Photo: Ken and Dianne Oh in the Mocojo winery
The Naramata Bench now
accounts for almost a quarter of the wineries in the Okanagan.
While such a concentration
of wineries must bring some problems (traffic jams, shortage of hotel rooms), a
wine tourist can set himself or herself up here for a week of exceptional
Mocojo Winery, which
opened this spring, can’t do anything about the traffic but it has addressed
the accommodation issue: there is also a bed and breakfast here. Tasting room
hours are limited; call ahead.
Here is the profile of
Mocojo which appears in the soon-to-be released fifth edition of John Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide.
Kon Oh came to Canada
from South Korea at 16 when
his family moved to Alberta.
It was his father’s background in agriculture that brought Kon to wine
(eventually). In Korea, his
father was a leader in the 4-H movement, an international agricultural youth
movement. That brought him into contact with 4-H members in Alberta. “He got a taste of western culture
and lifestyle and he decided to immigrate to Canada,” Kon says.
The family settled in Lacombe. “When we were going
to school, my father started a little vegetable garden and we were supplying
mostly Korean stores in the city,” Kon says. “We were growing radishes and
cabbages, and stuff like that, for Korean people. We started with a little
greenhouse in the early 1980s.”
After a stint at retail employment, Kon picked up
the family’s bent for agriculture. “The farming life started with vegetables,”
he recalls. “I was not really thrilled to grow vegetables. It is a lot of work.
I spent a year of research to develop the fresh-cut flower business in the
greenhouse. We did that for 10 years, growing fresh-cut roses, competing with
the South American cut flower industry.”
He and his wife Dianne built a successful business,
even with the disadvantage of heating a greenhouse in Alberta’s winters. “We were
working pretty much 24/7 cutting roses,” Kon remembers. Ready for a change in
lifestyle, they closed the flower business in 2008 and bought an established
vineyard near Naramata.
The number of visitors they hosted that summer led
them to develop a bed and breakfast; and the enthusiasm of wine touring guests
prompted the opening of a winery. “The amount of wine that was purchased by our
guests, it was crazy!” Dianne says. There also was the need to add value to the
vineyard’s production. “You know what the vineyard can bring in financially
after five harvests,” she says. “We would like to be a little more
For winemaking, Kon has been mentored by winemaker
Richard Kanazawa, a neighbour and a friend. The debut production in 2013 was
700 cases, including Maréchal Foch, Gewürztraminer, Viognier and Malbec. The
wines are marketed under the Mojoco label, created from the first syllables of
the names of their three children. And Kon is not planning to get much bigger
than 1,000 cases, leaving time for a new interest – a lieutenant in the
Naramata fire department.
Here are notes on the
Mocojo Gewürztraminer 2013 ($18 for 227 cases). The touch of residual
sweetness will make this popular in the wine shop. The wine has aromas and
flavours of grapefruit and lychee. 88.
Mocojo Viognier 2013 ($20 for 143 cases). For those who don’t care for
the fat and oily style with this variety, this is the ideal wine. It is light
and fresh with aromas and flavours of citrus, apple and mango. The finish is
Mocojo Maréchal Foch 2013 ($18 for 300 cases). This was a tank sample but the
wine has since been bottled for release later in summer. It is a soft, juicy
red with black cherry flavours that mingle with a fruitcake spiciness. 89.
Mocojo Malbec 2013 ($24 for 62 cases; October release). This wine
begins with aromas of pepper and cherry. On the palate, there are flavours of
raspberry and cherry, with a light dash of pepper on the finish. 90.