Pair It Up: 'Desert' Wine and Herbal Fare

Just yesterday I was at the BC Wine Institute’s ‘Colour’ fall release tasting event, but while I am usually an attendee at these things – I was actually earning my keep this time around manning a ‘Get To Know Your Grapes’ table. The idea is to pick a grape variety and pour three different versions of it from different local sub-regions to illustrate the difference our various micro-climates make. Merlot was the theme, and I took a bit of a leap of faith by choosing one wine in particular that I hadn’t tried before, but knew I could depend on the winery’s track record. Moon Curser was the winery in question, and I chose them because of their consistent style that’s always expressive of their Osoyoos terroir. A unique corner of the Okanagan Valley, Osoyoos is the heart of Canada’s only desert, nestled right up against the American border. Yes, an actual desert climate with cacti scattered across the landscape, rattlesnakes slithering around, the whole nine yards. Long, sunny days with intense heat are great for ripening grapes, and the quite-cool nights are perfect for preserving their natural acidity. The Moon Curser 2011 Merlot has brilliant plummy and black cherry fruit, but there’s a lovely dusting of sage that brings a wonderful, herbal lift from start to finish. It make sense why this note’s in the wine, as wild, scrubby sagebrush grows sporadically around many of the region’s vineyards; a unique aspect of terroir that works well at giving the wine a fresh profile. I wouldn’t say this is a ‘big’ wine, its weight is more akin to a heavier Pinot Noir, but with some fine tannins woven through it all.

The wine would suit any dish that had fresh herbs as a highlight. Because of its Pinot-like structure, something like this salmon with lemon-tarragon vinaigrette dish from Chatelaine would provide an elegant match. Those tannins, though, have enough grip and stature to step up to something bigger and bolder. This Food Network recipe for herb-crusted rack of lamb would certainly be a home run. In both dishes, the herbs would not only match the wine’s sage-y note, but help the juicy, berry fruit to rise to the surface. Merlot need not be boring, and Moon Curser provides a perfect example.

 

Kurtis Kolt is a Vancouver-based wine consultant, writer, competition judge and enthusiast. He’s not half as fancy/boring as that sounds. He Tweets and Instagrams @KurtisKolt.

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