New Zealand and Canada share quite few similarities: we both have The Queen on our same-name-bearing bills, we both have large (also English-speaking) neighbors who influence everything we do, and (to omit multitude of other commonalities in order to get to the point) we both have young wine industries of less than half a century old. Much like a seedling shortly after germination – growing in order to establish itself; both industries are still evolving, maturing and defining their niches in the style of wine they produce. Perhaps it is for these similarities why so many Ontarian winemakers seek out this event in particular (more so than other ones), to exchange ideas with their Southern Hemisphere, cool-climate counterparts and to learn from one another.
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.
The Hidden Bench Winery, an artisanal winery located in the Beamsville Bench sub-appellation of the Niagara Peninsula, is owned and operated by Harald Thiel and his family. Since his young age, Harald wished to one day have his own winery and after selling his audio-visual business in 2003, he realized this dream and purchased the property that is now the Hidden Bench Vineyards and Winery. Today, the winery employes 6 full-time employees and 10 people as a seasonal staff, who ensure that every detail, whether related to winemaking or to the look of the winery, is craftily met.
Upon entering the boutique, the feeling of warmth and coziness bestows oneself as the room’s design provides peace and tranquility, whether accomplished by the fireplace, the bookshelf full of wines, the guest book corner with captivating painting by Kevin Sonmor, or the friendly staff pouring ultra premium wines. Everywhere you look, a lot of attention has been paid to the smallest of details – trully Artisanal winery.
The Rosewood Estates Winery came to its beginning in the year 2000, when Eugene (a first generation Canadian with roots from Ukraine) and Renata Roman purchased a land in the Beamsville Bench area and in 2003 planted their first Merlot vines that was soon followed by others. Three years later, they harvested and produced their first vintage and early in 2008, their retail store first opened its doors.