Stratus Celebrates 10 Years! When Stratus Vineyards opened in 2005, the winery was noted for its building – the world’s first fully LEED-certified winemaking facility – and for the boldness of its founder’s vision: to make outstanding assemblage wines from grapes in a single Niagara vineyard.
In the ten years since its opening, Stratus’ facility has become a model for LEED-certified wineries around the world and, more importantly, the vision that launched the vineyard has proven to be prophetic. Today, Stratus is recognized and celebrated by those who love and appreciate truly exceptional wine.
On June 5, 2015, Stratus Vineyards officially marks its 10th anniversary. The flagship wines are still Stratus Red and Stratus White, and Stratus remains focused on producing premium quality, age-worthy wines. At the same time, in the spirit of creating new traditions that has always guided Stratus, the winery now produces exceptional varietals, innovative assemblage-based ice wines and a portfolio of highly regarded “declassified” wines – Wildass, Tollgate and Kabang – all made from the continually evolving selection of grapes grown in the Stratus vineyard.
“In 2005, we believed our wine could age 10 years or more – and in 2015, we’re proving it. All of our assemblage wines have aged beautifully.” J-L Groux, Winemaker, Stratus Vineyards
French-trained J-L Groux was recruited to join Stratus as its winemaker with the question, “What would you like to do?” The short answer, best embodied in Stratus Red and Stratus White, was “assemblage”. A centuries-old tradition, assemblage is the art of combining several grape varieties to make a single wine. Not according to any preset formula, but through carefully selecting and balancing the best the vineyard has to offer each season – using taste, judgment and “feel” – to craft a wine that uniquely captures the essence of vintage and vineyard.
At Stratus, Groux has also shown that he is a great believer in creating “new traditions,” mixing old and new approaches to find what works best. “New traditions” encompasses the use of elevators and a carefully thought-out design to create a virtual hillside inside the winery that allows Stratus to move its wine by gravity flow. (Stratus wine is never pumped. In fact, the one standby pump was sold in 2005.) It means making assemblage-based Icewines, Red and White, and successfully introducing new varieties, like Malbec, Petit Verdot and Semillon, to the Niagara winemaking palette.
In many ways, outstanding wines are grown, not made. So, in addition to making wine, Groux oversees the planting, harvesting and sorting of grapes at Stratus. Over the last decade, he has worked continually to better understand the vineyard, and to bring the grapes and the soil into perfect balance. Most recently, the efforts have included sub-grafting new grape varieties and clones to the vineyard’s existing root stock that are even better suited to the vineyard and its wines.
To create the “complexity from diversity” that is the essence of assemblage wine, eleven varieties of red grapes and seven of white, are grown in blocs, strategically situated throughout the vineyard. In order to provide the grapes with the best possible mix sun and soil, Stratus employs Vertical Shoot Positioning in which vine shoots are trained upward while the fruit hangs below. Stratus also practices “low yield” viticulture, deliberately minimizing the number of grape clusters per cane, which helps to ensure they have more concentrated, complex flavours, truly reflective of the vineyard’s character. All of the vineyard’s grapes are still tended, harvested and sorted entirely by hand.
Assemblage and collaboration
From the beginning, one the defining strengths of Stratus has a willingness to consider new approaches, new ideas and new traditions. This attitude has allowed the winery to benefit enormously from collaborating with experts who share its passion for excellence. Since 2009, the winery has been working with globally acclaimed wine consultant Paul Hobbs, to share vineyard and winemaking practices in pursuit of even higher quality. Another recent collaboration has been with artisanal Toronto chocolate maker, Soma, and the delicious result is the “Soma Stratus Bar”, made by soaking cacao beans in a wine lees infused oak barrel.
Making the best possible wine with the smallest possible footprint
Built with reclaimed materials and boasting such features as a super-insulated roof and geothermal heating and cooling, the Stratus winery was the first building in Canada, and the first winery in the world, to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. In the vineyard, Stratus employs a number of innovative sustainability practices, such as powering its tractors with recycled diesel fuel and using a herbal tea blend to keep insects from the grapes.
Stratus’ commitment to sustainability is brought to life through the dedication of its people. Throughout the year, an employee-based Green Committee works to continually expand and improve the winery’s sustainability performance. The committee also plays a key role in getting friends and family involved in Stratus’ annual initiative to support the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. Beyond the borders of our vineyard and our region, Stratus is also proud to support the work of such organizations as Evergreen Canada and the David Suzuki Foundation.
A great place to appreciate great wine
Great wine is made to be discovered, shared and enjoyed, and Stratus provides the perfect venue for doing all three. Exemplifying the chic, subtle style of their designer, Diego Burdi of burdifilek, the winery’s boutique, tasting bar and private hospitality rooms work together to create an environment that manages to be both warm and cool at the same time. Visitors to Stratus are invited to “taste by flight”, sampling three wines, carefully selected to complement one another, from Stratus’ growing portfolio.
To strengthen its connection to the community, and Stratus fans in particular, the winery is host to a dynamic roster of events that ranges from concerts, artisan markets, to delicious food and wine tastings put together by celebrated chefs. Most of the events are open to the public, with some only available to members of the Stratus Wine Club. On June 5th, as part of its year-long, 10th anniversary celebration, Stratus will launch “10 Ways to Celebrate Ten.”
Vintage years – to remember and to anticipate
Those who appreciate great wines tend look to the past; while those who appreciate great wineries, prefer to look to the future. In its first ten years, Stratus Vineyards achieved its founding vision and more. In the years ahead, the winery will build on that foundation, continuing to create new traditions, to expand the breadth of its offering and to introduce the world to wines of outstanding quality made in Niagara.
Suzanne Janke, Director of Hospitality & Retail
905.468.1806 x 228