Credit to Author: agismondi| Date: Fri, 16 Aug 2019 18:00:53 +0000
Ever since attending a series of wine classes in Calgary less than two decades ago it’s been a bit of a storybook journey for the Tolley family, owners of Moon Curser Vineyards in the south Okanagan.
Today the hardworking, modest couple (Chris Tolley is a farmer/winemaker; Beata Tolley is the winery manager) find themselves Best Performing Small Winery in Canada awarded at the 2019 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada for a winery producing 10,000 cases or less.
After those initial wine classes, the Tolleys quickly concluded that owning a winery was something they wanted to explore so they gave up their jobs in Calgary and headed for Lincoln University in New Zealand where they both took the one-year diplomas in viticulture and oenology.
In those early days, they did a fair amount of research by visiting wineries in New Zealand and quickly noticed a sameness in tasting room experiences. Visits to Australia proved more fruitful because many were exploring lesser-known varieties better suited to the warming climate. What they took away from those visits was that it was the odd wines like Viognier that captured their interest and became talking points after they left the winery.
The seed was planted, and when they got back to British Columbia in 2004, they bought an old cherry orchard on the east Osoyoos Bench in the south Okanagan Valley. Quickly they began to explore grape varieties that were decidedly different from the Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Merlot crowd.
Most of what they planted would send the everyday wine drinker running for Jancis Robinson’s famous Guide to Wine Grapes — and it is a strategy that has proven to be uber-successful. The list of non-stream varietal wines changing minds includes Touriga Nacional (Portugal), Carménère (Chile), Tannat (Uruguay), Arneis and Dolcetto (Italy), Tempranillo (Spain) — the list goes on.
Moon Curser began its life as Twisted Tree, a somewhat conservative winery name, that was dropped after a 2011 marketing overhaul. The Moon Curser name embodied the rich history of the South Okanagan, where gold smugglers would regularly cross the nearby U.S. border during the night. As historical as the name is, the winery is hardly tradition-bound. One could argue it may be the most experimental producer in the country.
Certainly planting avant-garde varieties has set the winery apart and in some ways could be instrumental in it moving forward if temperatures continue to rise in the Okanagan.
That said, not everything has worked. Early on, love for Italian varietals led to planting Corvina, a grape widely planted in Valpolicella in the Veneto, northern Italy. It never ripened. On the other hand, Arneis is thriving and is a fabulous addition to B.C.’s growing grape repertoire.
Much of Moon Curser’s recent success stems from old-fashioned, hard work. Now 15 years down the road, the vineyards and the knowledge to look after them seem to have meshed. You can’t teach experience, but you can earn it one year at a time, which is the real story of this small, hillside estate winery and one of the most exciting wine lineups in Canada.
At the end of the competition, the winery walked away with several medals led by a platinum for its remarkable ode to the Douro Valley, the 2017 Touriga Nacional ($40). They followed that up with six gold medals for a 2015 Tannat ($40); 2018 Dolcetto ($25), 2017 Malbec ($31), 2017 Tempranillo ($31), 2017 Petit Verdot ($40) and 2017 Dead of Night ($40), a blend of Syrah and Tannat.
All that is left for you to do is try the wine and eventually visit the winery on the Osoyoos West Bench and experience what the Tolleys did when they first got into the business — something new, intriguing and, most of all, different.
Tantalus Riesling 2018, East Kelowna, Okanagan Valley
$21-$32 | 90/100
There is nothing regular about the “regular” Tantalus Riesling, and judging by the rush to southeast Kelowna to grow Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, the terroir is equally compelling. The purity of fruit is the Tantalus signature, and you get that and more in this 2018, a vintage that started slow and slowed down under a haze of summer smoke before harvest. The wine is bright, clean and refreshing with signature aromas of tangerines, lime leaf, and flowers that spill across its stony, mineral palate, flecked with kiwi and starfruit. Just a baby, you can drink it now or hold it a decade.
Da Silva Chenin Blanc-Viognier 2016, Okanagan Valley
$22-$29 | 90/100
The thing about Chenin Blanc Viognier blends is they have the potential to be flabby perfume bombs. Anything but, this has the honey and quince you might expect, but the minerality and floral undertones help it soar out of the glass before finishing fresh and bright with green apple /lime acidity. Serve just chilled with Thai prawns for a perfect match. A modest 12.5 per cent alcohol add to its charm; the mix is 50/50 Chenin Blanc and Viognier all stainless-steel fermented. Winery direct and Marquis Wine Cellars.
Ramblin’ Rose 2018, Okanagan Valley
$17.99 | 88/100
Ramblin’ Rose is an Okanagan Crush Pad special release for Save-On-Foods. It’s a fun fruity affair with texture and mouth feel thanks to a fermentation and aging process in concrete. The juice is mostly Pinot Noir from a variety of vineyards across the Okanagan that was saignéed from tanks at the winery. Not all the fruit is organic, so it’s not certified, but the ferments are all native, and the ethos is natural with minimal input and stabilization, hence its light cloudy character. Finally, the ferment terminated naturally with 6g residual sugar. The final blend included some Viognier and Gewürztraminer and the wine ended up with 10g residual sugar, just enough to give it a fruity finish. It’s the perfect bottle for spicy tuna sushi. The more you buy, the cheaper it gets at Save-On-Foods, so stock up.
Doña Paula Los Cardos Malbec 2017, Mendoza, Argentina
$12.99 | 87/100
Savoury desert-like aromas jump from the glass along with a subtle (screw cap induced?) reductive character, so be sure to give this wine some air. The attack is soft, round and juicy with plummy, spicy red fruit flavours and a spicy undercurrent that finishes medium-long — a hamburger red that can do double duty at a street party. The fruit grows at El Alto Vineyard, in Ugarteche, Luján de Cuyo, on sandy clay loams at 1050 m.
Cecchi Chianti 2016, Tuscany, Italy
$13.99 | 86/100
Cecchi is a classical Chianti label made from mostly Sangiovese grapes. Production is a healthy 85,000 cases, and it delivers for the price. It was a great vintage, and you can feel the fruit and the bones of 2016 in this simple but effective red. The attack is bright with warm plummy fruit flecked with earthy, savoury notes and enough acidity to keep it fresh through its powdery tannin finish. A simple red wine you can serve with a favourite pizza or pasta dish.
This Andalusian take on tuna tartar would typically be made with albacore tuna, but our local yellow fin also works very well. This is but one of the excellent tapas and entrees in José Pizarro’s new cookbook “Andalusia: Recipes from Seville and Beyond”. No one prepares seafood like the Spanish. (They are very good at wine, too.)
½ small red onion, very finely chopped
14 oz (400 g) sushi-grade albacore tuna, cut into 1 cm ( ½ inch) dice
1 serrano chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tbsp (15 mL) capers, rinsed and chopped
1 avocado, peeled, stone removed and cut into 1 cm ( ½ inch) dice
Juice of 1 or 2 limes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp (30 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
Cilantro leaves, chopped
Place the red onion in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Soak for 5 minutes to remove some of the harsh flavour. Drain well. In a medium bowl, mix the tuna with the onion, chilli, capers, avocado and lime juice to taste. Season well, drizzle over the extra-virgin olive oil and toss with the coriander. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.
Raw tuna does best with dry wines or sake, if it’s available.
Harper’s Trail Pinot Gris Thad Springs Vineyard 2018, Kamloops, $19.90
Juicy mineral, pear, quince, and nectarine flavours made to tame the tuna and its spicing.
Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2018, Okanagan Valley, $18.80
Bright acidity combined with citrus and green apple runs linearly through the wine, keeping it slim, focused and a tuna slayer.
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