Column: Osoyoos Winery Wins the Best Small Winery Award at National Wine Awards

The WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (NWAC) has named Moon Curser Vineyards of Osoyoos the Best Performing Small Winery of 2019. The award is presented to wineries that produce 10,000 cases of wine or less.

The NWAC competition is Canada’s largest and was held in June. 1,815 entries from 259 different wineries and eight different provinces were entered. 21 judges assembled in Wellington, located in the Prince Edward County wine region of Ontario, to determine the best wines in the land.

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Of the top 25 entries, 19 were from B.C., including eight in the top 10, with the remaining six from Ontario.

“Moon Curser has been a labour of love for us for over 15 years now, and this award is a testament not only to the skill and dedication of our vineyard and winemaking teams, but also to the exceptional growth and development of the South Okanagan as a wine-growing region.” said Moon Curser co-owner Beata Tolley.

Ever since I discovered Moon Curser, it has become one of my favourite B.C. wineries. Its unusual name was the result of American gold-smuggling miners during B.C.’s Gold Rush who returned stateside under the cover of night, thus avoiding custom’s agents. Unfortunately, the frequent light of the moon would foil their plans, shedding light on their activities and producing a chorus of angry curses.

Another reason for Moon Curser’s appeal is that it’s a family winery. You feel like your visiting friends when you’re in the tasting room overlooking the vineyards and Osoyoos Lake.

Perhaps the major reason why I enjoy being there is the amazing variety of wines that one seldom sees in B.C. co-owner Chris Tolley, a former software engineer and now Moon Curser’s winemaker explains, “My academic year at New Zealand’s Lincoln University gave me a soft spot for offbeat varietals with loads of personality.”

All in all, Moon Curser won 11 medals at the competition: one Platinum medal, six Golds, two Silvers, and two Bronze medals. Their 2017 Touriga Nacional ($39.99) is Portugal’s best grape variety and the backbone of Port. Moon Curser’s tasting sheet describes this red as “suave, supple and spicy.”

Their six gold medals included a 2018 Dolcetto ($24.99), a northern Italian variety, a  2015 Tannat ($39.99) popular in Uruguay, a 2017 Petit Verdot ($30.99) a Bordeaux grape, a 2017 Malbec ($30.99) famous in Argentina, a $2017 Tempranillo ($30.99) think Spain, and 2016 Dead of Night ($39.99) a blend of Tannat and Syrah.

Among the silver medals is a 2018 Arneis ($22.99), a rare northern Italian white. And in the bronze category is the 2017 Afraid of the Dark ($20.99), a delicious blend of three Rhone varietals: Viognier, Marsanne, and Rousanne.

Although it didn’t win an award, I am very fond of their Moon Curser 2016 Border Vines ($25.99) a Bordeaux blend of Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Carmenere, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.

Moon Curser wines are available online and at Ironwood’s Save-on Foods.

Eric Hanson is a Richmond wine journalist and former science teacher.

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