Food & Wine Photo Credit: Burrowing Owl

A Sauvignon Blanc to Get Excited About

Is Burrowing Owl the most reliable winery in Canada?

Growing up in Alberta, the first Okanagan wine I remember getting really excited about was Burrowing Owl. It was on allotment, so it was tough to come by—and this was in the early days of privatization when nothing was hard to come by. Most importantly it represented for me the idea that you could stroll into a dinner party with a bottle of BC wine under your arm and hold your own with bottles from California, France or Italy.

I’ve never really lost that initial esteem for the winery, which has only gotten better since those early days. Their Cabernet Franc blazed a trail for what may well turn out to be the Okanagan’s signature grape, their Merlot has body and depth, and their Pinot and Syrahs are both great. So it was a bit of a head-scratcher for me when, a few years back, they announced they we’re adding a Sauvignon Blanc to their line-up. It’s not that I don’t like the grape—it’s fine and on occasion it’s great—but our Kiwi friends have darn near cornered the market on a consistent, juicy, grapefruity style that they can deliver in enormous quantities at a relatively low price point. The world’s great Sauvignons—Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé— aren’t exactly setting wine world sales records. So why bother?

Well, I’m glad they bothered. Instead of trying to ape either the super juicy Kiwi style or the amazing flinty French style they went for a more august style. It sees some time in oak barrels to beef up the body and mouthfeel. It seems to me they followed the playbook of Sonoma’s Merry Edwards who, in my view, make North America’s finest Sauvignon Blanc. Both wines uses some oak and some lees stirring to produce a richer more substantial delivery system for rich lemon curd and lime marmalade notes. The major difference is the Merry Edwards is about $55, the Burrowing Owl is $22. It makes me excited like back in the day.

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