Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Report from … Stratus Preview Lunch with JL Groux – June 8, 2010

Today’s preview tasting was held in a bombed out building in the west end of Toronto.  Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but I did feel that I should be wearing a hardhat in this unfinished building / art studio.  We were assembled to taste the new wines from Stratus and listen to veteran Ontario winemaker JL Groux talk mainly about the 2007 vintage, from which most of these wines were from (three icewines were from the ’08 vintage).  2007 marks the most extensive single varietal vintage in Stratus’ short history.  Their focus has been on blends (red and white), their second label (WildAss) and the occasional (read: in a really good vintage) single varietal offering,  Well 2007 signal one of those “really good vintages”.  As well as the Stratus Red and White this winery is known for producing in 2007, they also cranked out a Gamay, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc – quite the array from the assemblage masters.

Today’s tasting comprised of 13 wines, I have previously reviewed the 2007 Gamay and the 2007 Cabernet Franc (you can click on the wine for the full review).  So today it was about the other 11 I had yet to try; I picked my top 3 and full reviews of each are linked to my website, www.ontariowinereview.com:

Stratus 2007 Merlot ($42.00) - ****½
Stratus 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon ($TBD) - ****½
Stratus 2007 Stratus Red ($44.00) - ****½

Special mention should also go to the Stratus 2007 Chardonnay ($38.00) - ****

Choice Quotes from JL Goux …
I always find that JL is good for a few quotes – here are my favourites from this afternoon:

About Malbec in Ontario – “Four years ago I would have told you to forget about it, can’t be done … [but now I see] we can grow with this grape in the assemblage.”

“Syrah is the variety of the future.”
*Stratus’ oldest vines of this variety date back to 2001.

“We are currently growing 18 varieties.”

“I’m from the old school where there are only three grapes in the world: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.”

“4% of the assemblage can make a big difference.” Referring to the Petit Verdot added to the 2008 Stratus Red.

When discussing the 2010 vintage (so far) – “overall picture is good news, we are currently two weeks ahead.”

Talking about last year’s vintage:
“2009 was the worst year since 1992.”
“Crop levels were half of 2007” – about the 2009 vintage.

When asked about the case production of a certain wine, JL replied:  “I used to be stuck on numbers (ph levels, barrels, bottles …) but realized that people don’t care about this.”

The Aforementioned Lunch …
As for the lunch it was catered by some upstart named Jamie Kennedy, maybe you’ve heard of him.  The food was quite good.

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