Fall 2011

Nom de Vine: All that glitters is gold at B.C.’s Moon Curser

With recent turmoil in world financial markets, everybody from Glenn Beck to your Uncle Mike has told you to buy gold. But you'd rather lay in a supply of Tempranillo or Viognier.

You can do both now.

All that glitters on the bottles of three wines by Osoyoos, B.C., winemaker Moon Curser Vineyards is indeed gold, all 22 karats.

You won't miss it on the wine shop shelf. Silhouettes of forest creatures lurk in the night against a band of gold on the winery's bottles of Tempranillo, Viognier and Dead of Night red blend.

But the gold isn't there as an investment strategy. It's all part of the name behind the winery and the story that unfolds on the label.

Beata Tolley and her husband Chris left initial careers -- she as a chartered accountant, he as a software engineer -- to launch their winery, which included a year of study for both in viticulture and oenology at Lincoln University in New Zealand.

After scouting locations in British Columbia, the couple settled on the Okanagan Valley.

"We wanted to do reds, and Osoyoos seemed the best spot in the valley" Beata Tolley said.

In 2005, the couple, wanting to work with less frequently used varietals, planted six acres of Tempranillo, Tannat, Carmenere, Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne on the Osoyoos East Bench and made arrangements with Martin Plut's nearby vineyard for Chardonnay and other grapes.

And Twisted Tree Vineyards was on its way to its first vintage.

Twisted Tree?

"At the risk of sounding naive, we didn't give much attention to the name," Tolley said. "Our focus was on the wine, and that remains our focus."

But it didn't take long to see that the name Twisted Tree didn't say much about the winery or the wine and was prone to confusion with a host of other wines and products.

"There was enough twisting going on," she said.

Working with wine marketing specialist Bernie Hadley-Beauregard of Vancouver, B.C.,-based Brandever Strategies, the Tolleys and Hadley-Beauregard researched the history of the border town to find a name that better reflected the winery's terroir.

The 1858 Fraser Canyon Gold Rush provided a colorful story of gold prospectors as well as night-owl smugglers who, looking to escape the attention and taxes of border agents, would rather curse the moon than be exposed by its light.

Hadley-Beauregard took the name and story to Maryland-based visual artist and animator Andrea Dezsoe, who used her paper-cut silhouette work to illustrate a tale of animal-like smugglers traveling under cover of night.

The illustration is rich, with dark images of pine forest and lake with a team of animals and humanlike beasts: a fox with a bag of gold, a donkey with a shovel over its shoulder, a bear cub leading a pack mule and an owl carrying a lantern to light the menagerie's way.

The design wraps 360 degrees seamlessly around the bottle. Several varieties display the artwork on paper labels, but the labels for the Viognier, Tempranillo and the Dead of Night (a Tannat and Syrah blend), feature the designs silkscreened onto each bottle using 22-karat gold.

It's not a cheap bottle to produce, Tolley admitted, "but we just had to."

The ambiguity of the creatures was intentional, Dezsoe said, to add to the mischief done at night, but also to allow those enjoying the wine to craft their own stories. Are they humans disguised behind animal masks, or animals taking human shape to protect their treasure?

It's a bottle that begs to be held and turned in the hand as one sits in a candle-lit dining room enjoying the wine.

"The more fingerprints on a bottle," Hadley-Beauregard said, "the happier we are."

Moon Curser Vineyards: www.mooncurser.com

Andrea Dezso: andreadeszo.com

This story was originally published September 15, 2011 5:54 PM.

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