TNs--Mike on Tour--Okanagan, May 16, 2016


I must thank my friend Jackie of for her generosity in arranging many of the visits today, including this one. Our hostess, Bev, was great and very engaging as we went through a passle of wines.

2014 Moon Curser Afraid of the Dark

43% Roussanne, 43% Viognier, 14|% Marsanne. Loamy sand for soil, these are estate grapes. Peach and honey definitely on the nose. Fresh and clean, there is a swatch of the Marsanne dry mustard for me. I wouldn’t mind more fruit but fresh and forthright

2014 Moon Curser Arneis

Yes, they’re making a Roero Arneis. All stainless, there is white fruit here with a tinge of ginger. It’s almost chewy, a little sweeter than I’d expect, lots of bright lemon and unripe pear an a very light brush of truffle. Quite decent.

2013 Moon Curser Syrah

3 or 4 vineyards, this spent 17 months in oak. Nice chocolate pepper nose. This is pretty strong stuff–chock-full of black pepper, some chipotle, chickoree and black raspberry. A very active Syrah.

2012 Moon Curser Contraband Syrah

From Barch’s vineyard, smells much riper–some raisins and some macerated plum. Also pretty strict in the mouth, a lot of growing to do, though the fruit is there.

2013 Moon Curser Contraband Tempranillo

One of the reasons I wanted to come here, they’re doing stuff with all these different grapes. Vines were sourced out of California and are in their 8th or 9th year. Chocolate, leather and sparks of black cherry and berry swirl up the glass. Boy, that grips your cheeks, but a lot of acidity underneath. Velvet glove, woodsy with blackberry and a bit of attractive char at the back. 'minds me of a Marques de Murrieta–a young one.

2013 Moon Curser Contraband Malbec

Blueberries and licorice here, with sugared red fruit. To taste, big and sweet, full of that anise, but also pine sap, peppermint and plum. Very unique.

2013 Moon Curser Carmenere

Smoky, black plum, dates and prunes. That’s delectable—SIL-KY. Clear raspberry and tangy red berry fruit. A lingering warmth too. 13.5%? Yup. Very nice wine here.

2013 Moon Curser Petit Verdot

9 year vines as well. Good black fruit profile, dark chocolate dips. Spent 16 months in oak. This shows the heat of the vintage, not in heat but in the ripeness and richness of the fruit, at odds with my thoughts of PV. It does beg for chateaubriand. Leave 3 years. Good.

2012 Moon Curser Tannat

The wine I really wanted to try. Smile. Lovely pine and juniper and forest floor scents accent pure blackberry. Yummy–this is, for me, the best in my taste profile, with plenty of expressive black fruit but also a continuation of that piney/juniper freshness in a quite subtle way. This is excellent and I took a bottle to add to one of my WineFest tables in July.

2013 Moon Curser Dead of Night

50% Tannat, 50% Syrah. sniffs of funk on this to go with plum and prune. Well now–this has a very curious almond slash to start. Again, lots of grip with black cherry and blackberry/cassis, but that almond, while interesting, is distracting too.

2013 Moon Curser Borderlines

32% merlot, 21% malbec, 18% PV, 25% CS and 4% Carmenere. Plum, blue fruit and some prune in bouquet. Palate is simpler–not bad, but a touch disconnected right now.


Another winery I really wanted to get to, this is where the Triggs family (of Jackson-Triggs) landed to get back to farming roots and set up and produce premium wines in B.C. Their daughter, Sarah, met with us and gave so generously of her time and knowledge. She is deeply involved in every aspect of the adventure here, and we talked about everything from family history and the “why” of doing this, through disc underground irrigation and choosing what vines went where on what they’d bought, to sorting process and technique and vine spacing. Nothing was left out and I love geeking out like this with a willing sponsor. Thank you, Sarah!

2015 Culmina Unicus Gruner Veltliner

Great to have the chance to try, Unicus is for unique, of course—not only the grape in this region but where it’s planted relative to their other estate holdings. Brix was 25% at harvest and they did this 43% in stainless, 33% in concrete egg and 24% in concrete amphorae. Sarah said they were initially looking to see if they could bottle according to fermentation vessel, but they all agreed the blend was far better than the sum of its parts. Smoke and pepper start us off, but there’s already a trace more fresh sweetness and a real lime note here. Le gout shows a very different “attitude”. Light sweet diesel opens the stage for absolute sweet pink grapefruit and lilacs. Much more defined than last year’s version, this has unexpected attractiveness. I still will Jones for the traditional Austrian, but I do like exploring how the grape does in different areas.

2015 Culmina Decora Riesling

All stainless and 13.5% alc. Floral and apple blossom bouquet. They thought about trying a sussreserve style but quickly read that the wine wanted to be what it wanted and they let it. On the tongue, white grapefruit frames a striking–as in it lances right down your throat–presentation. Very young yet, but the savoury lemon and some minerality and freshness are all promising signs. Sarah feels another 6 months will be all to the good, which I would agree with.

2015 Culmina Saignee Rose

All saignee, this is 42% merlot, 28% CS, 21% CF and 9% malbec. I had wondered about this for a while and asked Sarah–since she mentioned the pressing came from the best grapes—whether bleeding off the juice for rose resulted in lower quantity of the finished wine. She said not, that this would happen in any event. This is all from one block/vineyard and has lots of herbs–sage, rosemary and herbes de Provence—to shape strawberry base. Has smoothness and sweetness, with replays on the tongue. Dried tart cherry too, stuff going on here and I said to Sarah that this was very unusual in my experience in that I could taste perhaps what was going to be going on in the Hypothesis (below) here.

2012 Culmina Hypothesis

From the Anise Bench vineyard, this is 57% merlot, 24% CS and 19% CF done in 70% new and 30% once-used barrels. Earthy and bit of chestnut adds to cocoa and lots of plum. Also mintiness and nips of herbs on second sniff. This is coming along–not there yet, but raspberries and baking spices with herbs replay are there. Good acidity and sour cherry backing. A long, long life, leave 5 years to open.


Another must-stop for me on the trip, the lovely and charming Marie took us in hand for a very fun tasting.

2014 Black Hills Estate Viognier

13.3%. more flowery, not as much peach as some others from here. Typicity for out here, gingery sweet candied peach and apricot. OK, not special.

2014 Black Hills Estate Chard

6 months in neutral oak. Light popcorn and butter to go with apple crisp. Dans la bouche, flavourful, with melon, pear and some definite green peas, but very light

2014 Black Hills Estate Syrah

18 months in oak, very “juicy” nose, full of plum, prune, cassis, citrus even, and beef. A very nice mouthful of Syrah, this has carry, lift and clear red berry and plum fruit expression with small meatiness at the back sides. My friend Deb liked this a lot.

2014 Black Hills Estate Carmenere

One of the first to make this grape, boy there is a yummy aroma–smells like class, with old wood and black forest cake having a say, and almost an underlying sense of aromatic raciness. Tinge of meat here too. This is good–drive and acidity with red fruits, leather and beef blood. Different from Moon Curser’s, but in a good way, both have their fine points. This does need more time, but there’s a sense of some class on the palate too.

2013 Black Hills Estate Nota Bene

But it’s still in the shadow of this super wine. This year, 49% CS, 40% Merlot and 11|% CF. Pine needle, very focused damson plum, cocoa and coffee crisp all find their way into the nuzzie. And this is awfully good. Simply tremendous composure at this young age, it is filled with brilliantly balanced plum, chickoree, chestnut and racy blackberry with woodsy undertones. Possibly the best of these I’ve ever had, a bottle was obligatory. Deb loved this too and got 2 of 'em. I’ll have to stay friends with her :slight_smile:


When we last came out together 5 years ago, we had been here and both remembered the fine SB. That hasn’t changed…

2015 Le Vieux Pin Sauvignon Blanc

Light gooseberry, but lots of lemon-lime in the bouquet. It is tasty and tingly, light minerality and freshness to aromatic replays. It is a bit clipped on the finish, but that fits with this wine. Very enjoyable again.

2012 Le Vieux Pin Ava

60% Viognier, 20% Roussanne, 20% Marsanne. And W-o-w. I’ve not been bowled over by a bouquet from this combination in Okanagan ever. Peach, tangerine, bergamot and vanilla extract all make for an intoxicating perfume. And this is really very, very nice. It’s again in the B.C. mold, where there’s a sort of bitter melon presence near the back, but there’s a spiced, mulled side to the yellow fruit and good complexity. I didn’t take a bottle but was sorely tempted.

2012 Le Vieux Pin Equinoxe Syrah

Blueberry, chocolate ganache and plum make up the aroma. 19 months in oak with 34% new. Good solid expression in the mouth, it has some meats and warmth to pair with a nice peppered raspberry.


Bev at Moon Curser had exhorted us to visit here after hearing of Deb’s predilection for solid reds, so here we went.

2013 Fairview Estates Pinot Noir

Not much here for me, perhaps some cherry but hard to find. Le gout presents cherry and some herbs but quite light and unprepossessing

2013 Fairview Estates Madcap Red

55% merlot, 45% CS. Sniffs of cocoa, brambles, plum. Tangy and tasty, with cherries and plums. This is simple, but good for what it is.

2013 Fairview Estate Two Hoots

CS, Merlot and CF. More cinamonny here, with plumcake. Also more grip to this, darker plum and chokecherry fruit. A bit hot, though.

2013 Fairview Estate The Bear

Bordeaux blend, this shows cocoa-dusted plum and black cherry. Strict still right now, may get there in time, there are some solid black fruit, cocoa and tannic building blocks.

2010 Fairview Estate Iconoclast

A chance to try one of their older wines, this is another bordeaux blend. It is still closed in the nostrils, baking spices and cherry and crabapple with some swirling. 3 years does make a difference on teh palate, there is still energy and tanginess, but more polish has made its way into the wine and lots of red fruit and apple skin are present. Could be quite fine in 5 years, but pricey at $120


Bob and Senka Tennant used to own and make Black Hills. They sold and went in a very different direction, making small batches of white now. This was another place I really wanted to visit, and I’ll be back for sure. Bob was a great host for the time we were able to have him. And Ben (the dog) must be met and adored—“Mr. May” of the dogs of Okanagan calendar.

2014 Terravista Fandango

The reason I came here, 70% Albarino and 30% Verdejo. When I asked Bob “why”, he said it just came naturally as a combination of where the site was and what it could do, along with the wines they both enjoyed. This gives off an aroma of lemon cake with nips of ginger bits. Their vines are from California and still quite young. This definitely has character and play in the mouth with very lively white fruits and traces of salt, stone and even white pepper. A fresh very light brushing of herbs on the outside completes things. I bought a bottle of the 100% Albarino untasted just on this tasting here.

2014 Terravista Figaro

This is a Viognier/Marsanne/Roussanne blend. A cinnamon roll aspect to some floral and nectarine. This I like. It is gentler than the others from BC–replays with a nettles and mustard seed background. Quite good.

2013 Terravista Figaro

More perfume here, light drops of apricot go with nectarine and honeysuckle. This is a little leaner, citrus sparks and a little bitter edgeing and ultimately of even more interest than the 14. I bought a bottle of this for friends.

2012 Terravista Figaro

This time, we have elderflower and hints of potpourri showing up. The peach and tropical fruit is in the background. This is starting to find its “later life”–structured again, with spiced fruit, but seeing some lanolin and beeswax feel and flavour.

A great place, one I will come back to.

Need more time to fully digest all these notes, but I like the varietal variety at Moon Curser. Let’s see what is really at home in the Okanagan. I bet it’s not the same grapes as in Napa Valley!

Mike, bring something from BC for the tasting in Seattle. Not much of the wine ever makes its way down here.

P Hickner

Mike - my impression of culmina is great people. Great operations. But the vines being 3-4 years old are just too young. The wines lack terroir and depth. I wish I can fast forward time for 10 years and check in. (I guess I could go in 8 years :wink:)

Nota Bene is awesome indeed.

Down from there now, Peter, and it’d be a bit young, but happy to open that Terravista Albarino for you if you’d like.

Mark, re Culmina, indeed, but they seem to be headed in the right direction.


Thanks for the write up - hope to get to BC one day and try the wines. Have tried a very small number of them when visiting Ontario, just a shame that there is so little that makes it across (both ways from what I’ve read).

I’ve had about a half dozen new world Albarinos that were OK to good, Abacela being perhaps the best example.
It would be interesting to see if someone else has a good handle on the grape, and suitable conditions. Maybe bring it over and leave the decision on opening it until we see how the whites and reds are balancing out?

P Hickner