Diversity for complexity.
10 varieties of red. 6 of white. Vigilantly maintained and rigorously thinned by hand. Wines that capture the “somewhereness” of Stratus.
Our vineyard sits on 62 acres near the southeastern border of the Niagara Lakeshore sub-appellation. It shares the benefits of the region with its neighbours, while enjoying advantages that are uniquely its own. The vineyard is far enough away from the moderating influence of Lake Ontario to grow grape varieties that need warmer temperatures in the summer. At the same time, the lake’s proximity helps protect the vines from early frost in the fall.
From the Ground Up
Much of story of the Niagara region and of the character of Stratus wine can be found in the soil. Layers of mineral-rich earth, resting on a limestone foundation, are the legacy of continent-shaping ice ages. This glacial till is a clay-loam mosaic from which we chose site specific plantings for the varieties. Nearer the surface, the organic matter in our soil is a reminder that people, from the First Nations to United Empire Loyalists, have been farming and cultivating this land for generations.
By some standards, our vineyard is rather modest. Only 62 acres. Yet it contains multitudes. We grow 10 varieties of red grapes and 6 varieties of white – some vines old, some vines young. The vineyard is further divided into 44 distinct blocs. Each one, its own small “somewhereness.”
Stratus Vineyard Maps
Stratus grows 10 varieties of red wine grapes in its vineyard: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, Syrah, Tannat and Tempranillo. This diversity gives our winemaker a wide range of options for crafting our signature Stratus Red. It also provides a limited selection of outstanding, small-lot varietals.
Well Worth Waiting For. To ensure maximum ripeness and maturity, our red varieties are hand-harvested much later than most in the region – sometimes as late as December. Although risky, the rewards are rich as sugars peak, acids soften and flavours deepen.
The six varieties of white wine grapes grown at Stratus – Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Viognier – are an international collection that could only be found in a New World vineyard. While forming the foundation of our Stratus White assemblage, these wines are sometimes also available to enjoy as refreshingly distinctive varietals.
“The wine we grow is dependent on the health of the land on which it is grown. We farm our vineyard and guide our winemaking as though our children’s future depends on it. Each vintage bottled is a reflection of this ongoing commitment.” – Environmental Mission Statement
There was a time when the perfectly manicured vineyard was a must. As we now understand more, we allow for the natural ecosystem to take hold. Indigenous cover crops contribute to this biodiversity, maintain the food web, reduce erosion and improve soil structure. By allowing grasses and legumes to grow within the vines, the flowers attract bees. Conventional herbicides would eliminate these pollinators.
We have also begun laying straw within the vines after harvest. By springtime, the straw is significantly decomposed by soil microbes to slowly release nitrogen, potassium and soil organic matter for our vines – the most natural form of fertilizing.
Low Yield. Rich Rewards.
Wine-worthy grapes. Guided by that objective, Stratus Vineyards practises “low-yield” viticulture. We strictly limit the number of clusters per vine and rigorously thin our fruit. As a result, the remaining grapes receive more nourishment from their parent vines, making their flavours more intense, more complex and more reflective of our vineyard.
Our Biggest Fans
Six 10-metre-tall frost fans, each covering about 10 acres, stand guard over our vineyard. On particularly chilly nights, usually in early spring or late fall, the fans pull down warm air to displace the cold, stagnant air at ground level, raising the temperature anywhere from one to 10 degrees. Over the course of a year, we run the fans for about 40 hours, yet in that short time they can help us save a season’s worth of grapes.