It was the early morning of December 29th, 2012. The buzzing of my alarm woke me out of a deep sleep. I was alright with that though, because I knew that I was going to be heading to Niagara to do a winery tour of the Niagara Bench. On the list of vineyards and wineries to visit were:
- Thirty Bench
- Angel’s Gate
- Organized Crime
- Fielding Estate
- Hidden Bench
- Kacaba Vineyards
- Cave Spring Cellars
- Diprofio Wines
You know what they say: Make a plan, and the big guy will laugh.
Knowing of the adventures I was going to have that day, I quickly dropped my legs from over the side of the bed, stretched (Ok, maybe I didn’t stretch: we can do this like in the movies, right?), yawned, and smiled gleefully. Upon peering outside, the grin faded. It had snowed all night long, and it didn’t seem like there was a stopping point in the near future. Believing that the Avis Rental Car dealer would have snow-tire-equipped vehicles to travel 300-400km was just too idealistic. By 9am, my partner and I were informed that not only did our rental car not come with snow tires, but that none of the vehicles that they had had snow protective equipment. [Insert grumble here about not being impressed.]
As the weather was a mish-mash that day, we had to do some passenger-seat text messaging to reorganize some of the plans. Martin and myself, as well as another couple, decided to hit up Organized Crime first. Despite the sign saying they were open for tasting, it appeared that they were, indeed, not open. There were 3 cars sitting outside waiting to taste, but no luck! Unfortunate, considering I really wanted to try some of their wines. I have heard some interesting stories about both the wines and the folks who run the winery. Maybe next time?
Next stop: Thirty Bench.
What a warm welcome from Karen, who was running the tasting room.
Thirty Bench Wine Makers are known for their Rieslings. Sixty percent (60%) of their plantings are Riesling, in fact, and they have won a number of medals because of their craftiness. Their first vintage was in 1992, and Emma Gardner is currently their winemaker. This winery is not certified organic, but they are using organic practices to ensure top quality wines are produced. Their vineyard area is mainly shale, flint, and limestone, and these soil composites contribute to the distinct terroir that creates Thirty Bench wines.
Their vineyard is separated into three distinct areas: Wood Post, Steel Post, and the Triangle block. Each area has Riesling planted in it, and it was a phenomenal experience to try each of the Rieslings that came out of each of these areas.
The 2011 Wood Post Riesling area produced a light intensity bouquet Riesling with hints of petrol, and steely/stoney minerality. Unripe peach and green apple were found in this short length wine. In 2011, the Steel Post Riesling section of the vineyard produced an off-dry, stronger wine with distinct citrus notes. Lemon-lime, red apple, lighter minerality (than the Wood Post), and a medium finish can all be found in their 2011 vintage. Lastly, the Triangle Vineyard Riesling was also off-dry in style, but was filled with super rich & ripe peach, infused with citrus tones and petrol, with a dash of fuzzy peach skins on the palate. The finish was gorgeous, with a light limestone minerality note.
It was so educational to try the flight of Rieslings all together, as they each brought something new and interesting to the table. In addition, our group also got to try Thirty Bench’s “Small Lot Gewurztraminer“. This 2011 vintage wine was placed at 13% abv, and was stainless steel fermented. It spent 3 months in French oak, and it was a most beautiful pale gold colour. Tropical fruit filled the glass, and notes of pear, honey, and rose were all present. The alcohol on the palate was a bit heavy for my taste, but this dry and crisp wine was a definite winner. It wasn’t oily like an Alsatian Gew, and the uncharacteristic minerality was a nice added touch.
I also had the chance to try their Small Lot Chardonnay, Winemaker’s Red, 2009 Small Lot Pinot Noir, 2010 Small Lot Pinot Noir, 2008 Small Lot Merlot, 2010 Small Lot Cabernet Franc, 2010 Small Lot Benchmark Red, and their fantabulous 2007 Riesling Icewine. The Icewine was an abundance of orange marmalade, honey, caramel, grape, and butterscotch, with a hint of that lovely petrol. A treat indeed!
…Part II coming soon! It will feature Angel’s Gate Winery and Fielding Estate.