Iconic Wineries of British Columbia: tasting some of the Okanagan’s top wines

Anthony Von Mandl’s empire of high-end BC wineries continues to grow and evolve. Jamie Goode tastes through some of their wines at an event at CheckMate Artisanal Winery in Oliver, in the south Okanagan.

Iconic Wineries of British Columbia (IWBC) is the new name for the winery group that was previously Von Mandl Family Wineries, based in the Okanagan Valley. The seven wineries involved are Mission Hill (where it all began), Cedar Creek, CheckMate, Road 13, Liquidity, Martin’s Lane and Red Barn.

The winery at CheckMate

There’s been some change at the top. Darry Brooker, previously president of Mission Hill/Sebastian Farms (the vineyard-owning side of the group)/Von Mandl Family Wineries left in May 2021 to become the CEO at Flowr, a cannabis company. His replacement has been recruited, but hasn’t started yet. Interestingly, he’s not a winemaker like Darryl, but has a background in direct-to-consumer sales working with a successful wine project in the USA. Clearly, Von Mandl sees the future direction for IWBC as selling these wines directly to customers, and thus keeping the substantial margin that would otherwise go elsewhere.

Sebastian Farms deserves a mention. This is the vineyard side of the business, and from this vintage is 100% certified organic. This has singlehandedly pushed the overall percentage of organically farmed vineyards in the Okanagan from 4% up to 17%. For those wanting to make high-end Okanagan wines, vineyard ownership is important, because otherwise you end up relying on growers. Such is the demand for fruit in the Okanagan, you can’t really dictate terms when you are looking to buy fruit as the growers can just sell it to someone else if you make too many demands of them. The Sebastian Farms vineyard resource is shared among all these wineries, which is a huge advantage.

Stylistically, I’ve been really impressed by the stylistic direction taken by the IWBC group. Each of the wineries has its own personality, but the shared family values are wines that express their place, without reliance on excessive ripeness or make-up such as too much new oak.


CheckMate Queen Taken Chardonnay 2018 Okanagan, Canada
From a vineyard planted in 1973, this is 100% wild ferment and it’s vinified in French oak, 50% new. This has nice presence with lovely citrus and pear fruit, and hints of aniseed and clove. Good focus with a spicy, cedary, mineral flourish on the finish. 94/100

CheckMate Opening Gambit Merlot 2017 Okanagan, Canada
This is from the Osoyoos Bench and it is aged in 100% new oak. Fresh, supple and refined with some bright spiciness and appealing, vivid cherry and berry fruit. Nice presence: this is very fine. 94/100

Mission Hill Perpetua Chardonnay 2019 Okanagan, Canada
Toasty, spicy and intense with some matchstick minerality on the nose. Really aromatic. The palate is intense, vivid and shows nice fine spiciness as well as ripe pear and citrus fruit. Lovely finish. Very fine. 95/100

Mission Hill Terroir Series Vista’s Ridge Cabernet Franc 2019 Okanagan, Canada
This is lovely. Bright with complex blackberry and black cherry fruit. Vivid with a slight spicy edge. Shows lovely palate weight. 94/100

Liquidity Reserve Chardonnay 2019 Okanagan, Canada
This predates the acquisition of Liquidity by Von Mandl, and it also predates the new winemaker here Amy Paynter. From clone 76 planted in 1994, estate vineyards in OK Falls. Barrel fermented with 20% malolactic fermentation. Fresh and fine with some citrus drive, a touch of pear and then a fine spiciness. This is a gentle wine, but it shows precision. 93/100

Liquidity Viognier 2020 Okanagan, Canada
Stainless steel ferment with just a portion in barrel. Very aromatic with lovely peach and pear fruit as well as some mandarin. Apricot and lemons on the palate with great purity. Quite delicious with a lot of flavour. 93/100

Liquidity Reserve Pinot Noir 2019 Okanagan, Canada
Clones 115 and 667. Supple and bright with a real sense of freshness. Nice detail. Delicate and expressive with a lovely juicy quality, and the oak is right in the background (16 months in mostly neutral barrels). 92/100

Liquidity Cabernet Franc Reserve 2019 Okanagan, Canada
This is fruit from Oliver, fermented in small batches, 25 days on the skins. Three barrels made, one new. Supple and elegant with nicely poised, elegant cherry fruit. Expressive with nice presence. 94/100 (CA$50 exclusive to wine club members)

Road 13 Traditional Method Chenin Blanc 2017 Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan, Canada
This is from 1968 plantings. 5.5 g/litre dosage. Very fresh and fine with nice citrus and pear fruit. Juicy and fine with a good acid line and fine bready, toasty notes. This has a crystalline edge to it and nice pithiness. Pristine. 92/100

Road 13 Jackpot Chenin Blanc 2012 Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan, Canada (magnum)
This spent 8 years on its lees. Pithy, intense and fine with lovely focus to the pear and citrus fruit, with just a touch of lemon peel, and a crystalline finish. Subtle toasty hints. 92/100

Road 13 Fifth Element 2019 Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan, Canada
This is a blend of Merlot, Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Fresh with nice density and sweet blackcurrant and cherry fruit. Well balanced with some spiciness. 92/100

Martin’s Lane Fritzi’s Vineyard Riesling 2018 Okanagan, Canada
10 g/l residual sugar. Powerful but balanced with lime, lemon and spice. Has nice depth with a citrus fruit core and some spicy framing. 93/100

Martin’s Lane Fritzi’s Vineyard Riesling 2017 Okanagan, Canada
8 g/l residual sugar. Lovely ripe pear, melon and apricot fruit with fine spicy fringes. Lovely balance and weight: this has a ripe core to the fruit but it’s very fine. 93/100

Martin’s Lane Fritzi’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017 Okanagan, Canada
Clone 115, 50% whole bunch. Lovely floral aromatics with bright red cherries and some redcurrant. Quite floral. Fresh palate with nice bright cherries and plums. Supple with bright fruit and good concentration. There’s some tannin here but also good acidity and a sweetness to the fruit on the finish. 94/100

Martin’s Lane Fritzi’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018 Okanagan, Canada
70% whole bunch this year. Subtle rubber/vinyl edge to the nose. It’s bright and primary with a bit of grip, nice tannins and a hint of green. This is primary and vivid with nice intensity. I think its serious, but it needs time to come together. 94/100

Cedar Creek Aspect Collection Block 3 Riesling 2020 Okanagan, Canada
1991 plantings. Crushed and held on skins for 20 hours. Fermented and aged 50% in stainless steel (inoculated), 50% in large barrels (wild ferment). Very pure and fresh with lovely intensity and a bit of grip, as well as a hint of saltiness. 93/100

Cedar Creek Platinum Jagged Rock Vineyard Chardonnay 2020 Okanagan, Canada
This comes from a vineyard in Oliver. Fine, fresh and expressive. Lean with lovely fine acidity. Has taut citrus and a slight salinity. Very expressive with good ageing potential. 94/100

Cedar Creek Platinum Naramata Ranch Pinot Noir 2020 Okanagan, Canada
60% whole bunch. Wild ferment in concrete then 10 months in oak. Vivid with lovely reduction on the nose: spicy and vivid. Taut, with lovely precision and a really nice whole bunch character. Expressive and fine with red cherries and herbs. Give this time: it’s very special. 95/100

Cedar Creek Platinum Simes Vineyard Pinot Noir Natural Wine Project 2020
60% whole bunch. Fermented and aged in concrete and clay. No added sulfites. Very fine and expressive on the nose with red cherries and fine spices. The palate is supple and bright with lovely cherry and plum fruit, as well as a nice silky texture. It’s supple and linear and has a bit of grip to the tannins. 94/100

Red Barn Jagged Rock Vineyard Lost Art Semillon 2020 Okanagan, Canada
This is the first vintage from this new project based on a vineyard in the Black Sage Bench. Fermented and aged in concrete. Fresh and fine with lovely citrus fruit. Linear and pure with a delicacy to it, and notes of green tea. Fine and expressive with lovely purity. 92/100

Red Barn Jagged Rock Vineyard Silent Partner Cabernet Franc 2019 Okanagan, Canada
100% whole bunch in concrete. Floral and expressive with nice blackcurrant and black cherry fruit. This is bright and floral with lovely intensity and a bit of saltiness. Very fine. 93/100

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