Starting second weekend in January and going right through February, Thirty Bench offers “Snowshoeing in the vineyard” tours. In a nutshell, it entails a hike through the property’s three vineyards, while sipping wine and listening to the guide’s interesting anecdotes and trivia about the vineyard, winery and the wine; and finalizing with an exquisite pairing of oaked Chardonnay and seafood chowder (described here in full detail) before heading the boutique to purchase some of the tasted wines or to continue-on visiting other wineries.
Coming out of a week of extreme cold and snow flurries meanwhile expecting a week of rain and slush based on the latest forecast, southern Ontario was gifted with a sunny and mild weekend that I indented to take a full advantage of. So, at 8 am on a Sunday morning, looking out of my window over a snow-covered construction site that is to become the athlete’s village for the Pan Am games in 2015, I decided that today is the day I will go down to Beamsville Bench and join the snowshoeing-in-the-vineyard tour.
Although I was warned, I was still shocked a bit to see the lack of snow upon my arrival at the winery. After all, the Niagara region always has way more snow than downtown Toronto. The tour was still a go, just without the snowshoes.
To not give away everything, I just briefly highlight the event and share some trivia:
……The tour started inside the boutique with Jeanine, our guide, introducing herself and pouring us a glass of 2011 Winemaker’s Riesling. She then took us through the vineyard while mainly pointing out interesting aspects about the vineyard and discussing aspects of viticulture. We frequently stopped to either have our glasses topped off or to have a story told.
A question: “Why is it a bench and what is its meaning?” (Referring to Beamsville Bench or Thirty Bench). Jeanine answered: “There are four ‘Bench’ sub-appellations within the Niagara Peninsula and it simply means an old lakeshore”.
“I will give you two dark, wine flavoured chocolates. Take a sip of your Pinot Noir first and then try a bite of the chocolate” – by-the-way, this pairing worked beautifully.
“Bushel of grapes will roughly produce a case of wine”.
“To appreciate the fruit difference between old and young vines or between different regions of the vineyard, come here during the fall for the Riesling tour and you can taste the fruit from anywhere in the vineyard”……
While walking through the vineyard, there were plenty of opportunities to admire the amazing view of the Bench, Lake Ontario, Hamilton, Burlington Skyway, Mississauga and downtown Toronto (thought small, believe me, you can see them).
At the end of the tour, we gathered around a fire and were given a bowl of seafood chowder, provided by Tide & Vine Oyster Company, and a glass of 2008 oaked Small Lot Chardonnay. The Chardonnay had intense notes of buttery oak, subtle vanilla and ripe pear. It was medium bodied, with integrated tannins and had a long, smooth finish. (See my full reviews here). It was a very nice treat even right after an impressive 2008 Pinot Noir.
The harmonious pairing of the Chardonnay with the chowder amazed me too, but when I thought about it, it makes perfect sense. Creaminess of the chowder compliments the buttery aspect of the chardonnay; the saltness of the soup brings up the fruit, yet softens the tannins; and the acidity washes off the tongue, so that the next spoonful of chowder was as fresh as though it was the first. (OK, I was hungry).
While enjoying what we knew were the last of the offerings, Jeanine reminded us, the BBQ lovers, to take some vine trimmings home, as they supposedly enhance the food flavor much like cedar planks do.
Snowshoeing in the vineyard information:
When – Every weekend, starting the second weekend in January all the way
to the end of February.
Duration – Roughly 90 min.
Cost – $30.
Other – Reservations in advance suggested.
Thank you Jeanine for the fun and informative tour. Cheers, Dan
For other EVENTS in the wine country or in Toronto, please link here.
Link to the article about Thirty Bench Winemakers
For other wineries in the Beamsville Bench Appellation
and the rest of Niagara Peninsula see