Birthday Extravaganza!!! Part 4!!!

Welcome one and all to the final part of my Birthday Extravaganza!! It's been a long journey, but an exciting one, and I assure you that we're going out with a bang! I want to thank all of you and all of my family for putting up with me during birthday season, I do like to go all out so I appreciate everyone going all out with me! We arrived down in Oliver last time and for these final two wineries we will be staying down there! We've got some big hitters for the finale: Hester Creek and Checkmate. This was my first time at both of these wineries and when I tell you I was blown away by both of them, I'm not exaggerating at all. 

Winery #1: Hester Creek

Hester Creek is tucked away in Oliver and has a very Tuscan vibe to it. The original winery was made in the early 80s, but became Hester Creek when it was sold about a decade later and was named for the creek that borders the southern part of the land. The winery went through one other transfer of ownership in 2004 when it's current owner purchased the winery and teamed up with a Niagara winemaker to create what stands there today! Hester Creek has a wide portfolio of wine and we were lucky enough to try 6 of their wines, as well as do a barrel tasting of their big red blend; The Judge.

1. Old Vines Brut

Literally the first note I wrote in my book was "I love sparkling" and I just want to tell my past self that I'm useless! This Brut was made from 100% Pinot Blanc, which I think was a new one for me! It's done in the Traditional method (the Champagne method) and then aged 24 months in the bottle. On the nose I got a lot of toasted bread and green apple. In the mouth the green apple was more prominent and there was citrus in there as well.

2. Old Vine Trebbiano

For those of you who don't know, Trebbiano is an Italian white grape and is actually one of the most widely planted grapes in the world! This one smelled so fresh and full of citrus! In the mouth it wasn't as sweet as I thought it would be and was very refreshing. This is absolutely a wine I would chill in the fridge and then bring down to the beach with me on a hot day.

3. 2019 Chardonnay

This Chardonnay was lightly oaked, with about 1/3 of it going into French oak. This was so nice on the nice, full of cream and lemon! Almost reminiscent of a lemon merengue pie. This was also beautiful in the mouth! It still had that lemon and cream, but there were some vanilla notes in there as well! I have to say that up to now this is probably one of my favourite Chardonnay's I've had!

4. 2019 Syrah

This Syrah was done in traditional Northern Rhone style, being a blend of Syrah and Viognier that were co-fermented. On the nose I got lots of black pepper and flowers, exactly the way I like my Syrah! This one was very peppery in the mouth and was just bursting with blackberry, black cherry and black plum. I wrote dow that I would absolutely have this with a black pepper crusted goat cheese and I stand by that!

5. Old Vines Merlot

This wine came from vines that are about 15 years old and 75% of it spent 18 months in French oak. On the nose I just got a ton of mocha and cherry. It was surprisingly light on the palate, full of chocolate, coffee and dark cherry. This was a nice, bright Merlot and I'd love to see how it would pair with something like a nice braised lamb or roasted duck in a red wine sauce!

6. 2018 The Judge

We got to finish our tasting with a big Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This was an incredibly bold red blend and on the nose I got a lot of raspberry, black cherry, and spices. This wine was stunning in the mouth and reflected all of the notes from the nose with nice, firm tannins. We were also fortunate enough to be able to have a barrel sample of the 2019 The Judge! In comparison, I would say that the 2019 is definitely a bit tighter and the tannins stick in your mouth a bit more, but the flavours are just as stunning. 

Hester Creek was a bit of a dark horse for me, I didn't know anything about it but it ended up being one of my favourite tastings that I've done! I'd love to go back and try out their Italian-style restaurant at some point because the menu looks good and I've heard excellent things about it!

Winery #2: CheckMate Artisanal Winery

Well folks, we've made it to the final winery. And what a way to finish! CheckMate has a reputation through the whole Okanagan Valley for making the very best Chardonnay. In fact, CheckMate was the first winery in Canada to achieve 100 points for their wine (100 points is a perfect score) for their 2015 Little Pawn Chardonnay. In fact, the Little Pawn Chardonnay won 100 points 2 years in a row, the 2016 vintage was awarded the same prestigious rating just last year! Another thing that' special about CheckMate is that they only produce two varietals: Chardonnay and Merlot. The tasting we did consisted of 4 Chardonnays and 2 Merlots. 

1. 2014 Queen Taken Chardonnay

The first of the 4 Chardonnay's was aged 17 months in French oak and is CheckMate's Flagship wine! This one had that beautiful, buttery popcorn note on the nose, along with freshly toasted brioche. In the mouth it still had those buttery notes, but also had really a really nice tropicality to it with banana and mango. This Chardonnay sits in your mouth and the finish is just never ending.

2. 2013 Little Pawn Chardonnay

This is the big one, this is the Chardonnay that received 100 points for it's 2015 and 2016 vintage! I was so incredibly excited to try this wine and I was NOT disappointed. This one is so interesting on the nose with a nice florality to it and some subtle notes of cinnamon. It was absolutely stunning on the palate, with lots of cream and oak notes and lemon zest. Chris liked the wine so much that he ended up purchasing the vertical set of Little Pawn, which includes the 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 vintages! Needless to say, I'll be super mad if he drinks the 2015 and 2016 without me...

3. 2016 Attack Chardonnay

This Chardonnay pays homage to the old-world with it's winemaking techniques and aging techniques with this particular one being aged upside-down before release. This one was a bit more citrus-y and zesty on the nose. In the mouth it was so incredibly smooth and had some of those tropical notes from the first wine, with some banana and lychee.

4. 2015 Fool's Mate Chardonnay

The last of the Chardonnay's! This gorgeous final Chardonnay was incredibly tropical on the nose, moreso than any of the others. There was a ton of fruit in the mouth, with lots of peach and apricot, even a touch of caramel in there. This is another Chardonnay that just completely filled the mouth and the flavours lingered for ages. 

5. 2015 Silent Bishop Merlot

Now on to the Merlot! This particular Merlot spent 22 months aging in French oak and was more of a full-bodied style Merlot. On the nose there was a ton of black cherry and black plum, with some notes of licorice in there as well. This wine had very present tannins that filled up my mouth and the palate was very intense. Lots of that black cherry and plum, with licorice and tobacco as well. It was very well-balanced and had a nice long finish to it!

6. 2014 Black Rook Merlot

Originally I had said that I was sad this was the only other Merlot we tried, but please see the notes in the next Merlot for more on that. This Merlot was very aromatic, full of black fruit, vanilla, and anise. In the mouth it was full of blackberry, black plum, vanilla and pepper. It was a bit savoury as well, and the tannins in this wine were very firm, but made for a very tasty wine!

7. 2014 Endgame Merlot

***It has been brought to my attention by my sister that I am dumb*** So what happened was I forgot to turn the page in my notebook to see that yes, we did indeed try one more Merlot! The Endgame Merlot was actually pretty spicy on the nose! It smelled and tasted just that chocolate covered cherries. I really liked that they served it a bit chilled because I think that's exactly how I would serve it as well. The tannins are present but so well balanced, this ended up being the favourite Merlot among the group! What a shame I forgot to write about it in my original post...

I have to tell you, if you're on the fence about Chardonnay you should absolutely pay CheckMate a visit. They know how to do Chardonnay and they do it well. As well if you like Merlot, you should go because they make a mean Merlot! I am so happy that we decided to visit CheckMate, and it was one heck of an end to my birthday extravaganza!!

Thus we come to the conclusion of Birthday Extravaganza!! I'm sad it's over, but I'm sure my sister is happy I'll get back to talking about wineries she hasn't been to yet! When I get to try the 100 point Chardonnay, I will make a post and let you know the verdict! I'm almost positive it'll be a good one! Next up, we head to Summerland and Naramata for some Canada Day fun!

Whine of the day: I wish every day could be Birthday Extravanganza!


  1. We did get a third was the 2014 End Game...

    1. Note to self: Check all of my notes before I publish…

  2. All has been fixed...nothing to see here...

  3. Special shout-out to the tasting guy at Hester Creek, he was awesome!!


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