I like mavericks, especially when they own their own winery, so when I visited with Chris Tolley, the owner of Moon Curser Winery in Osoyoos, I knew I was in for a treat. You see, Chris just doesn't grow the usual B.C. wine grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, he grows unusual grapes rarely found in B.C. vineyards.
A big fan of the Rhone Valley in France, Chris reflects this in the Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne and Syrah that he produces.
The style of the wines that Moon Curser releases is reflective of the restraint fruit and emphasis on complexity and finesse that you find in the Rhone. Moon Curser also crafts a Spanish grape, Tempranillo, which is the main grape used in the famous wines of Rioja.
As Chris and I spoke, we tasted several of his vintages. All were excellent, but here is a list of my favourites:
In my opinion, the 2011 Viognier is the best in the valley. Pale yellow in the glass with an explosive aroma of peach, pear, floral and spice hints, there is big weight into the mid-palate, rich and round with citrus notes on the palate, and a long extended finish.
The 2010 Tempranillo showed extremely well: crushed cranberry and red cherry layered with complex notes of dry herbs, sweet herbs, leather and earthiness. It's surprisingly fresh, considering it spent 12 months in French and American oak, and well balanced at 13.2-percent alcohol.
A classic Rhone style, the 2010 Syrah displays the hallmarks of a wine that does not use overripe grapes - red and black fruits with crushed white pepper and hints of tobacco leaf emerging near the finish.
Not too many wineries on the planet can claim to sell a straight 100-per-cent 2010 Petit Verdot. This Bordeaux varietal reveals red berry, red rose and violets scents, and tannins supple enough to belong in a top rated Burgundy. Moon Curser has mastered this varietal, which features a super long attractive finish, and is difficult to grow and ferment.
Another rare type is Tannat, originally a French varietal that has found its way around the world to places like Australia, Uruguay, Argentina and California. Here, Chris blends his 2010 Tannat 50/50 with Syrah. The result is blackberry, cassis, pepper, smoke, cedar and an excellent backbone of tannins, thanks to the Tannat.
Moon Curser also produces some excellent blended wines such as Afraid of the Dark and Border Vines, which I also highly recommend.
The next time you're reaching for your usual B.C. choice this fall, don't be afraid of the dark and try some of Moon Curser's inspirational wines.
. John Gerum is a wine instructor, writer and consultant with West Coast Wine Education. For information on upcoming wine tastings, workshops, classes and clubs, visit www.wcwed.com.