Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Burrowing Owl shows library reds

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 several years.

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 Petit Verdot.

My advice on this wine is the same as above: drink the 2006 and dip into the 2008 next year.


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