"Let me set out my stall here. I propose that if you want to find the world’s most exciting and vibrant wines then just start by looking for wines from cool climates. The benefits of cool climate wine growing are so persuasive that if you are in the market for a thrilling, fresh and racy wine then you could just make climate your first criteria. A cool climate that is.
Note the adjectives though – exciting, fresh, thrilling, vibrant, racy. And note the absence of words like rich, opulent, big, jammy or powerful. The former adjectives are more the domain of cool climates, the latter are more the domain of warm.
At The Warmer End of Cool at Moon Curser
The southern-most end of the valley the Okanagan wine region becomes downright hot in the summer. At Moon Curser Vineyards, just a mile from the US border, Chris and Beata Tolley make some of the best wines in BC. And with some of the most fascinating varieties. The landscape and the temperatures are surprisingly desert-like. 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.”
Chris and Beata make remarkable wines from the standard Bordeaux varietal suite as well as some truly outstanding examples of Syrah, Tempranillo, Dolcetto, Arneis and Viognier/Roussanne/Marsanne. The Moon Curser Syrah exhibits the black pepper (and slightly earthy) character that cooler climates can impart. Chris has been innovative in finding varieties that work well in the particular place where he grows. 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.”
For 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”
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