Moon Curser wines jump off the shelf
Moon Curser, eh? What kind of name is that when it’s at home?
I went to the font of all knowledge, Mr. Google’s Infoporium, and checked it out. Instead of only finding “winery in the far south of the Okanagan” or maybe an obscure play by Sean O’Casey, I got a real dictionary definition: “contrabandist; someone who imports or exports (i.e. smuggles) without paying duties”.
And what kind of name is that for a winery? A new one; the winery itself being not quite so new, having been established by Chris and Beata Tolley several years back in the deep south of the Okanagan Valley, barely a whistle from the U.S. border.
It all harkens back to the days of the 1860s gold rushes, when miners working various claims around the town of Osoyoos would try and smuggle gold into the U.S. without leaving the requisite portion for the border guards. If there was a moon in the sky, it made smuggling much harder, hence the note that appears on one of the wine labels: “Damn you moon for lighting my run tonight. This gold is mine, and no border agent is going to tax me.”
Nexus lanes were yet undreamed of.
What used to be known as Twisted Tree became Moon Curser, thanks to the creative work of Brandever, a Vancouver-based company helmed by Bernie Hadley-Beauregard. Having created memorable, groundbreaking, and award-winning identities for other wineries—Blasted Church and Dirty Laundry, among many others—Hadley-Beauregard researched local history (which he likes to do) for the winery’s name and back story. He also brought in a graphic artist, in this case, New York-based Andrea Dezsí¶ who works in paper-cutting and has exhibited at various galleries and museums (as well as done the interiors of two NYC subway stations) to do the Tim Burton-ish labels for the Tolleys’ portfolio.
As Twisted Tree, the wines, particularly the reds, were frequent favourites in this corner, ending up on several Best of the Year lists. (Chris Tolley is fond of working with more uncommon-to-us varieties like Tannat, Tempranillo, and Carmenere.) As Moon Curser, I don’t see that changing: across the board, these are outstanding, top-tier wines, with the reds again outshining the whites, if only by a little.
Black and gold images set the tone—which is a little Hallowe’eny—and many labels are silk screened on to the bottles, although some of the wines made in smaller quantities (like the Chardonnay, with only 60 cases produced) use black and white paper labels of the conventional kind. As is the case with any Brandever design, Moon Curser’s bottles jump off the shelf at you. There’s no mistaking these moon-cursing babies. As Beata Tolley puts it, “These are sit up and pay attention names.” And images.
Moon Curser not only makes a major graphic statement, but it also makes a major quality commitment as all the wines are bottled under screwcap.
The only problem is one that all wineries find agreeable: there’s not much to go around. As was the case with Twisted Tree, they sell out fast. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chardonnay referenced above is already gone.
Here follows a quick tour through the portfolio as it was at the time of release a couple of months ago:
($28, 122 cases)
Floral, fruity, fresh, and rich with the scent and taste of orange peel. Also has a taste of just-ripe apricots, flinty and gutsy-dry with superb acidity. It’s due to mellow into an even more harmonious whole with a few more months in bottle.
($22, 60 cases)
Lemony luscious and full all along the palate; elegant but not spindly, with gorgeous weight and finish,
taut full fruit. You can enjoy this with dessert.
Afraid of the Dark 2010
($22, 543 cases)
New this vintage is this blend of Rhone whites—Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne—brilliantly assembled to bring out the best qualities of each. Fruity and supple, it’s welcome with any food and rewarding all on its own in a big, cool glass.
($29, 276 cases)
Lots of cherry and chocolate, this one’s tart and even a little sharp on the tip of the tongue; lots of tannins in the back. It’s not your Sunday-go-to-meeting tamed-down Spanish Tempranillo, but a double-barrelled bruiser that will reward some cellaring.
($25, 271 cases)
A textbook example of Chris Tolley’s winemaking strength: these relatively high-alcohol reds (14.4 percent in this case). The Merlot is rich and agreeably sweet upon first taste with some red-bean Chinese pastry notes, lots of chocolate, and some Bourbon vanilla.
Border Vines 2009
($25, 1325 cases)
The largest single production of the nine labels, this blend brings together Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. They used to call earlier incarnations of this í¼ber-Meritage Six Vines, and it’s as good as any Meritage—by name or not—being made in B.C. Deep fruit, rich and spicy, edgy with black- and red-pepper notes; in short, fabulous. Best of all? A (relatively) abundant supply.
($25, 466 cases)
Spice abounds and some violets edge along the palate. With notes of cherries and blueberries, this Syrah is medium bodied but the fruit is abundant and the finish long.
Dead of Night 2009
($38, 340 cases)
An unusual blend of Syrah and Tannat in equal measure. Massive, dark aromas (licorice?) give way to plumy, tongue-coating ripe fruit and a lingering finish. An intense wine that easily holds its own with all other $40 comers, domestic or imported. Great after-dinner wine; with chí¨vre, smoked Cheddar, or spiced Gouda; or rich meat dishes. Not for the faint of palate.
As you can see, supplies of all Moon Curser wines are fairly limited. The winery shop outside of Osoyoos is your best bet, although Vancouver’s Renaissance Wine Merchants has stored some away, and various front-of-the-line local wine stores also have a supply. A complete list of retailers can be found on the winery’s website