Thirty Bench Wine Makers

 
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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 Vineyards
In 1981, Dr. Muckle planted the first varietal, Riesling, onto 8 acres of land and named it the Triangle Vineyard, which nowadays produces on average 260-300 cases per year. Between the years of 1982-83, the Wood Post Vineyard was the second vineyard planted with Riesling and today, the 9 acres of land yield 260-300 cases/year. Steel Post Vineyard was the third vineyard planted, with roughly 6 acres of Riesling plantings that date back to 1983 and produce 240-290 cases per year; while Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir were planted between 1989-91 on lots of 1.4, 1, 0.4 and 0.25 acres in size and totaling ~ 3 acres, respectively. A fourth vineyard, the ‘New vineyard’ was planted between 1992-98 with multiple varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon (8.5 acres), Merlot (6.5 acres), Cabernet Franc (3 acres), Pinot Noir (3.1 acres), Chardonnay (5 acres), Pinot Gris (2 acres) and Gewürztraminer (2.4 acres); producing between 250-400 cases each of small lot varieties.  Collectively these Thirty Bench Vineyards span an area totalling 61 acres, yielding roughly 8,000 cases.

 

From Vines to Wines
The planted white grape varieties include Riesling (dominant variety), IMG_4881Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer, while the red varieties include Merlot, Pinot Noir and both Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon. To ensure deep fruit concentration, grapes are pruned during spring so that yields are no more than 2.5 tones/acre (these yields are quite low, especially for Riesling). While harvesting, grapes are handpicked and handsorted before being fermented in 5,000 L open-top wooden fermenters (8 tanks total – in use by only a handful of wineries in Niagara). Not including Icewine, Thirty Bench produces four types of Riesling – three small lot Rieslings coming from old plantings growing within each vineyard; and one that is a blend from newer plantings harvested from all three vineyards.  The other varieties are mainly made into small lot, single varietals, with the exception of two blends – the Benchmark red and the rose.

 

 

Cozy Boutique
Boutique

 

Services/facilities
– Boutique opened daily 11-5; 10-6 on Saturdays and in the Summer.
– No. 30 Wineclub.
– Winetastings/tours:
– Personalized tasting – 11-5 (hourly); $10 for 4 wines (reservations recommended).
– Riesling Vineyard Tour – 1 pm & 3 pm on Saturdays and Sundays; $10/person
(June to September).
– Wine Country Touring Pass – $20/person; daily 11 am – 5 pm touring.
Thirty Bench Wine Makers, Peller Estates, Hillebrand Winery and Wine Country Vintners.

 

Personalized tasting flight
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Events
Snowshoeing in the vineyard – $30/person; 12 pm & 3 pm on weekends starting 2nd weekend in January till the end of February (dependent on the weather, reserve ahead).
– Winemaker’s luncheon – organized 3-4 times a year.
– Graze the Bench – food & wine pairing event held in June (reserve ahead)
Participating wineries:
– Angel’s Gate Winery,
– Fielding Estate Winery,
– Hidden Bench Vineyards & Winery,
– Organized Crime Winery,
– Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery,
– Rosewood Estates Winery and
– Thirty Bench Wine Makers.
. Link to a website with more information

 

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My thank-you to Michael Valaitis,
retail supervisor & estate sommelier, for taking the time to show me around.

 

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For recommended wines that can be purchased at the winery, see http://grapeselections.com/grapeselections/wines-from-wineries/

 

For other wineries in the Beamsville Bench Appellation
and the rest of Niagara Peninsula see
http://grapeselections.com/wineries-of-niagara-peninsula/

 

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Location and growing characteristics:
Beamsville Bench sub-appellation has these characteristics important for wine growth: 217 days/year that are frost-free; 1420 growing degree days and precipitation of 544 mm/year. The soil is composed of clay loam and silty loam that contributes towards the wine’s minerality composition.
Note: Values represent yearly averages normal for the Niagara Peninsula; information mentioned here as well as the Appellations map was obtained from http://vqaontario.ca and is used with permission.

 

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LogoThirty Bench Wine Makers
81 Mountainview Road,
Beamsville,
ON L0R 1B2
(905) 563-1698
http://www.thirtybench.com/

 

 


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5 thoughts on “Thirty Bench Wine Makers

  1. Great article and great photos Dan. I have always enjoyed the wines from Thirty Bench throughout the years. I remember going there when the tasting room had buckets everywhere to catch the rain water, as the roof leaked. I have mixed feelings about the new tasting bar – although it’s nice and modern, a part of me misses the shack atmosphere. Although the quality of the wine has not changed (which it great!) I feel it has become a tad pretentious now that it’s owned by the big wigs. Your thoughts?

    Brad

    • Hi Brad
      Thank you for your compliments.

      Re your comment: Because of the people working there, the winery (for me) has a homely feel to it even though it is now owned by the big leagues – Peller Ltd. I have not been there before they renovated it – so I guess I can’t have mixed feeling about it :-).
      Again, thank you Brad 🙂

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