Sunday, August 22, 2021

Moon Curser makes an impact

Photo: Chris and Beata Tolley (credit Richard McQuire) Chris and Beat Tolley launched this winery in 2006 under the name, Twisted Tree Vineyards & Winery. Four years later, they opted for a more impactful name, Moon Curser, with quite garrish labels. When the current wines were released this summer, Moon Curser fans no doubted rejoiced to find that some of the labels have been toned down and made more elegant. Below: old label at top, new label below.
What is in those bottles is more important. Moon Curser hardly needs nightmare-inducing labels to make an impact when the wines are this interesting. The range of varietals produced by Moon Curser is extensive and includes several varietals that are either exclusive to the winery or grown by few other producers. A Moon Curser wine list includes Arneis, Dolcetto, Tannat, Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional, Carménère, and Nebbiolo. “I love the diversity,” Chris says. “I love the affirmation that this valley is capable of doing a wide variety of wines. Maybe we do one of these varieties better than anywhere else in the world.” Indeed, I would put up a Moon Curser Tannat against wines from Uruguay where that variety thrives. The flagship red at Moon Curser, Dead of Night, is an inspired blend of equal parts Tannat and Syrah.
Chris, who was born in 1966 in Montreal, is a former software engineer. Beata, his Polish-born wife, practised as a chartered accountant until the couple decided to change careers. “We were looking for something more, something better, and we decided to do a winery and vineyard,” Chris told me. Lacking a wine background, they went to New Zealand in 2003 for postgraduate degrees in enology and viticulture at Lincoln University. The following year, they bought the Osoyoos orchard where they planted their first vineyard and built the winery. In both New Zealand and Australia, where they tasted extensively, they were struck by the fact that a small number of varietals dominated the wines. Chris and Beata concluded their winery was more likely to stand out if they did not merely echo what everyone else in the Okanagan was doing. That accounts for the diversity of the Moon Curser portfolio. As well, Chris’s Italian ancestry explains the number of Italian varietals he grows.
Here are notes on the current releases.
Moon Curser Arneis 2020 ($26.99 for 235 cases). This wine was fermented cool in stainless steel, with no lees stirring in order to preserve the variety’s bright fruit. It begins with floral aromas mingled with lime. The crisp palate delivers flavours of lime and apple with a briny note on the finish. 91.
Moon Curser Viognier 2020 ($22.99 for 308 cases). The wine begins with aromas of apples, apricots and honey. The palate is packed with stone fruit flavours mingled with honeysuckle. Fresh acidity balances the hint of residual sugar. The texture is rich. 90.
Moon Curser Roussanne Marsanne 2020 ($27.99 for 187 cases). This is 58% Roussanne, 42% Marsanne. The grapes were co-fermented, partially in stainless steel at 15◦C and partially in barrel at 24◦C. A portion was aged in French oak for four months. The aromas start with the appealing spice of new oak mingled with stone fruit. The palate is rich with notes of toasted oak and baked apples, leading to a lingering finish. 92.
Moon Curser Border Vines 2019 ($28.99 for 1,331 cases). This is 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 9% Petit Verdot, 9% Malbec and 5% Carménère. The wine was aged in French and American oak (20% new). It begins with aromas of blueberry, blackberry and black currant. On the palate, there are flavours of cassis and cherry with notes of tobacco and black licorice. 91.
Moon Curser Dolcetto 2020 ($27.99 for 178 cases). This wine was fermented and matured in stainless steel to deliver the remarkable fruitiness of the variety. In the glass, it presents with a dark purple hue and aromas of plum. The fruit flavours – cherry, strawberry and ripe raspberry – explode on the palate. The tannins are soft but the wine still shows remarkable concentration. There is a wonderful thespian character to this wine. 92.
Moon Curser Syrah 2019 ($28.99 for 802 cases). This is a bold red (15.1% alcohol). It begins with aromas of plum, fig and spice leading to concentrated and savoury flavours of plum and cherry mingled with cigar box. The finish lingers. 91.
Moon Curser Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($42.99 for 273 cases). The grapes for this wine are all from the Fernandes Vineyard on the Osoyoos East Bench. There were two harvests: October 21 and November 12. Fermentation was in stainless steel with maturation in French oak (36% new). The wine is dark, with aromas of blackberry, black currant and blueberry. The palate is concentrated with some grip, to be expected with a Cabernet Sauvignon. There are flavours of plum, cherry, raspberry and cassis. The finish is long. Decant this wine for drinking now or cellar it seven to 10 years. 92.
Moon Curser Carménère 2019 ($42.99 for 300 cases). This is a notoriously late ripener. The grapes for this vintage were harvested November 5. However, the wine rewards the risk. The wine begins with aromas of dark fruits (think of a Christmas pudding) mingled with white and black pepper. The flavours are intense, delivering dark cherries, cloves, cedar with pepper on the persistent finish. 93.
Moon Curser Tempranillo 2019 ($33.99 for 260 cases). The wine was aged in American oak (20% new). It begins with aromas of cherry and vanilla, leading to flavours of dark cherry and plum. The long ripe tannins give the wine an elegant finish. 91.
Moon Curser Malbec 2019 ($33.99 for 505 cases). Dark in colour, the wine begins with aromas of cherry, blueberry and the variety’s elusive floral notes. The wine delivers a scoop of sweet fruit on the palate – think of tutti fruiti ice cream if it were dry – with raspberry and cherry on the finish. 91.
Moon Curser Petit Verdot 2019 ($33.99 for 232 cases). This wine was fermented in stainless steel and aged in French oak (36% new). Typical of the variety, the colour is dark as night. The wine begins with aromas of violets, plums and spices. Concentrated in texture, the wine delivers intense flavours of plum, blueberry and cigar box with notes of dark chocolate and minerals on the finish. The finish is very long. This wine should be cellared to let it reach its full potential. 92.
Moon Curser Touriga Nacional 2019 ($42.99 for 149 cases). This winery is the only producer of late-ripening Touriga Nacional in the Okanagan. This is a big wine, with 15.5% alcohol. It was fermented in stainless steel and aged in French oak (28% new). Dark in colour, the wine begins with aromas of pepper, sage and fig. On the full-bodied palate, there are flavours of blueberries, dark cherries, thyme and rosemary. 93.
b>Moon Curser Dead of Night 2019</b> ($42.99 for 319 cases). This is a blend of 53% Tannat and 47% Syrah, fermented separately in stainless steel and then aged in French and Hungarian oak. There is a brooding complexity on the nose, with notes of plum, fig and cedar. On the palate, there are intense flavours of blackberry, cassis, cherry and anise, with spice, cedar and earthiness on the finish. This wine is drinking well now but has great potential to cellar for a decade. 94.
Moon Curser Contraband Syrah 2019 ($36.99 for 172 cases). The label credits the Bartsch Vineyard on the Oliver East Bench for this bold wine, with 15.7% alcohol. The wine is available only to wine club members. Dark in colour, it begins with aromas of cherries, dark chocolate and spice. The rich palate delivers sweet dark fruit flavours including plum, dark cherry and leather. Notes of oak – the wine was matured in French and Hungarian oak – are subtle on the persistent finish. 93.

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