Stratus Vineyards. I've drank a few bottles from this producer, but never visited. Great opportunity as well, since the purpose of this whole trip was to meet with Charles Baker, Director of Marketing and Sales at Stratus.
We were taken to the vineyards - can you believe that they grow tempranillo, mourvèdre, and sangiovese here? The cabernet was still hanging on the vines - we got up close to the cabernet franc, photos of which will soon be posted. The actual production facility is very impressive, particularly the elevator system which lifts the entire stainless steel tanks up and down from the top level. Very impressive. What's also fascinating is that the oak fermenting tanks they use is not scrubbed at all. They use water pumped with ozone to disinfect the tanks, which is both effective and environmentally-friendly, as it just breaks down into oxygen. Onto the wines.
The showroom, as seen above, is well-designed. Lovely colour, bright natural light from the immensely tall windows. And what impressed me the most was the stemware used - Ravenscroft Amplifiers, stems so thin I was scared of snapping the base right off.
We tasted through the entire range of wines offered. Beginning with the just released 2008 Gewurztraminer, spice and honey on the nose - promises more on the bouquet than on the palate. The 2006 White was creamy, with big fruit. Next was another proprietary blend, 2006 Red - a bit more of the road-tar aroma I find common in many Niagara cabernets, with a leaner texture. The 2007 Gamay was nicely structured, showing very similar to a Morgon. Earthy, ripe, balanced. The 2007 Cabernet Franc showed good, lean varietal character. Moving on, to the 2006 Petit Verdot. A bit richer than the other red wines, with good texture. We finished with a 2007 Riesling Icewine and a 2007 Red Icewine. Both with good fruit, and that creamy texture people find attractive in icewine.
I was impressed with the setup of the winery. Certainly, the facilities are as modern as you'll find in Niagara. Above else, discussion should remain focused on the vineyards and the wines. The philosophy here is about the assemblage. Maybe a difference of philosophy, in terms of the wines I believe in, but they are certainly interesting. Makes you rethink what a blended wine is, whether you agree with it or not.