Writer and wine columnist John Schreiner is Canada's most prolific author of books on wine.
Monday, September 12, 2022
Moon Curser's original wines
Photo: Vintner Chris Tolley
Moon Curser Vineyards produces no Pinot Gris, no Chardonnay and no Gewürztraminer even though these are three of the most widely grown varietals in the Okanagan.
With a few exceptions, Chris and Beata Tolley, owners of this Osoyoos winery, did not plant many of the popular grape varieties. For the most part, their wines are made with varietals that few other wineries, if any, are growing.
That may have struck some as commercially risky. However, the Moon Curser portfolio is exciting, never boring and usually delivers surprises.
Chris and Beata did not think outside the box initially. They launched in 2006 as Twisted Tree Vineyards & Winery. After a few years, they concluded that the name could be confused with several other wineries and, in any event, did not project the excitement inherent in the varieties they were growing.
With the help of a brand consultant, they rebadged the winery as Moon Curser and had memorably garish labels created.
There is local history to support the name. There was gold mining in the South Okanagan in the late 1800s. The ore was shipped to a smelter in Spokane, attracting duties as it crossed the border. Some miners evaded the duties by smuggling the ore across the border at night – and cursed the moon on those nights when it was too bright for smuggling.
Today, Chris grows some Italian varieties as a homage to his family’s origin in northern Italy. He grows Rhône varieties because they do so well in the South Okanagan. He has the only planting of Touriga Nacional, which is used for Port in Portugal, and he was the first to plant Tannat, the robust red variety of Uruguay.
There is an original mind at work here, making some of the most original wines in the Okanagan.
Here are notes on the current releases.
Moon Curser Moonlit 2021 ($26.99 for 457 cases). This is the winery’s first sparkling wine, made with Viognier grapes, a variety rarely used for a bubbly. The wine begins with aromas of citrus and apples which are echoed on the palate. The bubbles give the wine a creamy entry to the palate but the finish is crisp and dry. 90.
Moon Curser Arneis 2021 ($26.99 for 534 cases). This varietal is native to Piedmont in northern Italy. Moon Curser is believed to be the only Okanagan winery growing Arneis. The wine begins with floral notes of lilac and apple. The palate delivers a bowl of fruit flavours including lime, kiwi, apple and honeydew melon. Bright acidity gives the wine a refreshing finish. 92.
Moon Curser Viognier 2021 ($23.99 for 605 cases). The wine begins with aromas of apricot, orange and lemon. The richly textured palate delivers flavours of citrus, quince and stone fruits with hints of honey on the long finish. 92.
Moon Curser Roussanne Marsanne 2021 ($27.99 for 635 cases). This is 82% Roussanne, 18% Marsanne. A portion of the wine was fermented cool in stainless steel and a portion was fermented at a warmer temperature in barrel. A portion was aged four months in French oak (20% new). The wine begins with aromas of vanilla and toasty oak mingled with orange. The palate is rich, beginning with an appealing note of cloves that leads to flavours recalling marmalade. This is a delicious and complex wine with a finish that refuses to quit. 93.
Moon Curser Heist Rosé 2021 ($26.99 for 223 cases). This is 90% Syrah and 5% each of Malbec and Nebbiolo. Two hours of skin contact gave this wine a salmon pink hue that I consider ideal for a rosé. The aromas are fruity, with notes of strawberry and apple. The fruit flavours are intense – a medley of plum, cranberry mingled with the apple and strawberry. Bright acidity leaves the wine refreshing, as a good rosé should be. 92.
Moon Curser Tempranillo 2020 ($34.99 for 295 cases). This wine was aged about 15 months in French and American oak barrels (20% new). Dark ruby in colour, the wine springs from the glass with aromas of plum and blueberry. On the palate, there are savoury flavours of plum, cherries, blackberries mingled with leather, cigar box and chocolate. Long, ripe tannins give the wine a lingering finish. 92.
Moon Curser Touriga Nacional 2020 ($43.99 for 145 cases). This wine was aged about 15 months in French oak (33% new). Dark in colour, the wine begins with aromas that draw one in: dark cherry, plum and cinnamon. The spice carries through to a rich palate, mingling with plum and dark chocolate. This is full-bodied wine with an exceptionally long finish. Consider pairing this with game. 95.
Moon Curser Malbec 2020 ($34.99 for 513 cases). This wine was aged about 15 months in French oak (25% new). It begins with aromas of blueberry jam. The palate delivers flavours of spice, black currants, black olives and truffles, with a long finish. 92.
Moon Curser Petit Verdot 2020 ($35.99 for 264 cases). This wine was aged about 15 months in French oak (27% new). This varietal is always as dark as a moonless night. Don’t think of serving this with a white table cloth because the stains will be hard to remove. The wine is as dense as it looks, with aromas and flavours of figs, black currant, dark coffee, dark chocolate and even graphite. The tannins have grip. As good as the wine is now, it wants to be cellars for another five years. 93.
Moon Curser Contraband Syrah 2020 ($37.99 for 165 cases; but sold out). This is a powerful and full-bodied wine. It begins with dense, jammy aromas of dark fruit. On the palate, there are flavours of black cherries and figs with a touch of licorice and spice. 93.
Moon Curser Syrah 2020 ($29.99 for 1,168 cases). This is also a big, ripe Syrah. It begins with classic meaty and dark fruit aromas mingled with pepper. On the palate, there are flavours of blueberry, dark cherry and plum. There is two percent Tannat blended in, presumably for backbone. 92.
Moon Curser Dead of Night 2020 ($43.99 for 483 cases). This wine has emerged as Moon Curser’s flagship red blend. This is a blend of 51% Tannat and 49% Syrah, most of it co-fermented. The wine was aged about 15 months in French oak (29% new). It is a full-bodied wine with aromas of dark fruit, spice and dark chocolate. Firm in texture, the wine delivers layer upon layer of flavour: plum, blackberry, dark chocolate, tobacco. The wine has the bones to age sublimely for a decade. 95.