Moon Curser Vineyards uses unconventional grapes

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      Moon Curser Vineyards (3628 Highway 3 East, Osoyoos)

      Chris Tolley and his wife, Beata, have chosen the road less travelled. In early 2002, Beata had a good job as a controller of a small radiology company in Calgary. Tolley was working for a high-tech firm that had just won a major contract from General Electric.

      They decided to chuck aside their careers and move to New Zealand to study viticulture and oenology at Lincoln University. After graduating, they bought a small property in Osoyoos and called it Twisted Tree Vineyards.

      “We’re just a couple of wine geeks,” Tolley said over the phone with a laugh.

      The original name didn’t make any reference to the area. And they decided to grow grapes that were not typically seen in the Okanagan, such as Tannat, Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional, and Carméère.

      “We wanted to see how they do in the Okanagan,” Tolley said. “It’s been quite successful, actually. We seem to get the awards internationally where we’re able to enter our wines with similar varieties.”

      After working with a marketing consultant, the Tolleys decided to change the winery’s name to Moon Curser Vineyards, which harks back to the Gold Rush era.

      As a border town, Osoyoos was once a haven for gold-smuggling miners who relied on the moon to get back into the United States.

      The label features the Okanagan Valley’s famous ponderosa pines. The label also shows a tiny bat, which refers to a bat aviary in Osoyoos.

      The winery’s tasting room has a nice view of Anarchist Mountain.

      “It’s sort of a parklike setting, but it’s very boutique,” Tolley stated.

      Last year, Moon Curser made 5,100 cases of wine, which was up from 4,800 cases the previous year.

      Signature wine: Border Vines 2009 won Decanter magazine’s regional trophy for best Canadian red wine, but Tolley doesn’t consider Moon Curser to be a “Bordeaux blend” house. Touriga Nacional is topping his list these days, though he acknowledged that Dead of Night is probably the company’s most popular wine. “It’s half Tannat, half Syrah,” Tolley said. “We’re quite proud of it.”