Located in Oliver, British Columbia, Canada, the Burrowing Owl Estate Winery produces premium red, white and port-style wines. The grapes are grown in the Okanogan Valley, and the vineyards have been producing grapes since 1997. LoveToKnow talked to Jim Wyse, founder and creator of the Burrowing Owl Winery.
Quality Wine From State-of-the-Art Technology
"Today, with its dramatic vantage point in the middle of the vineyard is Burrowing Owl Estate Winery," Wyse said, noting it is a wine-making facility that combines state-of-the-art technologies with proven, classic winemaking traditions. For example, "a gravity-flow system handles ripe grapes delicately, preserving their rich fruit character," according to Wyse. Likewise, extensive underground cellaring capacity ensures that long-term barrel aging at constant temperatures is never limited by space.
Burrowing Owl's Bordeaux Style Reds
Wyse told LoveToKnow the vineyard is perfectly located for the difficult-to-ripen Bordeaux-style reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. Situated in the southern part of the Okanagan Valley on a west-facing plateau called the Black Sage Bench, the winery's Bordeaux style wines have gained considerable recognition and popularity. Wyse notes the wines have consistently receive gold medals in competitions internationally. "Burrowing Owl wines are made in a very traditional way," Wyse said, "And to achieve this, the winery houses a large underground cellar, where all red wines are aged in carefully selected oak barrels. The winery was perhaps the first in BC to include a full barrel aging program, which is essential for producing premium wines. Our Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc wines, both which need long ripening times on the vine (winemakers call it 'hang time') are always sought after and sell out quickly."
Athene is a blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon that produces a bold, juicy, powerfully spicy red wine. Acclaim includes gold medals for the 2014 vintage in the 2017 Pacific Rim Wine Competition, and Silver for the 2015 vintage in the 2018 Wine Align National Awards of Canada.
A classic big, spicy, jammy red ripe with floral notes, the Syrahs from Burrowing Owl have been widely acclaimed. The 2015 Syrah took Double Gold at the 2019 Berlin International Wine Competition, Gold at the 2018 Six Nations Wine Challenge in Australia, Silver in the 2018 Los Angeles International Wine Competition, and Gold in the 2018 Syrah du Monde in Chaintré, Burgandy, France.
The Meritage is a classic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot with firm tanins and complex flavors and aromas. It's been widely recognized for excellence, including the 2014 vintage winning Gold in the 2019 Berlin International Wine Competition, the 2018 Los Angeles International Wine Competition, and the 2018 Great Northwest Invitational Wine Competition and Silver in the 2018 San Francisco International Wine Competition and the 2018 Wine Align National Awards of Canada.
A soft, lush, and complex red with aromas of vanilla and blackfruits, the Merlot has won awards including the Judge's Selection of the 2015 vintage in the 2018 Six Nations Wine Challenge and Silver for the 2014 vintage in the 2018 San Francisco International Wine Competition.
The Cabernet Sauvignon is a powerful, classic Cab aged in oak with flavors of leather and black currant. It's received acclaim, winning awards such as Silver in the 2019 Berlin International Wine Competition, 2018 International Wine & Spirits Competition, and 2018 Los Angeles International Wine Competition.
Of the Bordeaux style wines, Wyse said, "[They] are full-bodied, with huge flavours, a sensuous bouquet, a lingering finish and a velvety mouth-feel. Because of the exceptional ripeness achieved in our wholly-owned, estate vineyard, these wines are drinkable within a few years, but those customers that have the patience to wait will find that these wines reach their flavour peak at about 5-10 years from the vintage date." Additional reds from Burrowing Owl include:
- Cabernet Franc: A powerful varietal that can age for many years thanks to heavy tannins
- Malbec: Another powerful red that can be cellared for several years to soften the lush flavors of raspberry, pepper, and cocoa
- Pinot Noir: Ripe and jammy red with leather and strawberries on the palate
Whites include the following:
- Sauvignon Blanc: A crisp, acidic white with grassy and citrus notes
- Pinot Gris: A white made in the French style with pear and melon flavors and aromas
- Chardonnay: A classic, buttery, oaked Chardonnay with crisp citrus and melon notes
The Coruja is a sweet, fortified, non-vintage Port-style wine made in a solera system from Syrah grapes.
About Burrowing Owl Winery
According to Wyse, the winery and vineyard lie within one of Canada's most unique ecosystems in the northernmost tip of the Sonora Desert. "The location, on a southwest-tilting, sandy plateau near the north end of Osoyoos Lake, is one of the most highly rated grape-growing locations in the Okanagan Valley, and for that matter all of Canada," Wyse noted. "In 1993, when I began to replant the vineyards, which had been carefully selected for their ability to produce world class, premium quality grapes, the winery was not part of my long-term vision." However, Wyse soon recognized the location's potential, and he decided to build Burrowing Owl Estate winery, which was licensed in 1997. "Construction began in 1998 and completed just in time for that year's harvest," Wyse said. "The site has since been enhanced with a beautiful fine-dining restaurant (2003) and a luxurious guest house (2007)."
Visiting the Winery
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery is located at 500 Burrowing Owl Place, about half way between Oliver and Osoyoos in British Columbia. In the summer, the wine shop is open seven days per week, with varying hours in the off-season. Groups larger than 8 are asked to make a reservation by calling 1-877-498-0620 x 1. Visitors can also book private tour and tasting experiences by booking online at least 72 hours in advance.
Wyse stated, "We offer a complete wine-touring experience. The winery is set above the surrounding vineyards, and the observation tower gives a commanding view of the vineyards for many kilometers in all directions." They winery features a 110-step stairway to the tower where visitors can pause and read about the winery's winemaking and environmental activities. At the top of the steps, visitors can ring the winery bell. The winery also has a fine-dining restaurant, the Sonor Room, which has lovely views from the exterior balcony seating. "Since 2007, we have been able to offer overnight bed and breakfast accommodation in our well-appointed, 10-room Guest House, complete with a lap pool, a solar-heated hot-tub and friendly staff," Wyse shared.
Other Wineries in the Area
Visitors can also visit other area wineries. "Since Oliver prides itself as being the Wine Capital of Canada, we are fortunate in having many wineries in the vicinity," Wyse said. "So wine touring has become very popular in our area. The wine tourist wants to experience a variety of different wineries, but we have been advised by the local tourist board that most of these folks start with a visit to Burrowing Owl."
Visit Burrowing Owl Winery
If you're in or near Oliver in British Columbia, check out the Burrowing Owl Winery and other wineries in the region. It's a great way to spend a day in British Columbia's top wine region.