One of the most exciting collaborations we’ve seen, bar none, has got to be the latest joint venture between Stratus Vineyards and Soma Chocolatemaker. A�Recently, they introduced their “Stratus Bar”, created by micro-batching Soma’s Venezuelan Ocumare cocoa in one of Stratus’ lees-filled oak barrels. Wine + chocolate…that’s an edible equation we can definitely get behind!
For Suzanne Janke, Stratus’ director of retail and hospitality, carrying Soma’s products makes perfect sense: “we recognized that their quality focus, design sensibility and social responsibility were a very good fit for us. But just selling their chocolate wasn�t enough – we wanted to come up with an inventive way to combine our crafts.” When winemaker J-L Giroux suggested that lees, the residual yeast cells created during the winemaking process, might add a nuanced quality to the chocolate, the barrel of fun (and flavouring) began.
Here’s how the process went down:
After the cocoa beans were roasted and the shells removed, the resulting nibs were added to the lees in a wine barrel and it was sealed. ?We weren�t sure what to expect,? says Soma partner David Castellan. ?We were prepared that we might have to throw out the whole batch.? At the end of three months, the lees had soaked completely into the nibs and there was an incredible aromatic. The nibs were then dried, and Castellan, along with Soma partner Cynthia Leung, completed their normal chocolate making process � grinding, refining and conching. To their delight, these final steps also further concentrated the desirable flavours. ?It�s not that it tastes like wine,? says Leung, ?but there is no mistaking the added fruitiness and top notes. It�s subtle and elegant.?
Great collaborations often start with two like-minded partners – and Stratus and Soma are no exception. Soma, Toronto’s first “bean-to-bar” chocolatier and Stratus Vineyards (can we say “vine-to-wine”?) both share a commitment and desire to producing small batched, quality products that are produced in house.
Stratus takes a sustainable approach to producing their award-winning estate wines on their 55-acre property. A�Aside from wine, they have developed a wide range of products that compliment the wine-making process, includingA�grapeseed oil, serving accessories made from barrels and BBQ bundles of vine clippings. A�Says Castellan, “our sense is that they occupy the same place in the wine world as we do in the chocolate world.”
Ready to cozy up to the Stratus Bar? You’ll find the first microbatch at the Niagara-on-the-Lake winery and Soma’s two locations in Toronto. A�Another batch is ageing on the lees right now and will hopefully be wrapped up and stocking-stuffer ready before Christmas.
Don’t miss getting a taste of this terrific partnership!