by Mary Bailey
We had a sneak taste of the CheckMate Chardonnays this summer, the winery lambasted for launching in NYC and for the price by some, the wine eagerly anticipated by others. This sort of chat is nothing new for Anthony von Mandl, owner of Mission Hill, who has been confounding critics and wowing wine drinkers for 40 years. He did it in 1994 when John Sime’s 1992 barrel- fermented chard won Top Chardonnay in the World at International Wine & Spirit Competition in London, and he’s doing it again with CheckMate. Some will remain unconvinced that CheckMate has anything new to say about Okanagan wine, yet cannot deny that von Mandl’s bold move to lead the world to Okanagan Chardonnay raises the bar, again.
The winemaker is Chardonnay specialist Philip McGahan (Australian, formerly of Williams Selyem in the Russian River Valley). The wines, bottled unfined and unfiltered, reflect their sites and gentle, unobtrusive winemaking. Capture, from the vineyard 13 kilometres from the US border, possessing a subtle spiciness in the aromas and flavours along with lovely wet stone, lemon and peach. The well-integrated malo contributes to the firm texture and balanced acidity. Queen Taken (Golden Mile) has beautifully integrated fruit, a restrained, buttery texture, that hint of spicy and an intriguing feral note along with some fruity muscat aromas. Little Pawn is for oak lovers, soft-textured with lemon curd aromas and flavours. Fool’s Mate is an assemblage from all the vineyards—complex, with a rich texture and attractive lemon/lime notes. Attack from the Black Sage Bench was made in a foudre, a large, thick-staved oak barrel. The oak influence is less and the wine responds differently to oxygen in these large containers. Attack was also 100 per cent inoculated; the others have some ambient (vineyard) yeast influence. Prices range from $80-$125.
The cognac was flowing at the not-quite-yet-open Bar Clementine in August for the 2016 Alberta Hennessey Cocktail Competition. In competition for a trip to visit Hennessy Maison in Cognac were James Grant, Woodwork; Julie Gobeille, Yellow Door, Calgary; Mike Krumins, El Cortez; Leland Morrison, The Black Pearl; Jeff Savage, Proof, Calgary; Jordan Watson, Chvrch of John; Fern Zevnik, The Bourbon Room, Calgary and Taylor Zottl,
“It was a fantastic event,” says judge Chuck Elves. “I don’t think I’ve have ever seen that many people at a cocktail competition.”
First place (and the trip) went to Fern Zevnik for Le Terre Vine, a savoury blend of Hennessey VS Cognac with shitake honey syrup, fresh mushroom, porcini tincture, Calvados, fresh lemon and salt bitters. Fern is the bar manager of Calgary’s Bourbon Room. “Hennessey has beautiful fruity notes but also an earthiness. I wanted to celebrate that in my cocktail.”
In second place was Woodwork’s James Grant and third went to another Calgary bartender Jeff Savage.
|Lots of Canadian wine releases this month, a few to consider for fall drinking and cellaring: Tinhorn Oldfield Series 2015 2 Bench White (BC VQA Okanagan Valley, $20) With almost equal weighting of Chard, Sauv Blanc and Viognier, along with some Semillon and five per cent Muscat, expect ripe apricot stone fruit, zesty tropical aromas and flavours and a rich mouth feel. Drink with tandoori chicken now or cellar for four to six years.
Tinhorn 2013 Oldfield Series Cabernet Franc (BC VQA Okanagan Valley, $32) We love the yin/yang of Cabernet Franc’s herbal notes with its bright red fruit and this bottling has it in spades. The oak is well-integrated, drink now or cellar for six to eight years.
Cedar Creek 2015 Ehrenfelser (BC VQA Okanagan Valley, $20) Ehrenfelser is getting harder to find in the valley as people rip up vines to grow something considered more important. But these vines are a treasure, over 35 years old and make a fresh, aromatic off-dry white that is a pleasure to drink. Have at brunch or with a crab salad.
Cedar Creek 2013 Platinum Desert Ridge Meritage (BC VQA Okanagan Valley, $50) Mostly Cab Sauv with Cab Franc, Merlot and six per cent Malbec. Desert Ridge is a special bit of land in Osoyoos, an old stony riverbed, ideal for Bordeaux varietals. This wine has great structure, beautiful complexity and is a keeper.
TUE. SEPTEMBER 13
FRI. SEPTEMBER 16
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THUR. SEPTEMBER 22
SEP. 30 & OCT. 1
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TUE. OCTOBER 18
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Wednesday, June 15
THUR. OCTOBER 20
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THUR. OCTOBER 27