Ontario Wines, Stratus Vineyards, and Paul Hobbs

Recently, some very encouraging events have taken place helping to put Ontario wines in the global spotlight, letting the world see that Canada makes more than just excellent icewine.  In May, there was the coming out tasting of Ontario Chardonnays in London, England.  Forty Chardonnays from 22 different Ontario wineries strutted their stuff to well-known British wine critics and members of the trade at Canada House in Trafalgar Square.  (See my post “Seriously Cool Ontario Chardonnays – Seriously World Class Wines” for more information on this event.)  Jancis Robinson and Steven Spurrier were two of the bigger names among the attendees – both were very impressed by the wines.  To read Jancis Robinson’s views on the tasting click here.  Click here to read Tony Aspler’s article in thestar.com about both critics’ responses.  This was a great event for not just Ontario Chardonnays, but for the Ontario wine industry as a whole.  Bill Redelmeier, owner of Southbrook Vineyards and organizer of the tasting, has stated that he has already witnessed tourists coming to the Niagara region because they heard about the Chardonnay tasting in England.

Another event I feel is very positive for the Ontario wine industry was actually announced late in 2009, several months before the Ontario Chardonnay tasting in London, England.  On November 12, 2009, Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Stratus Vineyards issued a press release stating that it had hired internationally known and well-respected winemaker and consultant Paul Hobbs to bring his perspective to the wines of Stratus.  Paul Hobbs has an impressive CV.  He travels the world, making wines in such places as Argentina, Chile, Hungary, Armenia, and the Cahors region of France.  His career started when he was fresh out of university and he landed a job as research technician at Robert Mondavi Winery and was eventually promoted to Oenologist.  He was also assigned to the Opus One team and became their Head Oenologist in 1981.  He then spent several years at Simi Winery, where he became Vice President and Winemaker.  He has consulted for Catena in Argentina. Catena actually became one of about a dozen silent partners, giving Hobbs the investment needed to start Paul Hobbs Winery in 1991.  Hobbs no longer consults for Catena, but does maintain about 12 other Argentinian clients. In 1999, with 2 other partners, Hobbs founded Vina Cobos in Argentina.

Talented J-L Groux is the winemaker at Stratus and is happy to have Paul Hobbs on board.  Groux states that “working with Paul is a pleasure.”  Stratus Vineyards makes some of the best wines to come out of the Niagara Peninsula so it will be interesting to see the impact of Hobbs’ influence on the already top notch wines.  Stratus wines have already been served to President Obama on his visit to Canada, and more recently to the Queen during her Royal visit.  The fact that Paul Hobbs is so well-known internationally and is a highly respected winemaker and consultant only puts Ontario wines in a positive light.  If Paul Hobbs thinks we have what it takes then that can only be a good thing.  Mention of the famous winemaker consulting at Stratus was also made in the March 2010 issue of Wine Spectator.

At the 2010 California Wine Fair held here in Toronto back in April, I tasted a few wines from Paul Hobbs Winery and was very impressed.  The Crossbarn Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 from Napa Valley was a big, full-bodied stunner, and the regular 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon also from Napa Valley was pretty luxurious as well.

But, we’ll have to wait a while.  The first Stratus wines with Paul Hobbs’ influence won’t be released until 2012.

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