Burrowing Owl Estate Winery (500 Burrowing Owl Place, Oliver)
Eleven guest rooms, a 25-metre outdoor pool, a restaurant with glorious views of a 56-hectare vineyard, and a strong environmental ethic: what’s not to like about one of the South Okanagan’s most celebrated wineries?
Founded by Jim and Midge Wyse in 1993, Burrowing Owl takes pride in creating wines that are made to age, according to their daughter, Kerri McNolty, who oversees the marketing.
“The Sonora Room is important to showcase how our wines pair with cuisine, first and foremost,” McNolty told the Straight by phone. “The wines that we serve in the Sonora Room are typically wines that are no longer available for sale—our library wines. It gives people an opportunity to see how wines they may be cellaring themselves are developing.”
Her mom has focused on the hospitality. The goal is to give guests a warm and genuine experience lacking pretentiousness.
McNolty’s dad, a former developer and engineer, oversaw the growth of the business. It's a task largely taken on by her brother, Chris Wyse, when he became president in 2007.
“His job is to oversee the day-to-day operations in the vineyard and the cellar and also all of our wine distribution and sales,” she said.
According to McNolty, the vision, look, and feel of the winery are all the product of family discussions. And the wines have won scores of awards, thanks in part to a high number of growing days on the east side of the Black Sage Bench.
“I think the key for us is we get enough heat that we’re able to ripen some of those Bordeaux varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, that just can’t ripen in other regions of the province,” McNolty said.
The winery has worked closely with the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of B.C. to re-establish this species in the South Okanagan, Nicola Valley, and Lower Mainland. McNolty revealed that her company has generated $850,000 to date through fees collected in the tasting room to help cover the cost of a captive-breeding program. She described her parents’ relationship with burrowing owls as “very authentic”.
“They’re very conscientious about stewardship of the environment,” McNolty said.
Signature wine: The Meritage, a Bordeaux-style blend of the best of the varietals, is created by winery staff with the help of a consultant from France. “He tastes the different grapes from the different blocks, and starts to get a sense of how the grapes are developing each year,” McNolty said. “They’ll pick out certain blocks that are really showing well for that particular season and those grapes are then vinified separately and blended. So there’s a lot of time and energy that goes into the Meritage.”