‘Graze the Bench’ is a passport event taking place one early June weekend and this year it will do so for the 6th, straight year. Unlike other passport festivities, ‘Graze the Bench’ is unique in the sense that 8 neighboring wineries go out of their way and setup their wineries to create a laid back setting, filled with mellow live music, where patrons can peacefully enjoy their wines paired with freshly prepared food. Ticket grants an entry to the VIP area at each winery, a crystal Zweisel glass, and drink and food tickets – one each. For $7, additional food and wine can be purchased for further enjoyment. The 7 wineries again partaking (alphabetically) in the event are Angel’s Gate Winery, Fielding Estates Winery, Hidden Bench Winery, Organized Crime Winery, Peninsula Ridge Winery, Rosewood Estate Winery, Thirty Bench Winemakers; and this year, Mike Weir Winery finally opened its doors to visitors and joined the excitement for the first time.
In 1980, a physician at McMaster by the name Thomas Muckle, bought an orchard in the Beamsville Bench and slowly converted it into what back then was known as Heritage Vineyards. Needing both physical and financial help, Dr. Muckle joined forces with Yorgos Papageorgiou and Frank Zeritsch, expanded the vineyard and all three men started experimenting with winemaking in small batches. For years, most of the harvested grapes were sold to nearby wineries, but that ended in 1994 when a first boutique winery within the Beamsville Bench region, the Thirty Bench Wine Makers, was established. The name combines geographical information (30 miles from the Niagara River) and the fact that three wine makers crafted ultra premium wines according to their individual styles.
In 2005, Thirty Bench was purchased by Andrew Peller Ltd. with Natalie Reynolds as the head winemaker, untill her assistant Emma Garner took her role 2009. Though the ownership changed hands, both winemakers ensured that the winemaking methods follow in the footsteps of the original wine makers, which is to produce high quality wines that have originally earned the winery its reputation.