WTN: Burrowing Owl

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WTN: Burrowing Owl

Postby Jenise » Fri May 31, 2013 1:58 pm

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
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Re: WTN: Burrowing Owl

Postby Bill Spohn » Fri May 31, 2013 2:12 pm

Sad indeed.

The server sounded like the one at Poplar Grove that I barely refrained from snapping at (as in "Will you shut the hell up and stop telling me what I am supposed to taste in this wine so I can work it out for myself when I taste the bloody thing? What makes you think I care what you think I should taste?"

Then there are the ones that insist on a report from you - "What did you think of that??" I am usually polite (no, really) and say it wasn't to my taste, but when they insist I respond with honesty and tell them it is oxidized crapola if it is.

Some of them have a spiel that they just can't seem to turn off. BTW, your impression of BO wines matches mine. Had a real nice 2003 Syrah last week made by the old guard.

Don't forget to post notes on Blue Mountain!
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Re: WTN: Burrowing Owl

Postby Jenise » Fri May 31, 2013 3:03 pm

Bill Spohn wrote:Sad indeed.

The server sounded like the one at Poplar Grove that I barely refrained from snapping at (as in "Will you shut the hell up and stop telling me what I am supposed to taste in this wine so I can work it out for myself when I taste the bloody thing? What makes you think I care what you think I should taste?"

Then there are the ones that insist on a report from you - "What did you think of that??" I am usually polite (no, really) and say it wasn't to my taste, but when they insist I respond with honesty and tell them it is oxidized crapola if it is.

Some of them have a spiel that they just can't seem to turn off. BTW, your impression of BO wines matches mine. Had a real nice 2003 Syrah last week made by the old guard.

Don't forget to post notes on Blue Mountain!


I didn't have a problem with the chick at Poplar Grove; she's not a wine geek, just someone trained to pour for the tourists with whom her spiel would go over fairly well, especially since she was young, cute and blonde. She didn't irritate me at all--the pourer at La Frenz did, however. She's the one who wouldn't shut up, and who seemed to mind us discussing the wines with each other. She kept trying to overwrite our impressions. But worse was the 40-ish lady at Burrowing Owl, who should know better than be overly defensive about obviously flawed wines.

Re notes on wines, I didn't take note one at any of the wineries we visited--I forgot to bring a pad and pen along. The Burrowing Owl visit was the last I personally made, and so the impressions were clearer, especially since my objective was to comment on the current status of BO winemaking.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: WTN: Burrowing Owl

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Fri May 31, 2013 4:26 pm

BO...have long thought over-priced and poor quality. Avoid.

Blue Mountain...bring it on.
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Re: WTN: Burrowing Owl

Postby Jenise » Fri May 31, 2013 4:47 pm

Bob Parsons Alberta wrote:BO...have long thought over-priced and poor quality. Avoid.

Blue Mountain...bring it on.


I really liked their whites back in the day, they were both concentrated and complex. Not overpriced for what they were, nor was the 02 Cab Franc I remember loving. But what they do now is nothing close.

Yes re Blue Mountain! Everything we tasted there was great, though I'd peg the pinot noir behind all the whites. They now make a sauvignon blanc that I thought was the best of their '11 line-up. However, Bill bought half a dozen so I'll plan on drinking his (nudge nudge) and sharing the 2010 stripe label chardonnay and pinot gris I bought instead (untasted--sensing that the wines are still available because they needed time to show well, and I'm a patient girl).
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: WTN: Burrowing Owl

Postby Bill Spohn » Fri May 31, 2013 5:02 pm

Jenise wrote:However, Bill bought half a dozen so I'll plan on drinking his (nudge nudge) and sharing the 2010 stripe label chardonnay and pinot gris I bought instead (untasted--sensing that the wines are still available because they needed time to show well, and I'm a patient girl).


Sounds like a date. Bring a chard or PG and I'll pop an SB. I'm sure we can find something to amuse us while we do that (hint - it involves balls!)
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Re: WTN: Burrowing Owl

Postby Steve Kirsch » Fri May 31, 2013 7:27 pm

BO, BM. Neither of these names conjure up the smell of violets, exactly.
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Re: WTN: Burrowing Owl

Postby Tom N. » Fri May 31, 2013 11:01 pm

Hi Jenise,

Sorry to hear of your lackluster experience. I had heard some good things about burrowing owl wines a few years ago. Seems like they have gone downhill. Since you just tasted some wines from the Okanagan Valley, I wonder what you might know about this wine:

2009 Merlot, Desert Hills Winery, Eagle's Nest Vineyard

A former neighbor and friend brought us this wine from BC as a gift. They said this was a small winery that only sold out of the winery and to a list. Can you give me any information on it?
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Re: WTN: Burrowing Owl

Postby Bill Spohn » Sat Jun 01, 2013 2:00 pm

Desert Hills is a small operation run by the Toor family, who used to be growers for others but decided to start their own winery.

I tasted some of their wines right after they started up and thought enough of some to buy a few bottles. When I opened them a year or so later they had somehow crashed in the mean time - not spoiled, but far less interesting to the point that I would never have bought them if they has shown like that when I tasted them. Curious!

Worth another look, though I haven't bothered in recent years. They have had some good reviews, so your bottle could be very decent.
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