Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Moon Curser and my neighbours

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 wineries.

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 in Chile. They were intensely curious about British Columbia wine which they never get to taste.

By good fortune, I had samples from Moon Curser 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 wines.

The favourite wine of the evening was Moon Curser’s Tempranillo, a red made with a Spanish varietal gaining traction in the Okanagan.

Here are my notes.

Moon Curser 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.

Moon Curser 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.

Moon Curser 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.

Moon Curser Carmenère 2013 ($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. 90.

Moon Curser Malbec 2012 ($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.

Moon Curser 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.

Moon Curser 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.

Moon Curser 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.

Moon Curser 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.

Moon Curser Syrah 2012 ($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.

Moon Curser Contraband Syrah 2012 ($31.90 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 decanted. 91.

Moon Curser 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 Curser 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.

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