A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 548: Grapes for Humanity’s 15th Anniversary


Stratus winemaker J-L Groulx

Monday, June 8: At The Chase restaurant for the 10th Anniversary of Stratus. Tasting in the basement room (hot) led by the winemaker J-L Groulx.

  • Stratus White 2012 (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, touch of Viognier): bright straw colour; peach with a grassy note on the nose; mouth-filling, tropical fruit flavours, mango and orange with lively acidity. Well integrated oak. (91)
  • Stratus White 2005: old gold colour; oaky, spicy, dried peach nose; mature. Lovely mouth feel, full-bodied. Toasty, nutty finish. Great length. (92)
  • Stratus Chardonnay 2012: straw colour; toasty, spicy nose of peach and apple; mouth-filling, nectarine flavour with evident oak. Full-bodied and ripe. (89–91)
  • Stratus Chardonnay Reserve 2002: straw colour; mature woodsy nose with caramel notes; sweet peach and tropical fruit flavours with toasty, nutty notes and a pencil lead finish. (90)
  • Stratus Viognier 2012: straw colour; aromatic, peach skin nose with a mineral note and a touch of oak; spicy, full on the palate, dry with a floral grace note. (90)
  • Stratus Red 2012 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Tannat): dense ruby colour; floral, pencil lead, cedar nose; black fruit flavours, richly extracted, full-bodied, grainy tannins; dry, savoury, licorice finish. (91)
  • Stratus Red 2002: deep ruby colour; mature, leather, spicy, meat extract, soy nose with a floral top note; dry, elegant, and well balanced.
  • Stratus Cabernet Franc 2012: deep ruby colour; creamy, blackcurrant with a floral note; dry, dark chocolate and black fruit flavours, lovely texture with a tannic lift on the finish. (90)
  • Stratus Cabernet Franc 2005: deep ruby colour; earthy, redcurrant nose; dry, medium weight, some green flavours with evident tannins. (87+)
  • Stratus Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: dense ruby-purple colour; cedar, blackcurrant with vanilla oak on the nose; richly extracted, dry, full on the palate with ripe tannins. Youthful, needs time. (90–92)
  • Stratus Petit Verdot 2012: dense purple-ruby colour; violets and red berry nose with oak spice; full-bodied, dry, earthy black fruit flavours with grainy tannins. (89)
  • Stratus Gamay 2012: deep ruby colour; black cherry nose with a touch of oak on the nose and a cedar note; richly extracted and firmly structured, round on the palate with a firm tannic finish. (89)
  • Stratus Sangiovese 2012: deep ruby colour; elegant floral, cherry nose; medium-bodied, fleshy, soft mouth-feel, firm tannic finish. (90)
  • Stratus Tempranillo 2012: deep ruby colour; peppery, cherry nose with a floral note; dry, well extracted, elegant and full on the palate. (91)
  • Stratus Tannat 2012: dense purple-ruby colour; peppery, blackberry nose; blackberry fruit with lively acidity with chalky tannins; dense and full on the palate. (89)
  • Stratus Syrah 2012: deep ruby; peppery, blackberry with a savoury, herbal note on the nose; full-bodied, dry, spicy, blackberry with lively acidity and a firm tannic finish. (90)
  • Stratus Malbec 2012: deep purple-ruby colour; blackcurrant with a floral note and a touch of vanilla oak on the nose; dry, firmly structured, full in the mouth. Tannins kick in in mid-palate. (89)

For dinner, with grilled salmon: La Cadièrenne Bandol Rosé Grande Tradition 2014 (very pale pink with a bluish tint; minerally, raspberry nose with a touch of sweetness in mid palate; full-bodied with good length, finishing dry. (88))

Tuesday, June 9: Down to the Burroughs Building 639 Queen West for “The Soul of Portugal Tasting.” A top-floor room, crowded and hot. Thirty-four companies represented with 160 wines and ports available for tasting. I found it hard to taste under the crowded conditions but was impressed by Quinta da Fronteira Selecção do Enológo 2011, Cortes de Cima Syrah 2012, Esporão Reserva Tinto 2012, Niepoort Redoma Branco 2013, Quinta Vale D. Maria 2012, Crasto Superior 2012. Best value, João Portual Ramos Loios 2014 on the general list at $9.30.

Quinta da Fronteira Selecção do Enológo 2011

Cortes de Cima Syrah 2012

Esporão Reserva Tinto 2012

Quinta Vale D. Maria 2012

Crasto Superior 2012

To relax in the evening with Deborah I opened a bottle of Gruhier Crémant de Bourgogne Extra Brut 2010 – a terrific bubbly, golden colour, toasty, rich apple flavour; bone dry and full on the palate. A bargain at $20.95. (90)

Wednesday, June 10: A tasting today at Doug Towers with David Lawrason for winerytohome. For dinner, with roast chicken, Opawa Pinot Gris 2014 from New Zealand (straw colour with green tints; minerally, peach nose; dry with well-extracted nectarine flavours. (88))

Thursday, June 11: Up at 6 am in order to get down to Queen’s Park to meet members of the Lieutenant Governor’s staff and drive down to Niagara College to judge the 5th annual Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario. There were four adjudication panels tasting 305 entries. Our panel of Peter Rod, Yvonne Irvine and Kasia Koziara tasted blind 10 Chardonnays,11 Other Whites, 11 Cabernet Franc, 8 Merlot, 7 Cabernet Sauvignon before lunch. Then 6 sparkling wines, 7 Other Reds, 7 Rosés, 10 Riesling and 10 Dessert wines. We put forward 8 wines for the award and the other panels put forward their numbers. Tomorrow the panels will taste all the recommended wines and narrow down to number to 9–12 awards. Unfortunately, I can’t judge tomorrow as I have a Vintages release tasting. The stellar flights for our panel were Cabernet Franc and Riesling.

Friday, June 12: The June 27th Vintages release tasting this morning. Then home to prepare for Grapes for Humanity’s 15th anniversary dinner at Pangea. Board members from the US foundation were in town for their AGM and our Canadian directors joined them for the dinner. Everyone brought bottles of wine (my contribution – Yaluma Viognier 2013 and Alpha Estate 2007 (a Syrah, Xynomavro and Merlot blend).


The best of wines…

The highlight of the evening was a wine that one of our Canadian directors had purchased at the Toronto Symphony auction many years ago – a Salmanazar (9 litres) of Beringer Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1980. It was in terrific shape, still youthful with a rich cassis, tobacco and smoky nose; full on the palate and beautifully balanced (93). This contrasted with probably the worst wine I have ever tasted in my life: Prasat Phnom Banon The Best Selected Red Wine (no vintage). The bottle was brought back by a US director from Cambodia. He arrived in Toronto from Phnom Penh that afternoon. The wine smelled of rancid tea leaves and a mature hockey bag. I could not put it in my mouth. (I subsequently googled it to find if it actually existed. Its website reads: “On the road between Battambang and the temple of Phnom Banan you will find the only vineyards in Cambodia.” Not worth the detour, believe me.)


…The worst of wines.

The other wines at the table or that I tasted were Domaine Mathieu Blanc 2005, Sattlerhof Kranachberg Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Bond St. Eden Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Fanti Brunello 2000, Château Bellefont Belcier 2000, though most of the time I stuck with the wonderful Beringer. During the dinner my fellow directors presented me with an award for my time as president of the foundation. The menu, prepared by Chef Martin Kouprie, was delicious. I chose:

Roasted Pear and Endive Salad with fennel, watercress, walnuts, Stilton cheese and mustard dressing

Mushroom risotto with sugar snap peas, mushrooms, wild rice, tomato, parmesan cheese and veal reduction

Sirloin of beef grilled, with wilted green, seasonal vegetables, pommes purée, sauce Bordelaise

Lemon Semifreddo with crisp sour lemon meringue & poached cranberries.

Just a great evening to celebrate 15 years. See the video.

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