these, starting with practises in the vineyard and carrying through to the winemaking. It is impossible to find anything negative about this wine.”
The 100-point 2015 Little Pawn Chardonnay is available only at CheckMate Artisanal Winerywhere visitors have a rare opportunity to taste these wines at The Installation, an innovative ‘pop up’ tasting room designed by Seattle-based architect Tom Kundig. Currently in construction is a brand new contemporary winemaking facility, tasting room and members’ lounge that will completely transform the winery into a work of art on its own.
CheckMate Artisanal Winery crafts a portfolio of Chardonnay and Merlot utilizing wild yeast ferments and without recourse to fining and filtration, to let nature take its course. These wines have earned more than one-hundred +90-point scores from critics around the world, including Steven Spurrier, Anthony Gismondi, Christopher Waters, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator which heralded them as “…some of the best young wines coming out of Canada today.”