Photo: Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery is among the
several Okanagan wineries using the services of Alain Sutre, one of the leading
winemaking and viticultural consultants in Bordeaux.
His instructions are simple, according to
Burrowing Owl president Chris Wyse. “Your job is to focus on the Meritage – and
it will trickle down on all the other wines,” Chris has told Alain. The consultant’s activities extend to
vineyard advice but one of his key roles is leading the blending of the
Meritage, the flagship red at Burrowing Owl.
Alain’s handiwork was on display during a
Wine Festival dinner this week where Burrowing Owl’s Bordeaux
red wines were paired with the excellent Italian-inspired cuisine at Lupo
Restaurant and Vinoteca in Vancouver.
I took away several conclusions:
1. The bold flavours of Burrowing Owl wines
stand up very well with the rich flavours of Italian cuisine. That comment
extends even to 2009 Chardonnay – crisp citrus flavours with a note of toasty oak
– which paired brilliantly with an exceptional dish (even in appearance, never
mind taste), an octopus carpaccio and Dungeness crab salad. The reds
accompanied subsequent courses – tortellini, veal tenderloin and finally a rich
chocolate dessert from Piedmont.
Burrowing Owl’s 2008 Cabernet Franc
struggled a bit against the chocolate. A more successful match would have been
the dessert and Burrowing Owl’s new Syrah-based port, a wine called Coruja,
which was served with biscotti. The Coruja – the price is unknown because it is
not on the winery’s website yet – has the full-bodied depth and richness of a
good vintage port with a long finish of spice and black liquorice.
2. It is time to begin drinking the 2006
Burrowing Owl reds you may be cellaring. For the dinner, the winery dipped into
its library for wines from 2006, one of the strongest vintages of the decade,
and from 2008, another solid vintage. The wines were Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon
and Meritage; only the 2008 Cabernet Franc was poured.
It seems to my palate that the 2006 reds
have achieved a peak and will probably hold it for a year or two. That is
supported by vintage notes on the winery’s website – and they should know.
The 2008s are drinking very well already,
with peaking a year or two away. They have the structure to hold that peak for
3. The Meritage, which at $45 sells for a
$15 premium compared with the varietals, is a very good wine indeed. If it came
from one of those classified growths in Alain’s Bordeaux, it would be selling for three to
four times that and the wine critics would still think it a deal.
The fact is that quality Okanagan wines,
and this is one, are very good value compared with the big names from elsewhere
in the world – even cheap.
Burrowing Owl’s Meritage involves all five Bordeaux varietals. The
blend in the 2006 is 53.8% Merlot, 27.5% Cabernet Franc, 12.5% Cabernet
Sauvignon, 3,7% Malbec and 2.5% Petit Verdot. The blend in the 2008 was 50%
Merlot, 24% each Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% each Malbec and
My advice on this wine is the same as
above: drink the 2006 and dip into the 2008 next year.