Rick VanSickle, winesinniagara.com
There are a handful benchmark wines in Niagara that belong in a category all their own. They are so unique that they have few peers to be judged against yet are sought out by collectors every vintage.
The top Stratus Red and White wines are in that category. Both are meticulously made to the highest standards of winemaker J-L Groux through a long process of blending multiple grapes from multiple varieties and barrel selection, all conducted blind. The assemblage formula changes from vintage to vintage.
The finished wines are always a treat to try.
I recently tasted the newly released Stratus White along with the winery’s second label wines called Wildass.
Here’s what I Iiked (with some other reviews from Lake Erie North Shore and the new top Cab Franc bottling from the Okanagan’s Tinhorn Creek):
Stratus White 2009 ($44, 92 points) – Winemaker J-L Groux brings what many would at first think is an odd combination of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier and Gewurztraminer together in this proprietary white from Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Stratus Vineyard. It is the epitome of artful blending and, I don’t know how, but it works brilliantly. With unique and aromatic notes of peach cobbler, tangerine, creamy vanilla, apricots and toasty oak nuances, it is complex and intriguing on the nose. On the palatte, it is textured with lychee, all manner of orchard fruits and exotic tropical fruits balanced against an array charred oak spice, cream and vanilla. It’s lush, yes, but there’s still enough acidity to give the wine vibrancy through the finish. Good aging potential here.
Stratus Wildass Red 2011 ($20, 89 points) – Wildass is the rebellious sibling of the more astute Stratus wines but it follows essentially the same principals of blending at the hands of master blender Groux. The red is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Tannat. The colour is lighter in the glass than what you’d expect but the aromas are forward on the nose with ripe cherries, blackberry, herbs, smoke and spices. It’s drinking nice right now with a full basket of red fruits on the palate to go with cassis, vanilla, roasted herbs and spice all nicely integrated.
Stratus Wildass White 2008 ($20, 90 points) – A blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier with each of the components vinified separately in small lots before being assembled after 18 months in new French oak barrels. It is a gorgeous wine, especially at this price, with a bright nose of peach, apricot, mango, tangerine and bold spices. It’s a substantive white with creamy-spicy notes and flavours of poached pear, tropical fruits and just a hint of nutmeg and vanilla through the finish. It’s drinking lovely right now with just the right amount of aging upon release.