2022 Stratus Trials Ancestral ‘Field Blend’ Rosé, Niagara-On-The-Lake VQA, Ontario, Canada (Alcohol 13.1%, Residual Sugar 0.1 g/l) Winery/Website $35 (750ml bottle)

Before we start, let’s understand just what goes into this new release from Stratus: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gamay, Gewürztraminer, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Syrah, Tannat, Tempranillo, Viognier, and Sangiovese.

Perhaps the existence of such a range of vines at their Niagara-On-The-Lake vineyard may surprise you, but those of you who have been following the winery’s timeline will be well aware that Stratus has been diligently tinkering with this abundance of varieties ever since Stratus’ inception in 2020, their inclusion winding in and out of the Stratus assemblages over the last two-and-a-bit decades.

Stratus’ take on the Austrian/Viennese Gemischter Satz is really rather special, and although one may imagine that such a melange of grapes would lead to a confusing mess, quite the opposite is the case here. It would be wrong of me to state that one can pick out each and every one of the individual components, but, saying that, if one concentrates a little, one can see a little bit of the perfumed Viognier, a touch of the boxwood aromatic from the Sauvignon Blanc, the waxy texture of the Semillon, the ripe raspberry tang from the Gamay, and just a hint of astringency from the Tannat, Sangiovese, and Petit Verdot. I could go on… Let’s just say that there is a hell of a lot going on in the glass without it ever coming over as the incoherent mess such a cépage would be in less experienced hands than those of assemblage experts J.L. Groux and Dean Stoyka.

I’ll go as far as saying it got in just under the wire as my favourite sparkler of the summer. Upon opening it for some friends last week, they looked at its hazy charms with some suspicion before agreeing with me that it was simply delightful to drink. 

I do enjoy the cloudy, almost fuzzy rosé hue it pours in the glass. The bouquet is like a canny shapeshifter, morphing into something new each time one revisits, which is obviously testament to this utterly fascinating blend. I enjoyed this served quite chilled and then patiently sipped from the glass, allowing it to warm and gradually shed its 16 veils, as if it were a vinous Salome dancing for King Herod. A metaphor too far there? 

The Ancestral method brings the fizz, but it’s an extremely pleasing and gentle creamy carbonation on the tongue. To describe the palate as complex would be doing a disservice to the wine, but much like the bouquet, this is a multi-layered beast, with a thrillingly crisp and dry saline finish.

Stoyka told me that with his first attempt at such a wine, it was a bit riper and more extracted than he was shooting for, but I find that ripeness and extraction only add to one’s enjoyment of the overall wine.

I rarely give wines full marks, but I doff my cap to Stratus here for this wine’s sheer enjoyability. Bloody excellent stuff. Grab some while you can!

5 apples out of 5

(five out of a possible five apples)


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