Merlot, Checkmate Winery, "Opening Gambit", Okanagan, BC (2014)
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Opening Gambit - 90 percent merlot, 10 percent petit verdot - is quickly becoming my favourite Checkmate merlot thanks to its stunning nose. The fruit is beautifully aromatic despite its warm, Osoyoos East Bench site that is neatly tucked up against the US border.
The hill is steep (1083 to 1437 feet above sea level) and undulating, pitching the vines over various expositions to the sun that, in the end, delivers a very hedonistic red. Iodine, black cherries and blackcurrants spill from the glass, inviting you inside the wine. Initially, the wine presents delicious dark, ripe fruits before the tannins begin to set in. Dense long and supple, they suggest time in the bottle is the message here.
Like all the McGahan wines, the oak is well-integrated thanks to 52-plus days of maceration before the juice is run directly from the tank into the barrel. This wine takes me to Bolgheri with its rich, savoury, sagebrush mocha notes that persist throughout the finish. A very sexy merlot, triggering the question 'why can't the standard be more like this across the valley? Impressive texture. Food friendly.