Photo: Moon Curser's Beata and Chris Tolley
It is axiomatic that wine is best enjoyed in the company of
other wine lovers.
Recently, a neighbour provided that opportunity. He asked if
I could lead a tasting for his house guests, knowing that I am always reviewing
wine samples from British Columbia
I don’t want to suggest he was being cheap. He was just
being realistic. Like many wine reviewers, I appreciate neighbours who pitch in
to finish the wines. I cannot drink them all by myself and, these days, most of
the wines are too good to dump.
His guests, all of them wine lovers, included a staff member
of the Metropolitan Opera and a young couple who live in Santiago
They were intensely curious about British
Columbia wine which they never get to taste.
By good fortune, I had samples from Moon
Vineyards, which was opened in 2006 by Beata and Chris
Tolley. Having planted varieties different from the Okanagan mainstream, they
produce some of the most interesting wines in the Okanagan. The South Americans
had some familiarity with Malbec and Carmenère. Many of the other varietals
were novel to my tasting companions.
I did not take all of the wines below to the neighbourhood
tasting; it would have made for a very long (if pleasant) night. But we shared
six. The guests went away with a positive appreciation of British Columbian
The favourite wine of the evening was Moon
’s Tempranillo, a red made with a Spanish varietal
gaining traction in the Okanagan.
Here are my notes.
Arneis 2014 Contraband Series
($25.90 for 318 cases). Moon Curser
is the first Okanagan winery to release
Arneis, a white varietal from Piedmont in Northern Italy
Apparently, the name of the grape in the local dialect means “little rascal.”
That may have something to do with viticulture but certainly not with the
quality of the wines. The wine is crisp and fresh with aromas of pear, honeydew
melon and citrus. There is a delicate note of fennel on the dry finish. 91.
Afraid of the Dark 2014
($21.90 for 620 cases). This is 43% Roussanne, 43%
Viognier and 14% Marsanne. It is a rich and satisfying white wine, with aromas
and flavours of apricot, nectarine and hazelnut. 90.
Border Vines 2012
($26.90 for 1,328 cases). This is a blend of 37% Merlot,
22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Petit Verdot, 15% Malbec and 10% Carmenère. The
wine is deep purple in colour, with aromas of black currant, mulberry and
blueberry. On the palate, there is black currant, blackberry and plum, nicely wrapped
up with a peppery finish. The long ripe tannins give this a generous texture
and a savoury finish with classic Okanagan sage notes. 92.
($42.90 for 315 cases). Dark in colour, the medium-bodied wine
has aromas and flavours of pepper; it also has flavours of cherry and black
currant. The wine benefits from decanting to bring out its generous texture.
($31.90 for 241 cases). This begins with the variety’s classic
aromas of cherry, blueberry and violets. On the palate, the wine delivers
bright fruit with flavours of boysenberry, blackberry and black cherry and with
spice on the finish. 91.
Petit Verdot 2012
($31.90 for 247 cases). In the glass, this wine is so
dark that – as one of our tasters said – you could look at the sun through it.
You might want to lay in a bottle for the next eclipse. It is a muscular wine with bold, ripe tannins
and flavours of cola, black cherry and coffee. The wine also has a firm
backbone of minerality (a hint of graphite). This wine will age very well. 92.
Pinot Noir 2012
($24.90 for 97 cases). Dark in colour, this wine begins
aromas of plums and dark red fruit. There are robust flavours of pepper and
plum with an earthy undertone. As Okanagan Pinot Noirs go, this wine is a
stylistic outlier that I would pair with game. That is not to criticise the
wine: I take my hat off to the winery for daring to be different. 89.
Tempranillo 2013 Contraband Series
($31.90 for 268
cases). This dark red begins with appealing aromas of plums, blackberries and
mulberries. Those fruits are echoed in the flavours, along with coffee and dark
chocolate. The wine is full-bodied and has a long, spicy finish. 93.
Touriga Nacional 2012
($49.90 for 48 cases). This is a rare example of an
Okanagan wine made with the great Portuguese red. The wine also has a
singularly dark colour. The aroma shows plum, black cherry, spice and cedar.
Firm in structure, the wine has earthy flavours of plum, black cherry, dark
chocolate and coffee. Decant this wine if you drink it now; otherwise, put it
in the cellar and forget about it for five years. 92.
($26.90 for 1,299 cases). This wine is rustic in a positive way,
with gamy, meaty aromas. On the palate, the flavours include plum, prune, deli
meats, with liquorice, minerals and pepper on the finish. 90.
Contraband Syrah 2012
for 444 cases). This is the more concentrated of the winery’s two Syrah wines,
in part because some juice is bled off for rosé before fermentation. The wine
has the classic black pepper on the nose and palate of south Okanagan Syrah,
along with aromas of black cherry. On the palate, it has flavours of black
cherry, liquorice, chocolate and leather. The wine benefits from being
Dead of Night 2012
($42.90 for 247 cases). The winery’s flagship red, it is
a blend of equal parts of Tannat and Syrah. Moon
was the first Okanagan winery to produce Tannat, an
old French variety now better known as the backbone of Uruguay
’s wines. While Moon Curser
occasionally releases Tannat on its own,
this blend is a match made in Heaven. The wine is rich, almost dense and chewy,
with a medley of red fruit on the palate (cherry, plum, blackberry) set against
a background of leather and coffee. 94.