The first of three events in Stratus’ Coast to Coast series, “Into the Stratusphere” featured a stellar lineup of celebrity stars and premier local chefs proving once again that Niagara wine and food culture is stylish, chilled out and good fun. Contributed by Vanessa Deeg. Much thanks to Stratus for the invitation.
Insta-atmosphere was provided by Stratus‘ incredible LEED design and DJ Matt Vizbulis mixing a chill vibe on the turn-tables. The patio lights were on, torches were lit and fires roared patio side, drawing guests to mingle among the modern spaces. Stratus’ church-like high ceilings, and ritualistic rows of bottles soared to great heights, yet this event proved intimate, like a gathering of great friends; confirming what the power of good wine and good food can do for a party.
Celebrity chef and adventurer, Bob Blumer, and wine aficionado and guide, Billy Munnelly were a perfect personality pairing to kick off the #C2Cstratus Dinner Series. Tailored suits lined up with eager tweeters for this select event that featured unlimited refills of your favorite Stratus wine and gourmet nosh supported by Chef Ryan Crawford (Gastrohomestead) and Chef Osvaldo Avila (Niagara College). The exceptional student team from the Canadian Food and Wine Institute staffed the food stations to proudly offer up culinary creations of salmon cupcakes and coconut shrimp lollipops to the hungry crowd.
Billy’s Munnelly’s refreshingly humble approach to wine , (serve Rose to get rid of wine snobs in your life he touts), set the stage for guests to simply enjoy the experience without overthinking the drink. In fact, drinking games were a welcome surprise to many. Guests were herded into the large processing room where tables were set up with eggs, edamame beans, chop sticks and beer. One team of guests (in high heels) raced against Bob Blumer to eat edamame with chopsticks, crack open all the eggs with one hand, drink a half-pint of guiness, run with a tray of drinks around to one end of the large hall and back. Not surprising, Bob won, sure he did, – he also rode a bicycle in to NOTL from T.O. Bob, we challenge you to try it in heels next time.
More non-stop noshing back in the main reception area. Each appetizer and main course small bite was paired with a perfect synergistic marriage of Stratus wine to complement. Gaucho steak bites with chimichurri gave a power punch of flavour, to which the Malbec stood proudly up. Guests could choose their pairing though, and leave it to individual taste preferences. The ahi tuna with mango and avocado puree to garnish was a mad-line up favorite. Guests tried to stay calm as they pushed elbows into the crowd to go back for more- some for the ahi while others, more serious about the drink, went for seconds of Stratus wine.
Locals could be overheard chatting with the bartenders about Stratus’ Semillion- which always refreshes with its flavour, as a white will do, but also with the rarity of the offering. However, the heart stopping love affair wine was with the Stratus Red 2007 – the one somewhere between ‘silk and velvet’ (yes, hurry- there are only a few dozen bottles left). The 2009 Stratus Red is on offer currently, is full-bodied, racy with acidity and ripe berry. In a few years, it should mellow more and become as seductive and smooth as its sister vintage.
As the night progressed, appys and wine glasses began to fall. Stratus’ gracious staff took good care, nonchalently exclaiming the clean up as a sign of a good time. Dessert and icewine followed, as did trays of spicy sweet walnut “nutcases” and chocolate wontons- leaving guests glowing and satiated right to the very sweet end of this delightful spring evening.