Burrowing Owl Spring Releases

16 05 2017

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

Some people chart the seasons using a calendar; others look to the melting snow and the first robins to mark the start of spring.  For me and this blog, the new season only arrives when the box of new releases from Burrowing Owl is delivered and tasted.  I can now happily announce:  spring is here.


OK, yes, I had a glass of the Chardonnay before the tasting started.  I regret nothing.

Burrowing Owl is one of the few Canadian wineries that has been consistently able to juggle both quantity and quality, producing 35,000 cases annually from 16 different varietals grown across 170 acres and three different estate vineyard sites encircling the scorching southern Okanagan hubs of Oliver and Osoyoos.  It is likely best known for its Bordeaux varietals, but also makes room in its vineyard sites for less expected offerings like Tempranillo and Viognier, not to mention a killer Syrah that is proof of concept of the region’s suitability for the grape.  Burrowing Owl’s two largest vineyards are scant minutes away from the US border, on western-facing slopes angling down towards the temperature-modulating Lake Osoyoos, which both restrains the Okanagan desert heat during the day and extends it at night.  The third is due west of Oliver, in the neighbouring Similkameen Valley, using its proximity to Keremeos Mountain to help grow Bordeaux whites Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, where 2017’s spring releases conveniently start.


2015 Burrowing Owl Sauvignon Blanc

The only Similkameen wine in the Burrowing Owl estate lineup, this is actually 96% Sauvignon Blanc and 4% Semillon which has gone through a split fermentation and aging process, half in stainless steel tanks and half in a combination of new and used oak barrels.  The steel showcases the coiled, electric tropical fruit for which Sauv Blanc is known; the wood loosens and expands its texture and adds a creaminess it otherwise lacks.  The blend is a vividly bright lemon colour that foreshadows a tremendously citric aromatic profile:  key lime pie, meringue, lemon zest, pina colada.  Things only accelerate from there as the wine goes full out on the palate, launching onto the tongue with a mouth-coating, almost waxy texture, encircled with just a hint of oak tannin.  This richness is mirrored in its flavours, guava and white peach and honeydew, accented by banana leaf, riding a stream of powerful acid to a finish just tinged by a slight bitterness. The Sauvignon Blanc field is a crowded one, and this one just starts to show its seams straining to stand out.

87- points


2015 Burrowing Owl Chardonnay

The half-and-half tank-and-barrel fermentation and maturation trend continues in the other white in Burrowing Owl’s spring lineup:  the 2015 Chardonnay is crafted in separate lots to control the extent of oak’s influence while still allowing it to work its magic on a grape that can lose some verve without it.  Burrowing Owl’s barrel program may well be the most international in Canada, scooping oak from forests on at least FOUR different countries to accent its wines; this Chard is (half) matured in 84% French, 12% American and 4% Russian (!!) oak.  Opulence is the game of the name on the nose, with rich aromas of banana, caramel apple and orange creamsicle accented by spicy clove and fenugreek.  Its acidic structure stops it just a shade short of utter hedonism on the palate, where it is confectionary but controlled, carrying a broad texture with dexterity to a long finish.  I will say this:  it is utterly delicious.

89 points


2014 Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc

The French (70%) and American (25%) barrel crew is joined this time by 5% Hungarian oak in the 18-month maturation of this vast and powerful Cab Franc, which is so intensely aromatic that I was inadvertently smelling it while looking at its deep ruby colour from afar.  Bouncy brambly Saskatoon berry, blackberry, black licorice and cocoa nibs explode out of the glass in a delectable olfactory symphony, but as it turns out they are just the ticking countdown to the massive currant bomb that awaits on every sip, the pure fruit lush without being cloying, wrapped in just enough of Cabernet Franc’s signature herbaceousness to give it some welcome restraint.  Vanilla, dill and black jellybeans dance around the dark fruit abyss, but a lifeline comes in the form of a rush of acid and a horde of scrubby tannins as you swallow.  This is an unabashed beast of a wine, easily my favourite of the set and a standard-bearer for modern-style Canadian Cab Franc.

90+ points


2013 Burrowing Owl Merlot

While I may have been secretly hoping for a 50% Hungarian/50% Russian oak blend on the grand finale of the spring release, Burrowing Owl’s varietal Merlot goes a little more sane with a 75% French, 17% American and 8% Hungarian mix.  That doesn’t stop the wine from absolutely bathing the glass in an opaque, light-stealing ruby-garnet hue, suggestive of the depths that await within.  Raspberry, fruitcake, funk, blood and molasses come out in aromatic layers, one on top of the other, adding something different every time you go back to the glass.  The palate blends red fruit, plum and violets with something more dank, asphalt and earth and gravel, finishing dark and brooding.  There’s something here with this wine but also something scattered and not quite settled, not quite ready…if you have one of these, I would check back on it in 2-3 years and see if its various threads have been knitted together.

88 points




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: