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.

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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. Read the rest of this entry »





Burrowing Owl Fall Release Set

12 11 2016

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

Burrowing Owl Fall Release Week is quickly becoming one of the highlights of the Pop & Pour blogging calendar.  The winery is highly engaged with consumers and media alike and  is ahead of the game in terms of finding new ways to get its wines into the collective consciousness, and its renown is expanding well beyond its home province of BC as a result.  When the season’s current releases arrive in Calgary around harvest time, I’m ready to do my small part to spread the word.  Bring on the new vintages!

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A glorious Pop & Pour fall tradition.

Burrowing Owl is an Okanagan Valley stalwart, and it’s become such a ubiquitous part of the region that it’s easy to forget the winery is less than 20 years old.  The story started in 1993, when founder Jim Wyse replanted a series of vineyards between Oliver and Osoyoos in the extreme southern Okanagan.  There were no immediate plans to build a winery, but Wyse’s vision expanded once he saw the quality of the new grapes.  Burrowing Owl’s first vintage was 1997, and construction on the gravity-flow winery and massive underground cellar on the property was completed in 1998.

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 Initially focused on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris planted on a single 130-acre site, Burrowing Owl is now up to 14 different planted varietals on 170 acres of estate vineyards in three different sites. It is no accident that the winery is named after the rare underground-nesting owl that was declared extinct in British Columbia in 1980 but is now back on the upswing due to the dedicated conservation efforts of a small group of individuals:  Wyse is one of those individuals, having contributed significant amounts of both time and money to the burrowing owl’s preservation.

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Stelvin Rating: 8/10 (Love the colour, love the side pattern and smoothness; not a huge fan of the top embossing.)

 This year I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to try a sextet of different bottles from the Burrowing Owl 2013 and 2014 vintages, including return engagements with a couple of wines I had in last year’s releases, the Cabernet Sauvignon and the particularly eye-opening Syrah.  Let’s see how the fall 2016 lineup compared, starting with my introduction to one of Burrowing Owl’s founding whites:  Chardonnay.

Read the rest of this entry »





Lebanese Duet: 2011 Reds from Chateau Ksara

26 05 2015

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

Lebanon?  Lebanon!

Lebanon? Lebanon!

The cool thing about being a wine lover is that it constantly invites you to broaden your horizons and seek out new sensory experiences.  The cool thing about running a wine blog is that sometimes those experiences come to you.  A few weeks ago, out of the blue, I got an email from the oldest winery in Lebanon, Chateau Ksara, a vinous institution that predates Canada by a good ten years (founded in 1857).  Even though their wines are not currently available in Alberta, they wanted me to try them.  Shortly afterward, the courier box arrived from Ontario, containing a duo of 2011 value reds, Ksara’s Reserve du Couvent and Le Prieure bottlings.  Each clocks in at around the $15 range (at the LCBO, at least), and each was a complete revelation to me of the strong state and developing identity of Lebanese wine. Read the rest of this entry »





Argentine Value Challenge: Punto Final

4 10 2014

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

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Look closely: Spanish tasting notes!

There’s a lingering question out there that will go a long way in determining the ultimate path of the nascent Argentinian wine industry:  what to go along with Malbec?  That particular Bordeaux transplant has become a global phenomenon up in the foothills of the Andes and the undisputed star of Argentina’s vinous revolution, but there are a number of grapes currently vying for the role of its trusty national sidekick.  For a while it seemed like there was a strong marketing push to obtain Malbec-like acceptance of Argentina’s most unique white, Torrontes; I recently read a Decanter tasting panel that argued forcefully that the country’s recent forays into Cabernet Franc were an absolute revelation and that this underappreciated varietal should assume the silver medal position among Argentinian producers, although the less exciting Bonarda currently occupies that slot in terms of vineyard acres planted.  And of course, there’s always Cabernet Sauvignon, the international behemoth, promising instant recognition and easy sales for anywhere warm enough for it to grow.  In my experience, if an Argentine wine is on the shelves here and it isn’t Malbec, it’s usually Cab.  And while the wine geek in me would love to see Franc seize the day, the realist in me knows that Sauvignon will be pretty tough to displace. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2006 RedHeads Studio Esule

16 04 2011

Awesome label, domineering wine.

Here we have a wine with a great back story, a fun concept and a kick-ass label, but which is made in a style that just makes me cringe.  It’s from the McLaren Vale, one of the premium wine regions in Australia located immediately south of Adelaide in the dead centre of the country’s southern coast, and it takes the super-ripe, ultra-concentrated Aussie style to crazy, irrational extremes.  It is probably a well-made wine for its style, but I will take a rather harsh stand and say that there shouldn’t BE any wines of this style.

But let’s rewind to the good stuff first.  RedHeads Studio is a garage wine collective located in south-central Australia.  “Garage wine” is a term used to describe high-quality, small-production artisan wines generally made by winemakers who don’t own vineyard land themselves but who buy grapes from growers and make custom wines in small crushing/fermenting facilities.  Some of the first such facilities in Bordeaux, France were actually in garages, which is what coined the term.  RedHeads is home to a number of such custom winemakers, who are often responsible for creating modern, edgy wines. Read the rest of this entry »





Wine Review: 2007 Tawse Wismer Vineyard Cabernet Franc

14 04 2011

Tonight’s wine review is (very mildly) historic:  the first Canadian wine featured in this Canadian wine blog.  I have probably picked a good inaugural selection, since the Tawse Winery in Ontario’s Niagara region won the  2010 Canadian Winery of the Year Award from Wine Access Magazine.  I picked up this particular wine from Highlander in Marda Loop after being advised that it would “blow my mind”…them’s drinking words!

O Canada!

Despite living in Canada my entire life, I don’t drink a lot of Canadian wine, particularly Canadian red wine, so I approached this one with some degree of trepidation.  But I was excited to open any bottle of Cabernet Franc, which is an underused and underappreciated grape, especially in marginal wine climates like Canada.  Some interesting facts about Cab Franc:  (1) it is believed to be the genetic parent of the much-more-renowned-and-ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon (with the white grape Sauvignon Blanc strangely the other parent, as strange a love match as that seems); and (2) it ripens earlier and grows better in cooler areas than Cabernet Sauvignon, which makes Cab Franc an intelligent choice for Canadian winemakers faced with a short growing season (did I mention it snowed in Calgary yesterday?), colder temperatures and a latitude right at the tip of where grapevines can actually grow (they don’t grow much above 50 degrees Latitude, and the northern tip of the Great Lakes in Ontario is at 49 degrees).  Cabernet Franc is commonly found to have some greener herbaceous or vegetal flavours mixed in with its fruit, anything from grass or leaves to olives, asparagus or green peppers, which notes set its flavour profile apart from the riper, lusher Cab Sauvignon.

…But not so much in this case:  this was a plush, silky take on the varietal that almost came across like its warmer-weather cousin. Read the rest of this entry »