Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Burrowing Owl and Calliope tour three vintages

Photo: Burrowing Owl vineyard and winery (courtesy Burrowing Owl)

The most recent releases from Burrowing Owl Estate Winery reflect three of the best vintages so far in the Okanagan and the Similkameen – 2012, 2013 and 2014.

They follow on from the cool 2010 and 2011 vintages. Many producers, including Burrowing Owl, made good wines – especially whites - in those years as well. But after tasting a lot of lean reds from 2011, I am delighted with the ripeness and the harmony of the 2012 vintage.

Some producers may have moved on to reds from 2013 and 2014. However, collectors who want cellar-worthy reds need to stock up on 2012 while still available. The Burrowing Owl wines are a good place to start.

Calliope Wines is Burrowing Owl’s budget label. While all Burrowing Owl wines are estate grown, the Calliope wines are a blend of estate grapes and purchased grapes. The Calliope wines are not structured to cellar very long; their strength is to over-deliver value for money in wines ready to drink today.

Burrowing Owl describes the conditions for each vintage in the notes that accompany the wines.

“2012 made for a great growing season, giving warm temperatures without being too hot,” the winery writes. “Optimal conditions allowed the grapes to bring sugars and acids into perfect harmony. The grapes were allowed a long hang time, contributing to their phenolic ripeness.”

The notes continue:

“Spring arrived early in 2013, followed by a warm summer producing good concentration levels of ripeness in the grapes. The cool autumn provided conditions for the acidity to be retained, giving the wine a lively freshness to balance the ripe fruit.”

As for 2014:

“The 2014 season presented the ideal conditions for for the production of intensely aromatic and concentrated wines for both whites and reds: the dry and warm spring favoured blossoming. Exceptional levels of heat during the summer time provided for sufficient energy for an even ripening. The beautiful late season gave us time to pick the grapes at will, when they had reached our optimum standards of maturity.”

Here are notes on the wines.

Calliope Gew├╝rztraminer 2014 ($13.99 plus tax). This wine begins with aromas of ginger. On the palate, there are flavours of ginger and grapefruit. The wine has a generous texture. It is dry with a long lingering finish of spice. 88.

Calliope Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($13.99 plus tax). The wine begins with grassy and herbal aromas. The complex palate offers flavours of lime, guava and grapefruit, leading to a long, dry finish. 89.

Calliope Viognier 2014 ($13.99 plus tax). The wine begins with floral and fruity aromas, including apricot and mango. On the palate, this richly textured wine has flavours of stone fruits and ripe cantaloupe. The finish is persistent and pleasantly fruity. 90.

Calliope Figure 8 White 2014 ($13.99 plus tax). This is a fine blend of 35% Pinot Gris, 31% Chardonnay, 18% Gew├╝rztraminer, 13% Viognier and 3% Sauvignon Blanc. The fragrant aroma is a subtle combination of citrus, peach and banana. The wine has good weight and delivers flavours of peach, ripe apple and citrus, with a zesty herbal note on the dry finish. 90.

Calliope Figure 8 Cabernet Merlot 2013 ($15.29 plus tax). This is 58% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 8% Malbec and 4% Syrah. The object here is a wine that is juicy and approachable. Only half was aged in barrel (75% French), only for eight months; 25% of the barrels were new, 20% one year old. It begins with aromas of black cherry, blueberry and plum, all of which are echoed on the palate. The wine is delicious. 90.

Burrowing Owl Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($25 but sold out). The wine begins with appealing aromas of lime and grapefruit. These are echoed on the palate, along with a hint of sweet oak from partial barrel fermentation. The texture is rich and the finish lingers. 91.

Burrowing Owl Merlot 2012 ($30). Dark in colour, this wine begins with aromas of cassis, blueberry and chocolate. On the palate, this is a wonderfully full, concentrated Merlot, with flavours of black cherry, black currant, dark chocolate. On the finish, it is spicy with notes of sage and cedar. The finish goes on and on. This is a benchmark Okanagan Merlot. 93.

Burrowing Owl Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($35). The wine begins with alluring aromas of cassis, cherry and plum, repeated on the palate along with notes of plum, cassis, blackberry, chocolate and marzipan. The structure and texture have elegant harmony, a fine expression of the vintage.  This is drinking well now but will blossom with another five years of bottle age. 92.

Burrowing Owl Meritage 2012 ($45). This is a blend of 43% Cabernet Franc, 28% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Petit Verdot. The wine was aged almost two years in barrels, mostly French and 25% new. Accordingly, there is a slight hint of cedar on the nose, along with cassis, black olives and spice. On the palate, there are flavours of prune plum, black cherry, black currant and Christmas spices. The texture is firm. This harmonious and concentrated wine needs to be decanted for drinking now but it has the bones of a wine meant to be aged at least 10 years. The finish is long, with savoury flavours that linger. 93.

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