Last week I was fortunate to attend the Burrowing Owl Master Class headed by Sophie Laurent who was showcasing these wonderful Okanagan wines. About twenty members of Yeg Women In Wine attended the afternoon event at Canteen on 124th Street.
Sophie was careful to point out some of the growing features in the Okanagan. For example, as most wine grows on this planet between the 30th and 50th degrees latitude in the Northern and Southern hemisphere, the closer you are to the extremes, the more unique the character of the wines grown there become.
The 49th parallel runs right through the South Okanagan, an area so unique that it produces more than 60% of all BC wines. It is the driest and warmest Meso Climate (https://www.google.ca/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=meso%20climate) in Canada, receiving sixteen hours of daylight between the months of May & July.
Burrowing Owl Winery has been owned by the Wyse family since 1993. I first visited Burrowing Owl in the summer of 1997. It wasn’t quite the big deal that it is now, but we were greeted warmly by a couple that I have to assume were Jim and Midge Wyse and their very big friendly dog. Midge and my eldest son bonded over the newly released Harry Potter book while my youngest son mesmerized the dog and we tasted through the line-up for that year. It’s one of my favorite wine-tasting memories and had more to do with the kindness of the hosts than the wine we tasted.
Back to the present day, Burrowing Owl use 100% Estate grown grapes and produce only 35,000 cases each vintage. This is due to low yields representing higher quality fruit and environmentally sound vineyard practices. Grapes are hand harvested and processed at their state of the art gravity fed crush facility. This is most important at the early stages when the grapes need to be treated gently. No pumps and pipes for this fruit!
This attention to detail shows in the quality which you can taste in every mouthful of their wines.We tasted:
Caliope Viognier – Clear light greenish gold. Aromas of pineapple upside-down cake & Pears soap. Splashy crisp fruit attack, very peachy and fresh.
Caliope Figure 8 Red – A Cab/Merlot blend. Perfect mid ruby hue. Plummy dark nose of spiced blackberry and graphite. Big black and blueberry fruit attack. Bright and fresh with chewy tannin and keen acidity.
Burrowing Owl Sauvignon Blanc 2014 – Bright golden green colour. Big pineapple and apricot nose highlighted by man-sweat and sea salt. Creamy stone fruit attack with lovely clinging fruit and tangy acidity. From gravelly soils… delicate and thin skinned, Sauvignon Blanc is said to like shady sights. Fermented and aged in oak for 4 – 6 months.
Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2013 (14%AbV) – Super clean light golden green hue. Creamy bright appley fruit. Chewy, cheesey pineapple attack. Small batches from sandy soils, shows a wide open, creamy mouth-feel. Hand picked in mid September. 40% barrel ferment 60% tank ferment. Mmm… Vanilla.
Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir 2013 (13.5% AbV) – Super bright cherry ruby hue. Tart cherry pie nose. Nutmeg (?) Ripe fleshy attack of tart wild cherry. Lovely lean, astringent, vanillin finish. From Hungarian, Russian French and American oak barrels. ❤
Burrowing Owl Merlot 2011 – Beautiful mid -dark ruby hue. Different clones on varying root-stocks. Spicy blackberry nose. Earthy wild strawberry nose with undertones of Bing cherry and delicate hints of vanilla. Lush dried fruit attack with firm dry tannin and clean earthy acidity. Fleshy and delicious. Very like.
Burrowing Owl Athene 2012 – Rich dark ruby hue. Lovely black currant nose with Dove soap and kiwi fruit. Dense rich attack of black plum fruit. Cool ferment Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Very aromatic due to the co-ferment. 18 months in French and American oak. Meaty and slightly salty. Even tannin and good acidity. Good with game or lamb.
Burrowing Owl Meritage 2012 – Glistening purple ruby. Wild blueberry, raspberry, strawberry nose. A blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Herbaceous notes of Fernet supported by blackberry and black currant. Big plush attack of dense dark tannin and full bright acidity. Super chewy with a long ever-evolving finish. ❤ Best Canadian Meritage I’ve tasted yet! Probably due to the predominance of the wonderful Cabernet Franc fruit.
The wines were accompanied by some delightfully tasty bites from the kitchen at Canteen giving us an opportunity to taste the wines with food and keeping us sharp.
Big shout out to Sandi Hollas and the organizers of the event. It’s great to see this kind of tasting brought to us by Yeg Women In Wine.