Moon Curser Vineyards of Osoyoos, after making its reputation by championing varieties almost no one else grows, is now making a big bet on Cabernet Sauvignon, a mainstream variety if ever there is one.
During the past seven years, Moon Curser has planted two blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon, totalling just over five acres. Chris T0lley, who owns the winery with his wife Beata, notes that this is a quarter of Moon Curser’s total vineyards, all of which are in sun-drenched Osoyoos.
“It is not a variety you should plant elsewhere,” he believes.
Moon Curser’s first estate Cabernet Sauvignon was made in 2014 and is now in bottle. (The winery has released Cabernet Sauvignon in earlier vintages.) It is not yet released. Chris expects to release it in 2017 or 2018, depending on its development in bottle.
I tasted the wine this spring, however. It is already a promising wine. Moon Curser fans should keep an eye out for the release.
This does not mean that Chris and Beata are dropping the “off-beat” varieties already in their portfolio. These include:
· Arneis. This lovely Italian white joined the Moon Curser range in the 2013 vintage. Moon Curser is believed to have been the first winery in Canada to grow Arneis and now has a 1 ½ -acre block.
· Dolcetto. Moon Curser is just releasing its first Dolcetto this year, from its one-acre block. The other Okanagan producer with this Italian red is Stag’s Hollow Winery, which also released the varietal this year. According to Chris, whose father is from Italy, the grape’s name means “little sweet one,” an allusion to the wine’s soft, juicy character.
· Tannat. This is a big tannic red grape found in the French wine region of Madiran and in Uruguay. Moon Curser may also have Canada’s only Tannat vines.
· Touriga Nacional, the major Port variety in Portugal. A few years ago, Chris took over a block of that variety from another Osoyoos vineyard and released a red wine. He is now thinking of make a barrel or two of Port.
· Carménère, the late ripening Bordeaux grape that was saved from extinction in Chile. Black Hills Winery planted the first Carménère about a dozen years ago. A handful of other wineries in the south Okanagan, including Moon Curser, subsequently planted the variety and have a clientele for this dense, peppery red.
· Tempranillo. This is a major variety in Spain and has been planted by a number of B.C. wineries, including Moon Curser.
Other varieties in the Moon Curser portfolio include the Rhone whites and Rhone reds, Malbec and Petit Verdot, all of which are grown in numerous other vineyards.
What is moving aside at Moon Curser? Merlot, for one. This is the most widely planted red in the Okanagan. As a result, it is hard for a small winery to attract notice with this ubiquitous varietal.
“We are moving away from Merlot,” Chris says. “It softens everything up nicely and the consumer likes it. But Malbec is a softer aromatic variety that I will trade for the Merlot.”
Here are notes on Moon Curser’s wines. I tasted many in the spring, several of which have been succeeded by the current vintage. I will try to update this blog when I can; but notes of sold-out wines give some indication of Moon Curser’s quality.
Moon Curser Arneis 2015 Contraband Series ($25.90 for 343 cases). The wine begins with a lovely aroma of melons and pineapples delicately accented with spice. On the palate, it delivers luscious flavours of peach, apple and pear. The texture is full and the finish is long. 92.
Moon Curser Afraid of the Dark 2015 ($21.90 for 464 cases). This is complex wine 43% Viognier, 40% Roussanne and 17% Marsanne. This wine begins with very appealing aromas: honeyed melon and nectarine with vanilla. Richly textured but dry, the wine delivers flavours of apricot, guava, and mango, with a hint of honey and vanilla on the finish. 92
Moon Curser Dolcetto 2015 ($26.90). This is an unoaked red which suits the soft and juicy texture. The wine has luscious aromas and flavours of cherries, finishing with a fruit sweetness at the end. Of course, it is a dry wine. 90.
Moon Curser Tannat 2012 ($42.90 for 171 cases). This is a full-bodied red with power and with age-ability. It begins with aromas of dark fruit and spice, leading to flavours of figs, plums and dark chocolate. 93.
Moon Curser Syrah 2013 ($26.90 for 1,059 cases). This is described by the winery as medium-bodied but I thought the texture was generous. It has aromas and flavours of plum and fig with a hint of oak. 91.
Moon Curser Syrah 2012 Contraband Series ($31.90 for 444 cases). This is definitely full-bodied. A portion of the wine is made with grapes from a premium Syrah block and a portion is from juice that has been concentrated by bleeding off some for rosé. The wine has been aged in French oak (30% new). This has the classic deli counter spice aromas and gamy, earthy flavours of the variety, along with flavours of black cherries and black olives. Black pepper punctuates the finish. 91.
Moon Curser Malbec 2013 Contraband Series ($31.90). This is also a full, fleshy wine with aromas and flavours of blueberries, blackberries and currants. There is spice on the finish. 91.
Moon Curser Tempranillo 2014 Contraband Series ($31.90). Still firmly structured, this wine should be cellared a few more years. The wine has plum, black currant and other dark fruits on the nose and palate. The finish lasts and lasts. 90-92.
Moon Curser Carménère 2013 ($42.90). Dark in colour with spice ar0mas, including fennel and pepper. The palate delivers flavours of black currants, espresso and dark chocolate. 91.
Moon Curser Petit Verdot 2013 Contraband Series ($31.90 for 246 cases). As always, the wine presents in the glass with a black as night colour. Everything else is intense as well, from aromas of violets and dark fruits to flavours of figs, black cherries, dark chocolate, licorice and a note of graphite on the finish. 91.
Moon Curser Border Vines 2013 ($26.90 for 1,710 cases). This is 32% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Malbec, 18% Petit Verdot and 4% Carménère. The wine begins with aromas of black cherries and black berries. These are echoed on the palate, along with flavours of blueberries and spicy cedar, reflecting the French oak in which the wine was aged. 90.
Moon Curser Dead of Night 2013 ($42.90).
Moon Curser Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (not released). This is a big, ripe Cabernet Sauvignon with long and firm tannins at this stage in its development. There are aromas and flavour of black currants, with layers of flavour to develop in bottle. 92-94.