Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Happy Winesday!

Over the weekend, my boyfriend Thomas and I had the pleasure of visiting Thirty Bench Wine Makers in Beamsville, Ontario. It’s not quite Niagara on the Lake, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. As we drove through the blowing snow, I wondered whether our trip was going to be worth it. 

Thirty Bench Wine Makers, located in Beamsville Ontario

It definitely was.

Thirty Bench Riesling

We were guided through a tasting of 9 different wines by a knowledgable and friendly Thirty Bench wine expert named Alex. We even had our own table with a beautiful view of the vineyard.

Thirty Bench specializes in small lot wines, meaning that they sacrifice quantity for quality in the wines they produce. The tradeoff is worth it. All of the wines are certified VQA. Here is a list of the wines we tasted:

Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Riesling (2012): This was my favourite. It's a little sweeter than the others but still refreshing. It features juicy fruit flavours of tangerine, orange, and peach, and would be perfect for sipping on its own. As you can see, Thirty Bench’s sense of humour is almost as sharp as my own.

Sorry for the awful image quality :(

Small Lot Riesling ‘Steel Post’ Vineyard (2011): This Riesling was quite a bit different than the first one that we tried, but still very nice. It features flavours of wet stone, minerality, tangerine and pineapple. Sounds weird, but it works. This wine is off-dry, so it's still less sweet than your typical Riesling. 

Small Lot Pinot Gris (2011): This Pinot Gris has aromas of pear, melon, and yellow plum, with flavours of red apple, honeydew, melon, and pear. It's dry and medium-bodied with a rich, balanced mouth feel. Pinot Gris is one of my favourite varietals, so I enjoyed this one.

Small Lot Gewürztraminer (2011): This one had a great nose with aromas of lychee, rose petal, and tropical fruit. It has flavours of lychee, melon, and a touch of spice, and would pair fabulously with some Thai or other spicy cuisine. It's full-bodied and surprisingly dry, which you may not expect from a Gewürztraminer. It was a very intriguing wine that I'd love to try it again.

Small Lot Rosé (2012): Alex warned us that this one would surprise us, and he was right. The aromas of rhubarb and summer berry were very different from the flavours of pomegranate and cherry on the palate. It's a dry, medium-bodied wine, so it's not like the sweeter, lighter wines that many people think when they hear Rosé. We both really liked this one!

Small Lot Pinot Noir (2011): All I have written next to this one for my tasting notes is "Pizza...". I wonder who wrote that (hint: it's Thomas). Alex referred to Pinot Noir as the "heartbreak grape" because it can be so difficult to produce. Don't get too attached to this one! I'm just starting to ease into red wines, so this medium-bodied red with silky smooth tannins was a good place to start. 

Meet Thomas, my boyfriend and wine tasting partner in crime.

Small Lot Merlot (2010): Alex told us that ex-smokers love this one for its smokey notes, and he was right. It's got a complex bouquet of plum, cherry, sweet oak, spice, and earth, with flavours of currant, cherry, and spice. This Merlot is medium to full-bodied and extra dry. The tannins were a bit astringent, but should mellow out as the wine ages. Decanting to let the wine breathe would be a good idea too.

Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon (2010): This is a full-bodied, rich and fruity red with soft tannins. It features black cherry, blueberry, blackberry and vanilla flavours, with sweet spice on the finish. I found this one a bit too bold for my taste, but like I said, I'm not a huge red wine drinker (yet). 

Small Lot Benchmark Red (2010): "A party in your mouth", featuring Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. This is a medium to full-bodied red with flavours of black fruit, spice, and vanilla. Being extra dry, this wasn't one of my favourites. However, I suspect that this wine will improve with age.

If you’re in the area, I highly recommend checking out this winery. It’s only $10 per person for a flight of 4 wines, and right now they have a really cool event that includes snowshoeing in the vineyard. Next time I’ll have to bring my toque and mittens.

Overall, the atmosphere was quiet and cozy, the staff were friendly and knowledgable, and the wines were high-quality. Check out Thirty Bench Wine Makers on their website here!

Coming soon: more wine terms. Cheers!