Monday, July 11, 2016

Burrowing Owl tweaks its wines

Photo: Burrowing Owl president Chris Wyse

Burrowing 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 Chardonnay.

The winery 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.

The first 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.

“And we 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.”

Yet another 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 was producing.

The little 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 time).

One crucial 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.

Here are 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 spine. 94.

1 comment:

DLT57 said...

I have a Burrowing Owl Pinot Gris habit, I will admit, but their Sauvignon Blanc (because you said Sancerre) is definitely going to be a purchase on our Great Summer Wino Tour of the Okanagan this year. Meanwhile my husband, the red wine drinker, is anticipating the Athene and Meritage.