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please help critique my NOTL vineyards for trip tomorrow from Chicago!

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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!

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  1. 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:
    http://www.royaldemaria.com/

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    Royal Demaria Wines
    4551 Cherry Ave, Lincoln, ON L0R, CA

    1. 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.

      enjoy :)

      1. 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!

        1. 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.

          http://www.leclosjordanne.com/en/news...
          http://www.torontolife.com/features/g...

          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.

          www.cattailcreek.ca
          www.tawsewinery.ca

          Good luck!

          1. 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.