Exploring Niagara’s Wine Country: Tasting Hidden Bench Wines on the Beamsville Bench

By | 25 June 2024

The third day in Canada’s Niagara wine region. Judging was solid: I was with Jeremy Bonia (who runs restaurants in St Johns, Newfoundland) and Sharon McLean (over from Victoria, BC). It went quickly, and we had some nice wines in the varied flights we tasted.

Jeremy and I then headed out to explore the beer scene in the locality. First stop was Niagara College, where they have a teaching brewery and teaching winery, and a cellar door to sell the products. We had a beer looking over to the vineyard they have on site.

Then we headed over to Niagara on the Lake where we spent some time at Oast House, a brew pub. We sat at the bar and tried a couple of their beers. Barnraiser is a really solid, flavourful pale ale, and then we got a bottle of their richly flavoured, nicely rustic bottle conditioned Saison. Finally we stopped off at Silversmith, which is a brewpub in a converted church in Virgil. Nice location and sound beer.

For the evening, we were hosted at Hidden Bench, one of Niagara’s top wineries (and the 2023 winery of the year at the National Wine Awards of Canada). This is on the Beamsville Bench, and along with Hidden Bench, other Bench wineries were present to show some of their wines: Tawse, 30 Bench, Organized Crime and Fielding.

Tasted with winemaker Emma Garner. Thirty Bench is the star winery in the Andrew Peller group, which also includes Peller Estates, Trius Winery and Wayne Gretzky Estates.

Thirty Bench Sparkling Riesling NV Beamsville Bench
Pithy, bright and lively with nice citrus drive. Very expressive with good acidity. Juicy and linear. 90/100

Thirty Bench Small Lot Chardonnay Extended Barrel Aged 2021
Just 250 cases made of this wine which spends 22 months in barrel. Complex and lively with pear, figs and toast as well as some melon. Lovely depth here: rich and harmonious, fresh and fine. 94/100

Thirty Bench Small Lot Pinot Noir Extended Barrel Aged 2021
20 months in barrel. Lovely weight and balance to this Pinot with cherries and plums, a nice texture and some fine green notes, with a sappy edge. Very expressive. 93/100

Thirty Bench Small Lot Cabernet Franc B Block 2020
This is really good. Blackcurrant and black cherry fruit with some freshness and a chalky texture. Grainy with nice grip. Very stylish. 94/100

Another very highly respected Niagara winery, Tawse has been farming biodynamically for the last decade. I tasted with winemaker Jessica Otting, who has been making the wines here since 2020. They also have a sister winery called Red Stone.

Tawse Spark Blanc de Blancs Quarry Road Vineyard 2016 VQA Vinemount Ridge
This is from the top of the escarpment. Has a slight reductive note on the nose, followed by appealing pear and green apple fruit with lovely acidity. Juicy and alert with nice primary fruit. 91/100

Tawse Spark Limestone Ridge Riesling 2020 VQA Twenty Mile Bench
This spent 20 months on the lees, and has a dosage of 18 g/litre. Complex with sweet pear, peach and apple fruit as well as some keen citrus. Quite pure. 90/100

Tawse Syrah 2021 Niagara Peninsula
Fresh and slightly stony with nice cherry and berry fruits. Supple with some green hints. Nice juiciness here. 91/100

Redstone Rosé 2023 VQA Lincoln Lakeshore
A blend of Syrah and Cabernet Franc, wild ferment. Textural with appealing ripe fruit. Nice weight to the pear and apple fruit, along with some cherry. A touch of sweetness, too. 90/100

This is a winery based in a spectacular site in the Beamsville Bench. We tasted with winemaker Greg Yemens.

Organized Crime Chardonnay Cuvée Krystyna 2019 Beamsville Bench
Appealing citrus, pear and peach fruit with some spice and aniseed. Nice fruit here. 92/100

Organized Crime Riesling Wild Ferment 2019 Beamsville Bench
Lively with vivid citrus fruit. Intense palate with piercing acidity. Very expressive. 90/100

Organized Crime Sacred Series Tara Block Pinot Noir 2020 Beamsville Bench
Supple and elegant with nice sweet cherry and plum fruit. Lovely weight here with sappy red cherries and plums. 93/100

Organized Crime Sacred Series Cabernet Franc 2020 Beamsville Bench
Supple black cherry and blackcurrant with nice sweet fruit. Salty with some olive notes and nice grip. 92/100

Fielding are based on the Beamsville Bench and we tasted with winemaker Richie Roberts.

Fielding Brut NV
35% Pinot Noir, 65% Chardonnay, dosage 5 g/l. Bright, fresh and lively with nice toast. Dense and lively with nice acidity and lovely taut fruit. Has toast and spice. 91/100

Fielding Chardonnay 2022
Barrel fermented in older barrels. Nice pear and white peach fruit with a touch of toastiness. Nice fruit density with brightness. 91/100

Fielding Riesling 2023
Juicy and lively with nice acidity, and notes of sweet apple and pear with good texture. Good balance here with some sweetness countering the acid (15 g/l). 90/100

Fielding Gamay 2023 VQA Niagara Peninsula
From two vineyards, this is 10% whole bunch. Ripe yet supple and bright with nice cherry and strawberry fruit. Silky with a lovely juicy quality to the berry fruits. 91/100

One of the star Niagara wineries. Alex Baines, the winemaker here, is a Brit.

Hidden Bench Natur Zero Dosage 2013
70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, 7 years on the lees, 3 years on cork. Very fine and toasty with spice and a hint of honey. Powerful but refined, this has beautiful depth. 94/100

Hidden Bench Roman’s Block Riesling 2018
Planted in 1977. Juicy and intense with lovely citrus fruit. Stylish and dense with really nice weight in the mouth. 93/100

Hidden Bench Roman’s Block Riesling 2020
Very stylish with lovely citrus and pear fruit as well as some melony richness. Brilliant balance here. 93/100

Hidden Bench PTG 2021
Two-thirds Pinot Noir, one-third Gamay. No whole cluster this vintage. Pure and fresh with lovely texture and nice weight. Has beautiful red cherry and strawberry fruit. Sappy and bright. 93/100

Hidden Bench Pinot Noir 2021
This was a tricky vintage with 500 mm of rain during harvest. Supple, light and bright with redcurrant, red cherry and nice plum fruit. Fresh and juicy; tart and elegant. 93/100

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