The B.C. Wine I Bring Home to Alberta Each Christmas
Finding Burrowing Owl was a big deal when I was growing up in Edmonton and it still impresses the tar out of the relatives.
My Dad loves wine. He was a long-time member of the Opimian Society when such was one of the few ways you could get a decent selection of wine in the West. He loves Alberta more. So he was initially a very tough sell when the burgeoning wine from the Okanagan came knocking almost two decades ago offering up their new bottles to the provincial neighbours, he wasn’t biting. “Geez, that’s expensive,” I heard more than once, though he rarely thought twice about dropping twice as much on an Italian import.
And then Burrowing Owl flew into his life sometime around 1998. I imagine it started as a rumour around the golf club: there was a Merlot from B.C. that was raking in awards and flying off the shelves so he set up securing a few bottles and damn if he wasn’t a bit seduced. In Edmonton at the turn of the century a bottle of Burrowing Owl was something of a dinner party trump card—you brought it and it won the night even in the face of pricier imports.
Since that time—and probably in part to the success of Burrowing Owl— we’ve seen an explosion of wineries in B.C. Some great, some terrible, but Burrowing Owl hasn’t been knocked from its top perch. It’s still rather precious—a quick look at their website shows that about half of the wines from the current vintage are long since sold out—but it’s not good because it’s rare, it’s rare because it’s good. Two bottles in particular will make the trip home: a bottle of the Athene, which is an unorthodox, but delicious, blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, and the Bordeaux-inspired Meritage with its seductive heavy dose of Cabernet Franc backed by Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, a big wine that can be enjoyed now with a little decanting.
And of course the Merlot, to impress the folks.