Down in the desert country of Osoyoos, at the very southern end of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, the mercury has been hovering around the zero-degree mark for a while now, but that shouldn’t last much longer. Soon enough, buds will burst on the area’s grapevines, and as vineyards bloom under the sun, those temperatures will climb into the thirties and forties. It’s as we get into vintage when the region’s desert classification becomes a lot more obvious. Not only is it ‘hot enough for ya’ more often than not, but while toddling around the area’s landscape, cacti and rattlesnakes aren’t exactly uncommon sights.
It is here where the Okanagan Valley excels at ripening the grapes for rich red and white wines, while sandy soils with pockets of clay, limestone and granite add distinct minerality and the cool nights allow natural acidity to be preserved.
These conditions make it possible for quite the variety of, er, varieties to be grown, and when it comes to Osoyoos wineries, this writer can’t think of anyone taking advantage of this scenario as much Beata and Chris Tolley, the owners of Moon Curser Vineyards.
Sure, they produce some wines one would assume to be a hit in the area; their award-winning 2014 Syrah ($27) is a peppery, meaty delight with ample dark fruit, while their 2014 Border Vines ($27) Bordeaux-styled blend is one of British Columbia’s best (and a killer value, too).
Rather than staying within any realm of a comfort zone though, the Tolleys’ passion for adventure and pioneering spirit elbows into their work.
In fact, what about Tempranillo? Can the famed grape of Spain’s Rioja region make itself at home here? Apparently it can, as the Moon Curser 2014 Contraband Series Tempranillo ($32) brings a profile of varietal typicity with dark red fruit, earthiness and a fresh strip of leather.
Or, perhaps you’re more of an Italian fan? Their 2015 Contraband Series Dolcetto ($27) is a lovely nod to the indigenous grape hailing from Northern Italy. A combo of savoury dark olives and bright red berry fruit, it’s a mighty enjoyable tipple, indeed.
While some may think that these styles of wines coming out of Canada may be a little too playful or gimmicky, let anyone who’s tried ‘em assure you they’re the real deal, and worthy of a spot at your table. A glance at their jam-packed trophy shelf backs this up.
You should be, and now’s the time for your interest to be piqued.
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Kurtis Kolt is a Vancouver-based wine consultant, writer, competition judge and enthusiast. Track him down at KurtisKolt.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @KurtisKolt.