5 wineries to visit in Beamsville, Ontario
Wineries in Beamsville Ontario might not be "local" according to the strictest definition of the term, but it's the closest high quality wine growing region that Toronto has, reachable by car in about 45 minutes or so if the traffic isn't too heavy. That's not really much of a trek, particularly when one considers just how many top Ontario producers call the Beamsville Bench home. A sub-appellation of the Niagara Peninsula, the area benefits from its unique topography, both in the form of its sloped vineyards and the relatively consistent growing conditions fostered by the air flow off the lake, which is sheltered by the Niagara Escarpment. If you want a quick introduction to wine growing in this province, Beamsville is the place to start.
Not rich in restaurants or nightlife, this is an excellent area for day trips. It's also a great place to cycle, should you want to park the car and hop from winery to winery on your bike. Even on weekends, the traffic remains fairly low, and there's a generally lazy, wine country vibe in the area. Oh, and if you've ever wanted to see an amazing view of the Toronto skyline, have a look across the lake on a sunny day from Beasmville. It's stunning — and also a reminder of just how close the city really is.
Thirty Bench is a must-visit winery for two reasons: 1) they have great Riesling and 2) their wine tastings are some of the best in the province. A personal tasting costs $10, but you'll get to try 5+ wines, a tour of the vineyard, and to ask as many questions as you want of the staff member conducting your tasting. On the multiple occasions that I've visited, the experience has been informative and buzz-worthy (wine in the morning works faster). Of particular interest is a flight of the various Rieslings, from single vineyard offerings to the annual blend: contrasting the flavour profiles is fascinating.
Sipping on a Fielding vintage while gazing at the Toronto skyline on the winery's cottage-like back deck is worth the drive to Beamsville. Fielding does full-scale tours of the winery, which take visitors through the entire winemaking operation before supervised tastings in the retail boutique. This is a winery that does a number of varietals well, including Cabernet Sauvignon in warm years. The Riesling is also good.
Angel's Gate sits across from Fielding and Thirty Bench on Mountainview Rd. in an old mission-style building that befits the name of the operation and the sweeping vineyards on the Bench. The vibe at the winery is casual, which makes for a nice environment to taste through the various wines on offer, the highlights of which are typically Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling.
Daniel Lenko is a true boutique winery with low yields that result in wonderfully concentrated wines. Unlike other producers on the Bench, the highlight wine here is the Meritage Blend, which benefits from old vines (some of which date back to 1974). It's probably not fair to say that it's a wine that tastes like it was produced elsewhere — because that denigrates obvious potential of the region — but in some sense that's a compliment. Lenko is a passionate and immensely knowledgeable winemaker who you'll almost certainly learn something from on a visit to the vineyard. This one is a must-visit.
Hands down my favourite winery in Beamsville, Hidden Bench makes wines worthy of a cult following (try the Nuit Blanche Rosomel Vineyard for proof). Owned (and in a very real sense operated) by Harold Thiel, the commitment to quality is easy to spot as you park your car beside the carefully pruned vines. It's common to see Thiel and his dog in the barn-like tasting area, which is a good thing because he really knows his stuff and is as friendly and engaging as they come when it comes to winemakers. Tours of the state of the art winery can also be arranged and are well worth it.
Thanks to the New Listerine UltraClean for sponsoring our wine-soaked adventures.
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