Last year, I traveled to one of the biggest wine tourist destinations in the world – California’s Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. As a wine lover, the trip was a dream come true, especially as I imagined being in my favourite movie, Sideways, joining Paul Giamatti’s character Miles on his quest for great Pinot Noir. But even the allure of Hollywood couldn’t stop me from thinking about how lucky I am to have a wine destination in my own backyard. Only 20 minutes outside of Hamilton, in the small neighbouring towns of Grimsby, Beamsville and Jordan, you will find Niagara’s wine country.
There are countless wineries to visit in this region including, Rosewood Estates Winery, Peninsula Ridge, EastDell Estates, Hidden Bench Vineyards & Winery, and the list goes on. Each winery offers a unique wine specialty and experience. You can be a true wine tourist, map out your day and see multiple wineries along the wine country route. Or, like me, you can relax and take your time, go to one winery and get the full experience there.
On my wine tour date, I brought my mom who is just as passionate about wine as I am. We chose to visit Thirty Bench Wine Makers – one of the most reputable wineries in the region, known for their exquisite, small-batch Rieslings.
We booked a Personalized Tasting Experience at the winery. The experience includes a tour of the Thirty Bench facility and a tasting of four wines for just $10 per person. Michael, our courteous and educated wine consultant, led the tour and tasting.
First, he guided us into the tank and barrel room where he gave us a brief overview of Thirty Bench. The large and impressive fermentation barrels reflected the winery’s dedication to making excellent quality wines. We came out of the tour thirsty for some great wines.
In the tasting room, the large windows provide beautiful views of Thirty Bench’s vineyards which lie along – you guessed it – the bench. Michael explained that because Thirty Bench’s vineyards are on the escarpment, there are more limestone minerals in the soil which the grapes benefit from, particularly the Riesling grapes.
We approached a long, rustic table beside the window with four glasses in front of each us – a scene that couldn’t be any more inviting for a wine lover. My mom and I had fun choosing the wines we wanted to taste and decided to taste different wines from one another so that we could share and get an even better impression of the Thirty Bench wine portfolio.
Each wine exhibited exciting, unexpected and delicious qualities. As we tasted, Michael explained the characteristics we should expect and why certain wines tasted the way they did. It was difficult to decide on my favourites but it boiled down to the 2009 Small Lot Chardonnay which was reminiscent of smoky, buttered popcorn, and the refreshingly tangy, newly-released 2011 ‘Steel Post’ Vineyard Riesling. My purchasing decision was based on what I preferred to drink now in the summer months so I went with the Steel Post Riesling. My mom went with another summer favourite – the 2011 Small Lot Rose. Though semi-dry, the Rose had subtle hints of cherry and strawberry candied qualities.
Before we left, we took a walk around the vineyard, admiring the baby grapes on the vines. We vowed to come back to Thirty Bench again and go on the Riesling Vineyard Tour Experience.
We finished our day off with a late lunch at About Thyme Bistro – a 10 minute drive from Thirty Bench. About Thyme is like a comfort food diner with a gourmet flair. I ordered cold cucumber and salmon cream soup, a charcuterie plate to share and freshly made lemonade. All of these items were locally and seasonally inspired and too scrumptious for words. If you need something to soak up all the wine tastings on your trip in wine country, this is a definite stop.
On your next date, I encourage you to be a tourist in your own home and experience wine country.
By, Ciara McCann