Episode 27: Chris Tolley of Moon Curser Vineyards

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Moon Curser Vineyards occupies a really unique location in the Okanagan valley wine region of British Columbia. In this podcast Chris Tolley gives us a terrific introduction to the place where he grows wine and the philosophy that he and his wife Beata have brought to cultivating a range of grape varieties.

BC is a cool climate region but, as Chris explains, there is a significant range in microclimates along the 200 km north-to-south length of the valley. At the southern-most end of the valley the Okanagan wine region becomes downright hot in the summer. Moon Curser is just a mile from the US border and, as you can see from the photos, this is a fascinating location. It’s a desert and it looks a lot like the setting for a western movie. As Chris says: “To give people an idea, the south end of the valley is an extension of the Sonoran Desert and is part of the geography that includes the Yakima Valley in Washington. We get 1500 growing degree days which is getting to be similar to the Rhône although the temperature profile is different.”

The vineyards at Moon Curser

The Wine Varieties Tell Their Own Story at Moon Curser

Chris and Beata Tolley make some of the best wines in BC. And with some of the most fascinating varieties. Have a look at the Moon Curser website to see the range of varieties they use. Malbec, Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Dolcetto, Arneis, Touriga Nacional and more! Chris and Beata went to great lengths and took some risks to trial a range of different varieties on their land to see what worked. And they had some remarkable successes … and some things that didn’t quite work out like their effort to grow Corvina. Overall, their innovation has yielded very nice wines that have a personality unique to the southern Okanagan. For example he says that Dolcetto is well-suited to the Osoyoos area. “It grows well in sandy soil and it ripens well in our ripening period. And it produces a very nice wine which is the ultimate test after all.

Similarly, in a “cool climate region” you might not imagine that Rioja’s iconic grape, Tempranillo, would work particularly well. But interesting things can happen when you match a variety with a certain terroir. Chris describes the unique character traits this way “We get hot here but we don’t have a long hot season – it tapers off quickly at both ends. And so we get a very different Tempranillo than Rioja – varietally correct but distinct to the valley.”

Chris and Beata in the tasting room at Moon Curser Vineyards

So join me for this podcast interview and listen in to Chris Tolley’s views and philosophies on winemaking in this really distinctive part of the world.

Moon Curser’s Immediately Recognizable Brand Image

Chris and Beata have also established a very striking brand based on the local lore around the gold smuggling that was going on here 100 years ago. Another name for smugglers is “moon cursers”. And the graphics on the bottles is a memorable riff on both the smuggling motif and the local wildlife.

Moon Curser’s unique and striking graphics make the brand immediately recognizable

Chris Tolley

The Hideout Guest House is a very nice place to stay!

The Hideout Guest House at Moon Curser Vineyards
In the vineyard at Moon Curser

More Great Content On The Wine Beat!

British Columbia Wines: The Triumph of a Cool Climate – An introduction to the compelling wines of the Okanagan Valley

The Okanagan Valley Wine Region – A Traveler’s Guide to Western Canada’s Beautiful Wine Country

The Best Wine Shop In The World – Hint: It’s in Greece!

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