Thirty Bench Wine Makers Information
When arriving at Thirty Bench Wine Makers, a rustic, charmingly worn farmhouse structure is the first thing that comes into sight. Beyond that, there are the green, rolling fields of vineyard lots, their leaves and grapes swaying gently in the breeze. And further, the waters of Lake Ontario glint playfully against the sun that often makes for such a clear day that the Toronto skyline is visible from across the shores. Indeed, the picturesque setting that serves as the backdrop to Thirty Bench’s winemaking operations is certainly an enviable environment, and it’s this earthy inspiration that helps make this winery the gem that it is.
Located in the quickly growing Beamsville Bench appellation on the Niagara Peninsula, Thirty Bench is steeped in local history. Originally purchased in 1980 as a fruit farm, with a main vineyard that first operated under the name Heritage Vineyards, the winery flourished as a producer of Riesling. In the following years, after undergoing an incarnation as French Oak Vineyards, and after deciding to plant mixed red grapes, the winery quickly evolved into a principal supplier of Riesling grapes to Andres Wines and Cave Spring Cellars. By the time 1993 rolled around, the company’s name was changed to Thirty Bench, a tribute to the prized location and geography of the winery. One year later, Thirty Bench was opened to the public, and it hasn’t looked back since. A large tasting room, a basement barrel-cellar, and a north-side vineyard that grows Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot are just some of the progressive, positive changes that have occurred at Thirty Bench in the subsequent 17 years since its charms were uncorked to the community at large. And, even after being sold to Andres Wines Ltd. in 2005, Thirty Bench has steadfastly maintained its reputation as an ultra-premium wine producer, as well as that of an intimate boutique winery.
Tastings and Tours
In preserving this esteem, Thirty Bench offers a front tasting wine bar, personalized tastings and Riesling vineyard tours to its customers. Those intrigued by the first option at the wine bar can enjoy Thirty Bench’s Riesling, Rose, and Red wines for a small price, which is great for people who arrive at Thirty Bench on a whim (since reservations are not required to partake in this particular tasting). Reservations are recommended, however, for the one-hour personalized, private tasting during which an overview of the winemaking facility and a custom-made tasting that consists of Thirty Bench’s limited-production, small-lot wines are offered for an extremely reasonable rate.
Also affordable (but only offered on Saturday and Sunday at 1 pm and 3 pm) is the reservations-required one-hour Riesling Vineyard Tour, a tour in which visitors get to "stroll and sip" as they learn about the history behind each of the three Riesling vineyard blocks, and why they produce the wine that they do.
In fact, Emma Garner, winemaker at Thirty Bench, calls the winery’s site "absolutely fantastic" because of the unique slope, air flow, and soil composition that is found on the property. A great spot to grow "world-class Rieslings," Thirty Bench also still produces wines from each of the vines that were planted in the early 1990s and beyond— Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.
Recognition of the efforts put into these wines by Thirty Bench has been highly forthcoming, as the 2008 Small Lot Riesling "Steel Post Vineyard," and 2007 Small Lot Benchmark Red each won a gold Cuvée Award in 2010. Additionally, the 2007 Small Lot Cabernet Franc is a particular star of Thirty Bench, with a double gold medal at the 2010 All Canadian Wine Championships, a silver medal for Best in Class at the U.K. 2010 International Wine & Spirit Competition, a silver medal at the U.K. 2010 Decanter World Wine Awards, and a four-and-a-half-star rating from Vines magazine.
Thirty Bench makes success such as this possible because it is committed to small-lot winemaking, which means "grapes are hand-picked and hand-sorted from vineyards that produce very low yields with incredible quality…wines are always made in small batches, reinforcing [the] belief that less is more. Each wine at Thirty Bench is distinctive—a unique expression of [the] vineyard and [its] small-lot approach to winemaking."
In order to enjoy the height of Thirty Bench’s formidable triumphs, the fall-harvest season is the best time to visit the winery to gain the full experience of what comprises a winery such as this, but early spring also presents an amazing opportunity to see a glimpse of what’s to come. Wintertime brings a multitude of tastings and events, and being a No. 30 Wine Club member is particularly advantageous for exclusive invitations to functions like member lunches with Thirty Bench’s winemaker. Among other perks, the point of the No. 30 Wine Club is to receive four shipments per year of Thirty Bench’s limited wines, and sample them as desired, while writing down impressions in a complimentary wine journal. In the case of Thirty Bench, membership definitely has its benefits!
But no matter the reason for visiting Thirty Bench, or no matter what connection a customer has to the winery, there are key foundational elements that don’t change. Estate manager Fiona Muckle says the winery "really strives to help people understand and connect with the vineyard, property, and staff," and these values are reflected in the easygoing, relaxed, and friendly manner of staff members, the welcoming atmosphere that serves to put even the most timid wine-taster at ease, and the back-to-nature approach that honours the time-tested methods of creating special, engaging wines that are sure to please the palate.
When to Visit and Where to Buy
Thirty Bench is open during the summer from 10 am to 6 pm daily, and during the winter, Sunday to Friday, from 11 am to 5 pm, and Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm but checking ahead for changes is always recommended. Customers are encouraged to purchase Thirty Bench wines in their most ubiquitous location, the Thirty Bench on-site wine boutique, but they can also be found scattered throughout restaurants in the Niagara area, online, and, occasionally, in the LCBO vintages section.
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