Moon Curser's Beata and Chris Tolley
Formerly known as Twisted Tree Vineyards,
the winery relaunched itself last year as Moon Curser Vineyards.
The bottles now bear some of the spookiest and
contentious labels in the Okanagan. Some of their peers thought that Beata and
Chris Tolley had taken leave of their senses; but others are coming round to
the view that the winery is successfully tapping a new demographic of wine
The concept behind the label is to develop
a story line around colourful local history. When gold was being mined in the
southern Okanagan in the late 19th Century, those miners who wanted
to take their gold to smelters across the border had to pay a royalty to the
Canadian government. Naturally, a lot of gold was smuggled over the border at
night, except on nights when the moon was bright. The smugglers came to be
called moon cursers.
On this winery’s labels, the smugglers are
variously represented by a fox in silhouette, or a donkey in silhouette. The
customs agents are represented by an owl carrying a lantern. The caricatures
have the atmosphere of Halloween.
Everyone who sees these labels talks about
them. And that’s the point – to attention to this winery and its wines. The
Tolleys had come to the conclusion that Twisted Tree was too bland and too
easily confused with other Okanagan wineries (Tangled Vines, Oliver Twist).
Nobody gets Moon Curser mixed up.
The labels may be contentious but the wines
are not. These are well-grown, well-made wines. As a general comment on the style, the red
wines should all be decanted if you intend to consume them now. These are all
wines built to age gracefully for five or 10 years. They may also be either
unfiltered or lightly filtered; one of the reds (the Tempranillo) was already
throwing sediment. I don’t consider that negative, but rather a sign that Chris
Tolley takes pains not to strip flavour and substance from his reds.
Here are my notes on this year’s releases.
Curser Viognier 2011 ($28 for 252 cases). The
technical notes on this wine reveal that a remarkable degree of care was taken
with these grapes, beginning with pressing them very gently over four hours to
avoid extracting bitterness and tannin. Then the juice was fermented at a cool
13 degrees Celsius to preserve the fruit flavours. The wine begins with
appealing aromas of Ambrosia apples. On the palate, there are flavours apricot,
peach and apple with a hint of ginger. The dry finish lingers. Some of this
wine was saved for retasting a second day and the fruit flavours had become even
more intense. 91.
Curser Afraid of the Dark 2011 ($22 for 407 cases).
This is a somewhat unusual take on blending a Rhone
white. The wine is 42% Marsanne, 33% Roussanne and 25% Chardonnay Musqué. The result is a refreshing, appealing dry
white with apple and citrus aromas and flavours, along with a touch of peach.
It is all held together with a clean spine of minerals. 91.
Curser Merlot 2010 ($25 for 348 cases). This wine
begins with inviting aromas of blackberry, fig and mocha. There are layers of
flavour on the palate – black currant, blackberry, black cherry – with notes of
chocolate and nutmeg on the finish. 90.
Curser Dead of Night 2010 ($38 for 405 cases). This
is a blend of 53% Syrah and 47% Tannat. This winery was the first Okanagan
producer (and may still be the only one) with a significant planting of Tannat,
a variety found mainly in the south of France
and in Uruguay.
After releasing the varietal on its own for a couple of vintages, the winery in
2009 began blending it with Syrah and that has proved to be an excellent
The wine begins with aromas of cherry and
plum, supported with notes on pepper, spice and oak. It delivers complex
flavours of black cherry, plum, vanilla with an undertone of spiced deli meats.
The vibrant acidity of this red suggests that this wine will evolve very well
with several more years of cellaring. 90.
Curser Border Vines 2010 ($25 for 1,909 cases).
When this winery still called itself Twisted Tree, this wine was known as Six
Vines because it incorporates six Bordeaux
varietals. This vintage is 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 15% Cabernet
Franc, 7% each of Malbec and Carmenère and 3% of Petit Verdot. The result is a
red with considerable complexity, beginning with aromas of currants and other
red fruit. On the palate, there are flavours of plum and cherry with notes of
spice and earth. The tannins have an intriguing rustic character, adding to the
body and concentration of the wine. It needs to be cellar four or five years to
really express its potential. 88-92.
Curser Petit Verdot 2010 ($29 for 124 cases). This
wine scored double gold in the All-Canadian Wine Competition this spring. And I
managed to spill a glass on the rug, so I can assure you that this is a dark,
At this stage in its life, the texture is
still tight. Decant it if you lack the patience to cellar the wine. It has good
aromas of red berries (currants, cherries, raspberries) and these carry through
to the palate, with notes of minerals and spice on the finish. 90.
Curser Malbec 2010 ($29 for 201 cases). Another
dark wine, it begins with aromas of plum and chocolate. On the palate, it
delivers a complex set of fruit and berry flavours – plum, black cherry,
currant – with a hint of spice. The wine has a brooding, muscular texture. 92.
Curser Tempranillo 2010 ($29 for 188 cases). This
is one of the rare examples of this Spanish red grown in the Okanagan. An
interesting wine, it begins with aromas of cherry, red currant, pomegranate and
vanilla. On the palate, there are flavours of sour plum, currants and tobacco.
The texture is firm, requiring decanting. 90.
Curser Syrah 2010 ($25 for 572 cases). A dark wine,
it begins with aromas of vanilla, pepper and fig. On the palate, there are
meaty flavours of black cherry and fig, with an earthy, peppery finish. This is
a satisfying Syrah. 90.