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Stratus Vineyards
by
Terry Sullivan

Stratus VineyardsSummary: Stratus is located in a modern building with unique architecture features. Features included high ceilings, sliding doors between the winery and tasting room, and glass outside walls. Bicycle racks are located in front of the building promoting bicycling to the winery.

Stratus VineyardsWine barrels reflecting onto glass announce the entrance to the modern looking Stratus Vineyards hospitality center. Upon entering you’ll notice the door is several feet higher than traditional doors. The tasting room and retail center is awash with daylight streaming through the floor to ceiling windows. Straight lines guide the visitor to the tasting bar. The retail section of the room is like a library where wine bottles line the shelves several feet high. Visitors can view the winery through windows in the attached building.

The natural light in the hospitality center is part of the LEED certification that Stratus Vineyards achieved. Stratus is the first Canadian winery to achieve LEED certification. This kind-to-the-environment winery and vineyards employs many environmental friendly practices. The building is heated and cooled using geothermal power, lighting is sensor controlled, the surfaces outside the building are reflective, many of the building materials are made from recycled materials and the winery uses a gravity flow system.

Stratus VineyardsEnvironmentally friendly practices are also in use in the 55-acre vineyard. All grapes are hand picked and sorted and no chemical fertilizers are used. Stratus began in 2000 when they bought the property. Established vineyards were already in place, however new vines have been planted including some unusual varieties for this area. The present vineyard has Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Viognier and Marsanne for the white grapes. The red grape varieties planted include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Gamay, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Mourvedre, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, and Tannat. Presently 6,000 to 7.000 cases of wine are produced and the winery has the capacity to increase this number.

With so many varietal grapes, visitors may think that there is a large portfolio of wines to taste. However, winemaker, Jean-Laurent Groux creates blends with many of the varieties. He believes that the sum total of a blend is greater than the sum total of the parts. The wine in the bottle is expressive of the grapes in the vineyard. Some grape varieties were planted in this area of Ontaria to see how they would perform.

Stratus VineyardsA unique tasting experience awaits you at Stratus. Four fine stemware glasses with wine already in them are placed on a placemat. A glass of water and stick crackers are set behind the wine. There is room on the placemat for you to write notes. You’ll notice that the first two wine glasses hold reds while the third and fourth contain white wine. Red wines are tasted first since the white wines are heavier in body. The wines, water and crackers make a wonderful presentation.

The first wine tasted was a 2005 Stratus Red, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Gamay, Melbec, Petit Verdot and Syrah. It showed a light red transparent color, had a fruit nose and intense fruit flavor. The finish was crisp with noticeable tannins. The second red was a 2005 Cabernet Franc. This wine had red fruit and pepper on the nose and taste. The finish was crisp and there was a long lingering aftertaste. The 2005 Stratus White was a blend of Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. It was aged for two years in barrels. Vanilla and oak was recognized on the nose. This blend had a fruit salad taste with vanilla and caramel. It was heavy bodied. The 2006 Gewürztraminer had a floral and spicy nose with spice and fruit taste and medium body.

Stratus VineyardsOur tasting concluded with a Stratus Icewine. The blend consisted of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. It had a rhubarb and strawberry nose and taste with a crisp finish. When paired with chocolate, the rhubarb taste diminished and the strawberries became more dominant.

When you visit you will find that the staff is friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Take time to discuss not only the wines but also the LEED certification program that they qualified for in the Stratus winery and vineyards.

Stratus Vineyards
2059 Niagara Stone Road
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

GPS N 43° 24.123' W 079° 09.674'


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