Thursday, June 25, 2015

Burrowing Owl brings home major awards

 Photo: Burrowing Owl Winery [courtesy Burrowing Owl]

Burrowing Owl Estate Winery recently trumpeted the significant awards it brought home from several international wine competitions this spring.

In its news release, the winery said: “Burrowing Owl enters international competitions with the goal of having its wines evaluated against the best bottles from winemaking regions all around the globe. This allows the winery to ensure that it continues to produce world-class wines.”

Other British Columbia wineries do the same. These are mostly the larger producers who can afford the hefty entry fees.

It is a valid test of how BC wines stack up. It no longer is a surprise that the wines hold their own.

The surprise is that some of the same wineries have stopped competing in the Lieutenant Governor’s Awards of Excellence in BC Wine, even though there is no entry fee. Granted, this is not as widely recognized as, say, the Decanter World Wine Awards. But I will bet that the consumers who actually buy most BC wines are better acquainted with the LG Awards than with Decanter.

To put international competitions in perspective, Syrah du Monde charges 180 Euros per entry and asks for six bottles of wine. The winery can provide tasting notes at an additional 55 Euros an entry.

Burrowing Owl, of course, has won two LGs: in 2013 for a 2010 Cabernet Franc and in  2005 for a 2003 Syrah.

Given the winery’s latest awards, perhaps its peers were happy not to have to compete with Burrowing Owl wines at the LG Awards this year.

The winery’s haul of medals includes:

  • Gold for its 2012 Syrah at the Syrah du Monde 2015 in France. This was the only Canadian Syrah to take home a medal this year.
  • Double gold for the 2012 Merlot at the San Francisco International Wine Competition, along with gold for the 2011 Meritage, four silvers and and three bronze medals.
  • Gold for 2012 Athene at the International Wine & Spirits Competition 2015, along with five silvers and two bronze medals. The entry fee for IWSC is £130 per entry and four bottles are required.
  • Silver for 2013 Chardonnay and 2012 Pinot Noir at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2015, plus four bronze medals and two commendations.

A complete (and impressive) list of Burrowing Owl’s extensive awards is on the winery’s website. Just click on “Purchase” and then “Awards” at the bottom of that menu.

One thing struck me as I looked over the list: judges are not always consistent from one competition to another. For example, the 2012 Syrah won silver at the IWSC competition, a bronze at San Francisco and a commendation, which seems just slightly less than bronze, at Decanter. Of course, the Syrah du Monde, now in its ninth year, is a tightly focussed competition. This year 418 wines were entered and a total of 38 golds were awarded.

I have been able to taste six of Burrowing Owl’s recent releases, most of which have been in competitions. Never mind if the judges are all over the map. These are first rate wines.

Burrowing Owl Pinot Gris 2014 ($20). The wine begins with appealing aromas of citrus and pear. On the palate, there are flavours of pear, peach, apple and pink grapefruit. The texture is juicy and the finish seems endless. 91.

Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2013 ($25). The winery fermented 60% of the wine in stainless steel and 40% in oak. This means the wine retains fresh and vibrant fruit while enhancing the texture and complexity. The wine also was aged 10 months in French oak (25% new). It begins with aromas of citrus and nectarine, leading to flavours of tangerine and melon with a hint of vanilla (from the barrels). The texture is rich and the finish is long. Good acidity promotes fresh flavours as well as giving the wine the potential to age for several years. 91.

Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir 2013 ($30). The winery’s reds are always big and bold; this is no exception. Dark in colour, it has intense aromas of raspberry and cherry that lead to meaty, earthy flavours dominated by strawberries’ and cherries. The wine is robust on the palate and has a long, spicy finish. 90.

Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc 2012 ($33). This shows the variety’s classic brambly aromas and flavours: raspberry, blackberry, black cherries and blueberries. The structure is firm and age-worthy, although the 22 months of barrel aging have given the wine a polished texture. Decant now or cellar for five years. 92.

Burrowing Owl Syrah 2012 ($33). There is no question that this delicious wine deserves a gold medal. It begins with aromas of plum, blueberry and cassis. It is full on the palate with flavours of black cherry, plum, leather and tobacco. A touch of black pepper anchors the long, earthy finish. 93.

Burrowing Owl Athene 2012 ($38). This is a blend of 53% Syrah and 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, co-fermented and aged 21 months in barrel (85% French and 25% new). It begins with aromas of black cherry and cocoa, leading to flavours of black cherry, black currant, espresso coffee and dark chocolate, with spike and black pepper on the finish. The generous texture makes this wine bold and satisfying. 92.


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