please help critique my NOTL vineyards for trip tomorrow from Chicago!
My husband and I are spending only one night (on way from Detroit to Greenwich) at NOTL--staying,I think, at Harbour House Hotel. We collect wine at home. We do not like whites. We love pinots (our favorites recently being Rochioli, Sean Thackery, Dierberg '05,) and also like syrahs/cabs--no zins (anything too peppery or spicy). We also love port and ice wine. we would like to stop at 3-4 places, and would love an interesting, pretty route to travel--and recs for any little towns that are must stops. we love the smaller production, high quality, price no object, cool tasting rooms/vineyards.
We have looked at the big boys for ice wine and late harvest wines (Jackson Triggs, Inniskillin, Peller, and Hillebrand)--which are best--maybe 2 of these (or Crown's Bench, or Lailey) and two vinyards such as: malivoire, marynissen, henry of pelham, stratus, 30 bench, and hidden bench...please let us know which are your favorites. thank you!
Lailey Vineyards is fantastic. The wines are practically organic, and it's a very small operation. Call ahead and book a wine and cheese pairing — it's a wonderful way to try artisanal cheeses and sample their wonderful wines. And it's not that expensive.
Also, Coyote's Run has good reds.
Ontario wines are white, for the most part — our reds are a little pathetic, still.
I would skip the larger wineries — Peller, Hillebrand, Jackson Triggs, etc. — their wines are pathetic and you will get no attention in the tasting rooms. You may eat well at these wineries, though.
You must eat a meal at the Stone Road Grille on Niagara Stone Road. It's the weirdest-looking spot — it's in a strip plaza — but the food is spectacular and the wine list is exclusively Canadian.
Sorry to disappoint you, on one point majority of wines produced in Ontario is white, about 75%.. If you don/t like too peppery, than do you prefer metal tank rather than wood cask? That makes a lot of difference. Reif has great 3 different reds for $50 each. I found the Pinot to be a bit too peppery for me. I prefered the Blend. I also liked their Meritage. Pelliteri on Hwy 55 has several red Icewines and good Cab. Vineland Estate has good wines and restaurant like many places in the area. Like somebody mentioned , On the 20 in Jordan is well known for wine and dining. Enjoy!
Vineland is a large operation, but worth a visit. They have a huge product line, very consistent quality. And I always have a great tasting experience there. If you show some interest and expertise, they will start bringing out all sorts of interesting things to taste. Strewn is excellent, known for their reds more than whites--they even have some nice value offerings (such as their Rogue's Lot Cabernet Franc/Cab Sauvignon for about $13 bucks).
I love Ontario reds, but you have to keep in mind that Niagara does not produce "hedonistic fruit bombs." Instead, reds a more old-world in style, with the focus on the more earthy/gamey flavours than the fruity flavours. Some even have a distinct touch of barnyard that I personally value greatly, but it is not to everyone's taste. Keep an open mind and let the wines be what they are--there are some lovely lighter bodied reds like gamay and cab franc that are excellent with food, but they are not Napa cabernet, nor do they try to be.
If you want a more internationally styled red wine, try the larger places like Jackson-Triggs, Inniskillin, Chateau des Charmes, and Hildebrandt. Their reds are very nice, especially the reserve bottlings. I like them but miss the sense of place that reds from other producers have (Strewn, Marynissen).
Ontario pinot noir is up-and-coming: Most are at least pleasant--lighter bodied, more focus on the earthy and sour cherry flavours than on the aromatic super-fruity new world style (which I like as well). Le Clos Jordanne is definitely the benchmark, though they are not open for tasting to my knowledge. More than anything else, they have proven that great pinot can be eked out of the soil in Niagara--other producers will figure out their tricks in short order. Flat Rock is a strong pinot producer, as is (believe it or not) the Niagara College Teaching Winery.
Try the Cab Francs, which are a local specialty. In good hands, gamay produces wines that are as good as any Beaujolais cru, in my mind, though they can have a gamey-ness that not everyone fancies. And no trip to Niagara would be complete without trying some Baco Noir, which is a hybrid grape that you might like. To me, I find it similar to Zinfandel, with lots of brambly fruit and nice acid. I find it to be a bit too rustic to produce really great wine, but it is different and interesting.
Ice wines are of course our specialty. But make sure to try some of the late harvests as well--less cloying, less heavy, and usually about a third of the price. They come in three ripeness levels, in order of sugar content at harvest: Late harvest, select late harvest, and special select late harvest. Each can be delightful--I use the less ripe ones as an aperitif and the more ripe ones as a dessert wine.
OK for reds...def marynisses, sandra's reds are outstanding. Lailey does a nice syrah. If you're stuck on pinot, you must try Hidden Bench and Clos Jordan. They are not in NOTL they are on the bench, if you're coming from TO they are just after Hamilton in Beamsville/Grimsby area. Ice wine is ubiquitously good everywhere. We don't grow zin in Ont, just getting started with the syrah. Our strength given our terroir is white, specifically riesling, gewurz and chard. But our pinot's are coming along nicely, specially at Clos, Hidden B and Tawse also does a good job. Each of those are "super premium" so you'll pay accordingly. Enjoy Ontario!
We love 30 Bench and Marynissen. 30 bench can be a little pricy.
We also found a great new winery on our last visit called Organized Crime. They do a great Gewurtraminer and their Syrah was also very good. The Pinot was not to my taste but not bad, in fact the selection we tried was pretty good as a whole. They are just down the road from Hidden Bench if you end up there and the husband/wife team that operate the winery and cellar door are hilarious. This would be in my 4 or 5 to visit.
Hope that helps.
Some of them may already be closed for the holidays. Le Clos Jordanne (exacting Burgundian standards, focus specifically on Pinot Noir and Chards) would've been a great choice for the pinot, but they're also closed for now. Make sure you swing by if you come again for the summer. There are very detailed notes on each of their wines on their site. You should be able to find their entry level pinot (the Village Reserve '06, $30) if you stop by an LCBO (really, look for it!), but the primo choice (Le Grand Clos, $70) is most likely unavailable in the area.
Peller offers an excellent meal in their restaurant, but I felt the tour to be corporate and impersonal, and the tastings not all that impressive. Had a better experience at the tiny Cattail Creek winery, low key but an impassioned family operation. Their barrel-fermented Vidal Icewine was excellent. n.b. I have heard very good things about the Royal De Maria icewines as well, and also consider Tawse Winery (Beamsville) for their reds.
I was there in the summer and had a really excellent tour of Jackson Triggs, but that might not be a good idea in this weather. Stratus is definetly worth seeing, the wines are lovely, I found the staff to be helpful and the building is worth seeing. Agree with LemonLauren about 30 bench, I found the staff there to be some of the most helpful and informative. They really spend a lot of time with you so I am sure you would find something you like there. Enjoy your trip! I hope the weather is not too bad!
not an ice wine person myself, so can't comment on that. for your other options...
malivoire - nice people, i like their label, but they are big on chards which are my hated wines marynissen - lovely people, lovely variety of wines, big reds like the cab merlot can't be missed
henry of pelham - much nicer in summer for the courtyard cafe, but some worthy affordable wines, such as the baco noir
stratus - definately worth seeing for the LEAD design and the architecture. we love the RED blend, but it's pricey - worth it if you're driving from far though.
30 bench - one of my faves, they describe their wines like they were people, which is the funniest yet most telling way to do it! can't miss the riseling if you like those, and they have a lovely red blend as well. nearby, defiantely check out jordan village and have lunch at the zooma zooma cafe.
hidden bench - didn't much like it there my self - heavy on the chards again.
if i had to choose i'd do Stratus, Marynissen and 30 Bench, knowing that you like spicy stuff, and high quality.
MIght I suggest Royal De Maria Icewine Vineyard. It is a little known vineyard that has some of the most distinguished international awards. Celebrities and collectors fly in from all over the world to purchase his wines. Apparently Richard Branson flies himself up here just to get his stock from time to time. I started collecting his icewines a few years ago. He also uses some very unconventional grapes that most would not think to use. And if price is indeed no object than this is the place for you! The owner has an unlikely history. He is, in fact, a hairdressser living in Toronto. His showroom is not the best designed or decorated but his icewines speak for themselves. This is a must if you're up here.
And as for quaint little towns, I suggest Jordan Station. It's a hiccup of a town but on the main drag is a lovely little winery called Cave Springs. They are known for their whites but have an interesting varieties of Ice Wines.
As for Malivoire, their showroom is unique (it's a quonset hut) and have a reserve (Moira's Vineyard) that produces some interesting red varietals. Stratus is known for their blends and is a beautiful vineyard. 30 Bench has great whites. Henry of Pelham is a nice lunch spot. They also have a few interesting icewines. Crown Bench focuses a lot of their energy on late harvests. I believe they are the vineyard that has a hot chili pepper ice wine.
Hope some of these comments and suggestions are of use. Have yourselves a great time!
Here's the link to his website:
Royal Demaria Wines
4551 Cherry Ave, Lincoln, ON L0R, CA