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BoBo is a French expression, short for Bourgeois Bohème, and it pretty much describes who we are.

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rounding Out a Glorious Autumn: A Niagara Wine Tour, Part 1

OK, who could possible say NO to this? 
As part of our mandatory professional development program we were offered the chance to earn credits for joining an all-day wine tour to Niagara! Sweet! Drink wine and boost your CEU count at the same time! Someone must have already had a couple glasses too many when they dreamed this one up! Of course, there was a catch...there always is. But in our case, it actually added to the allure: Because  our professional development is in the field of design, we would be touring three of the most beautiful and ecologically advanced buildings to be built in the wine region in recent history.

This particular mid-November Thursday was a picture perfect autumn day- cloudless blue skies and a temperature more reminiscent of early October. The grapes were mostly off the vine (except for those being left for icewine) leaving behind beautiful lines of rust coloured fences flanking verdant green rows.
We started at Stratus, an small boutique winery crafting premium product. It's winemaker is J-L Groux, a Loire Valley native who has attained some notoriety in Niagara for rather steadfastly sticking to his old-world approach of "assemblage", the practice of blending varieties according to the winemaker's expertise from the vines that were most successful that year. This can mean that a signature wine may vary significantly from year to year- it is the antithesis of the corporate approach  to wine making where consistency, no matter how banal, is valued over all else.

The Wines:
The Stratus Red 2006 is composed of cab franc, cab sauvignon, merlot, malbec, petit verdot, gamay and syrah. This was a lovely wine, well rounded with a little spiciness. Had it not been $44 a bottle we would have brought several home!
The Stratus White 2006, a blend of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, reisling, gewurztraminer, semillon, and viognier, was equally yummy. In the words of John Szabo in Wine Access Magazine, "There is plenty of lovely fresh pineapple, peach, orange blossom, violet essence aromas while the palate is fullish and solidly structured with both fatness and vibrant acidity, creating a creamy yet well-defined flavour profile." Exactly!
The  limited production 2008 Icewine Red (yes, RED!) is a blend of cab franc, cab sauvignon, and syrah. It had an appealingly forward red berry flavour, and remained light and refreshing despite its sweetness, unlike many syrupy icewines. Delicious- we brought one of these back with us.
The Building:
Stratus' building is a highly sustainable affair, certified LEED- Silver, and opened only in 2005. Production, which is relatively modest in scale, follows the gravity flow system, wherein the grape juice is never pumped upwards in the belief that doing so could damage the precious liquid. The architecture is rather unremarkable, but its main interior space is a very appealing tasting room and shop designed by Toronto outfit BurdiFilek, who specialize in high end retail. (Holt Renfrew Bloor Street flagship, W Hotel Atlanta, etc). The tasting room flows onto an outdoor terrace which deliciously captured the autumn sun on this Thursday morning. It was here that our entertaining tour began, and where it was explained that the windmills pictured below are highly effective safety devices: when there is a threat of frost they swing into action, pulling the warmer air hovering aloft down to the vines, raising the ground level air temperature by as much as 10 degrees C (18F). Remarkable!

Stratus Vineyards was an excellent start to the day! A fascinating tour of a smallish operation made it obvious that there is great passion in this house for the quality of their product. The tasting bore that out. Barely 11:00 AM and the start of a little buzz- time to chug some mineral water as we got back on the bus to move virtually next door to Jackson Triggs. More about that in our next post!

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