July 13, 2012

SOWF #16: Burrowing Owl

Burrowing Owl is probably the best winery in BC. For several years now they have consistently produced some fantastic wines, and while each vintage is a little different from the next the quality is always superior. My scores below reflect that - every single wine was a solid 89 or 90. If you need to bring a nice bottle for dinner and don't know what to get, anything from Burrowing Owl will do nicely, particularly their big reds.

The winery itself is stunning. They are expanding into the guest house business, where they have spared no expense to build some of the more luxurious accommodation in the valley. Not that I could afford to stay there. Last year we stopped for a bite in their restaurant, and I have to say it was a little meagre, the taste was OK but not great, and the price was very expensive. Fortunately the wines are somewhat reasonably priced considering what you get, and about $8-$15 less than what we pay in Alberta. Visit the winery, take a few photos, skip the restaurant, and try as many wines as they let you.

  • Pinot Gris 2010 ($20)

The 2011 Pinot Gris grapes were harvested by hand in October 2011. The grapes were then whole bunch pressed into stainless steel tanks and some skin contact on a percentage of the grapes with the perfect profile, was permitted. A whole bunch or ‘Champagne’ type press cycle with progressive pressure increases and minimal rotations, was used. The wine was fermented naturally; only using selected yeast strains when deemed absolutely necessary. The wine is blended after ferment in stainless and kept on the lees for 3 months to increase palate weight and texture.

A soft, welcoming nose of Asian pear, cantaloupe melon, apple blossom and lemon with hints of tropical fruit and baking spice. The palate is dry with balanced acidity and a soft, full texture that leads from ripe pear through nectarine, blood orange, ruby grapefruit onto mineral and nutmeg complexities. This wine has the weight and texture to pair with rich white fish such as halibut, white wine poached chicken or mussels in a curry cream sauce.

Very well done, smooth, balanced acidity. 89+ points.

  • Chardonnay 2009 ($25)

This wine shows intense nectarine, caramelized pineapple and citrus aromas that mingle beautifully with the vanilla and crème brûlée notes from barrel fermentation. The palate is rich and viscous with ripe peach, cantaloupe, subtle and complex savoury elements from the lees contact and a fresh lemon intensity that lingers throughout. This wine has weight yet freshness making it perfectly suited to BC Dungeness crab dipped in garlic butter.

Oaky (almost too much, but it works), buttery, nice. 90 points.

  • Pinot Noir 2009 ($30)

The grapes for this wine were harvested in October 2009 from the Burrowing Owl vineyard. These blocks contain own-rooted Pinot Noir clones 114 and 115. The fruit was hand-picked, destemmed, and crushed into stainless steel tanks. It was inoculated with our preferred yeast strains and fermented at 28ºC. After pressing, the wine was transferred into oak barrels for the completion of malolactic fermentation (MLF). The wine was racked once and barrel aged for 10 months before bottling in July 2009. It is unfiltered and unfined for maximum flavour. Enjoy!

A medium bodied wine with subtle aromas of black cherry and cedary spice as the prelude to a luxurious velvet texture with silky tannins and a persistent smoky spice that fans out on the finish. Tobacco and complex earthy tones add a second layer of intrigue. A lovely, refined, and well balanced wine. Depth of flavour and complexity will build with bottle ageing.

Peppery nose, cherry, less finish but nice. 89 points.

  • Merlot 2009 ($30)

A deep youthful purple appearance with powerful, ripe and intense fruit aromas of black cherry, raspberry, plum and mulberry. The fruit overlays subtle oak notes, coffee, marzipan, chocolate, vanilla and a hint of fresh tobacco. The palate is full of mixed brambly berries, licorice, clove, cedar, graphite and sage with a long persistent finish. Approachable now with its ripe and integrated tannins, there is also the flavour intensity and structure to mature well in bottle. Try this with coq au vin or your favourite grilled red meat with a red wine demi-glace.

Tart, deep and complex. 89 points.

  • Cabernet Franc 2009 ($33)

The grapes were hand picked towards the end of October, 2009 from different parcels on Burrowing Owl Estate vineyards. The grapes were hand sorted, gently de-stemmed and slightly crushed. Gravity dropped into our tanks and left to heat on its own to 17 degrees Celsius prior to inoculation with our select yeast strains. The wine was fermented on skins for an average 20 days. Approximately 10 days of post fermentation maceration, to enhance the structure and refine the tannins, prior to draining and press of the skins. The wine received 18 months of oak barrel exposure with periodic rackings

Bright and intense aromas of ripe plums, crushed raspberries, milk chocolate, orange zest and violets. The palate is medium to full-bodied and lush - showing the richer side of this variety - with brambly mixed berries, chocolate, white pepper, clove and a varietal dried herbal note that adds a savoury complexity. The balanced acidity and dusty tannins give structure and linger on a long, complex finish. This intense and ripe Cabernet Franc is well suited to braised venison or rosemary-studded leg of lamb.

Cherry, tannins are quite sharp. Probably needs a couple of years or a good aeration to really be a superstar. 90 points.

  • Syrah 2009 ($33)

A powerful and intense wine but with an intriguing side. It shows the richness of Syrah with aromas of blueberry, blackberry and ripe plum along with the grape’s other side – an intriguing savoury, peppery meatiness. The well integrated oak adds elements of vanilla, spice and liqueur chocolate to the nose. The palate is rich and full with intense flavours of blackberry, ripe raspberry and black forest cake. The flavours then progress through coffee, chocolate, damson plum, cassis and grilled herbs. The acidity is perfectly balanced and the tannins, while firm, are ripe and integrate seamlessly so that the wine can be enjoyed young or cellared to develop further complexity. The subtleties in this wine make it perfectly suited to spiced braised meat dishes such as tagine or Asian spiced lamb shanks.

Oomph. Big and terrific. Like the cab franc, a little tight so decanting and/or aging would help, but this is too delicious to wait. 90+ points.

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