Photo: Burrowing Owl president Chris Wyse
Owl Estate Winery is one of the most seasoned wine producers in the Okanagan
but that does not mean it stands still in the pursuit of excellence.
A case in
point is the winery’s 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. Another is the winery’s 2014
has made Chardonnay for much of its history. In 2013, at the instigation of a
winemaker there just for that vintage, the winery began trial ferments with
eight or 10 different yeasts. That continued in 2014; by 2015, the winery had
begun to settle on a handful of yeasts yielding preferred flavours and elegance
to the wines.
vintage of Sauvignon Blanc at Burrowing Owl was 2011. Initially, the winery
aimed for a Sauvignon Blanc made in the austere Bordeaux style by deliberately
picking some grapes at full maturity. At the same time, for its more
moderately-priced Calliope label Sauvignon Blanc, the winery picked grapes
earlier to make a fresher, crisper wine.
heard great comments on the Calliope,” Burrowing Owl president Chris Wyse says.
It was lesson learned. “Maybe we should be leaning the whole program more to
the fresher style. In 2015, we picked the grapes a tiny bit earlier … and we
picked the grapes for Calliope earlier still, so it should be even fresher.”
case in point is Pinot Noir. Several years ago, the winery planted a new block
of Pinot Noir with clones 666, 667 and 777. When those vines were established
and were producing superior fruit, the winery pulled out its original block of
own-rooted vines. The outcome is arguably better Pinot Noir than Burrowing Owl
tweaks from vintage to vintage are not necessarily obvious. Especially with its
red wines, there is a notable consistency from year to year, even though
Burrowing Owl has changed winemakers several times. The one constant since 2006
has been the employment of French consultant Alain Sutre, who offers advice in
the cellar and at blending time (and very likely in the vineyard from time to
constant, Chris Wyse maintains, is that the red wines are made from the same
vineyards each year: the estate vineyard and another owned by the Wyse family
in Osoyoos. The fruit flavours and structure from these vineyards are ideal
complements to each other.
notes on the wines.
Burrowing Owl Pinot Gris 2015 ($20). The wine is crisp and fresh,
with good weight on the palate. It has aromas and flavours of pears, apples and
honeydew melons; and the finish is dry. 90.
Burrowing Owl Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($25). The wine begins with aromas of
herbs, grapefruit and pineapple. There is a tropical hit of pink grapefruit and
pineapple on the mid-palate, with zesty, herbal citrus on the finish. There is
a subtle hint of oak in the flavours, reflecting that half the wine was aged in
French oak. There also is four percent Sémillon (co-fermented) in the blend of
this elegant and complex wine, reminiscent of Sancerre. 91.
Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2014 ($25). This restrained and elegant
wine begins with buttery, citrus aromas leading to flavours of citrus and stone
fruit, with subtle notes of oak. Sixty percent of the wine was fermented in
oak, mostly French, of which 30% was new. 91.
Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir 2014 ($30). The wine begins with aromas of
cherry and strawberry. On the palate, the fruit flavours unfold layer after
layer, with notes of cherry, blackberry and spice. The velvet texture completes
the personality of a very pretty wine. 91.
Burrowing Owl Syrah 2014 ($40). The wine begins with aromas
of ripe, dark fruit – plum and black cherry – with floral notes, perhaps
reflecting the four percent co-fermented Viognier in the blend. It is rich and
juicy on the palate, with a smoky hint on the finish. 92.
Burrowing Owl Merlot 2012 ($30). The dark wine is firm, with
aromas of black currant. One the palate, there are flavours of black currant,
cola, coffee and dark chocolate. There is good weight and concentration, with a
texture built for aging. 91.
Burrowing Owl Merlot 2013 (Not released yet). Also dark in
colour, the wine begins with ar0mas of black currant and blueberry. On the
palate, the fruit is ripe and intense – black cherry, black currant, mulberry –
but also vibrant, with spicy notes on the finish. The texture is firm. 92.
Burrowing Owl Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
($35). This wine
begins with aromas of black currant with a hint of bell pepper. On the palate,
the wine is firm and disciplined, even after 18 months in barrel, and has the
potential to age splendidly. The personality is reminiscent of a Margaret River
Cabernet Sauvignon. 91.
Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc 2013 ($33). This wine has such a dramatic
brambleberry aroma that consumers are drawn in with the first smell. The appeal
continues with the bright blackberry and cherry and raspberry notes on the
palate. The texture is generous and the finish lingers. 92.
Burrowing Owl Athene 2013 ($38). This is 52% Syrah and 48%
Cabernet Sauvignon, fermented together. It is generous on the palate, with
layers of fruit – plum, blueberry and black cherry – with chocolate, coffee and
tobacco on the finish. The fullness comes from the Syrah and the backbone from
the Cabernet. A delicious wine. 93.
Burrowing Owl Meritage 2012 ($45). The blend is 43% Cabernet
Franc, 28% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Petit Verdot. The wine begins
with aromas of spicy red fruit mingled with vanilla. On the palate, there are
flavours of plum, black cherry and vanilla. The long ripe tannins give it a
firm texture with potential to age. 93.
Burrowing Owl Meritage 2013 (Not released yet). The blend is 39%
Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot and 3%
Malbec. The juicy and generous texture of this wine reflects a warmer vintage
and the leading position of Merlot in the blend. There are flavours of black
currant, black cherry, vanilla and chocolate, with long ripe tannins on the