While tasting with friends in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley last weekend, we skipped a winery called Burrowing Owl whose wines I remember fondly from my first visit there almost nine years ago. At that time, reknowned Napa winemaker Bill Dyer was making their wines; shortly afterward, Bill left the project and the heir apparent to the family fortune behind the state of the art winery who had been apprenticing with Bill took over. Early reports of the new wines weren't complementary, and no one in my circle of friends has actually tasted there since--probably, in part, due to the fact that it's enough further south of the better winery strike zone that it requires a special trip.
But I found myself down that way anyway after the group went their own ways, so stopped in to taste. All their wines were available for tasting except the pinot gris and pinot noir, which are sold out, and additionally they were touting some library releases of 06 and 07 chardonnay in addition to the current releases of 10 and 11. This was especially interesting since Dyer's five plus year old chardonnays were spectacular.
I started with the 2006 Chardonnay. Severely oxidized. I dumped the remainder and rinsed the glass, and told my server about the problem, asking "Just how long has that bottle been open?" She wasn't sure if it was the day before or the day before that, but objected to my assessment with "But we gas it overnight!" "The oxidation was probably already well underway when you gassed it," I offered.
She did not offer me a new taste from a fresh bottle, but instead just poured me the 2007. Oxidation underway there, too, though it was much more subtle than the '06. Upon hearing this news the server shook her head in annoyance, and I noticed that the bottles she poured me from never left the serving line-up. Two gentlemen next to me also find this strange, so they tell the server that "she's right, these ARE oxidized" but it's a one-way conversation and she just goes on with the spiel. They ask who the winemaker is. "It's still Justin _____ ", she says, so I'm guessing that it's still the son of the owner.
Now onto the 2010. Devoid of fresh fruit flavor, there's just kind of an acidic framework without much in it. Might have been yesterday's bottle, or even the day before's, but I didn't bother to ask. Dump!
So finally the 2011. Fresh and better than the 2010, but it's too soft and lackluster.
At which point I gave up. There seemed no point in tasting the reds: the pourer's obtuse, and Junior's blowing the winemaking gig but no one wants to tell him.
Sad--it used to be worth the trip. The wines were as good as the hillside view and it's still one of the most beautiful wineries in the valley.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov