Hidden Bench Winery: This high quality winery was founded in 2003 by the owner, Harald Thiel. Located in the heart of the Beamsville Bench sub-appellation of Niagara, Hidden Bench focuses on producing quality whites, reds and sparkling wines from Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir , Sauvignon and now adding Gamay to the portfolio. The Hidden Bench terroir is mainly composed of limestone, clay and silt soils. The motto at HB is «Sustainability, Terroir, Technology and Passion», but
also very important in their philosophy-direction is «minimal intervention winemaking»! Low yields and organic practices assure high quality, which is confirmed regularly at the Canadian Wine Awards competition. Hidden Bench winery is consistently in the top 25 best wineries of Canada. An artisanal boutique winery that produces approximately 125,000 bottles annually.
A few weeks back I had the opportunity to visit Hidden Bench winery and taste 10 wines from their portfolio. Welcomed by a great team: Matt Finn, Retail and Direct to Consumer Manager and winemaker Alex Baines. As mentioned previously, the overall quality level is outstanding! Starting with the lovely traditional (Champagne) method sparkler «Natur Zero Dosage», a blend of 72% Pinot Noir and 28% Chardonnay, which displayed lively refreshing acidity with charming complexity (5 years on lees).
Regarding the whites, I was very impressed with the amazing terroir driven Chardonnays (see tasting notes below). For me this amazing selection of Chardonnays was the highlight of the tasting. Complex, terroir driven, lively, intense, elegant and perfectly balanced, these great Chards are amongst the best high quality terroir expressions of the Beamsville-Niagara region!
Estate Chardonnay 2020: from a warmer vintage, very youthful fruity scents enhanced by some new oak. Surprising acidity for this sun soaked warmer vintage. Intense ripe flavours. Good length. 90/100
Felseck Vyrd Chardonnay 2019: very well crafted Chard, fresh/lively, mineral with apple, pear and a kiss of oak. Great balance and length. 92/100
And tasted recently : Chardonnay Tête de Cuvée 2019: remarkable richness and intensity while remaining lively and balanced. New oak still present, needs time. Outstanding 93+/100
Riesling represents 10% of total plantings. The very seductive 2018 Estate Riesling also shows very distinct terroir characteristics while offering fresh acidity to balance the 17 grams of residual sugar. A great example of Beamsville-Niagara Riesling.
Not to be missed is the 100% barrel fermented (only 8 to 10% new barrels) Fumé Blanc. These 30+ year old vines of Sauvignon from the Rosomel vineyard display lots of tropical and citrus fruit with typical fresh acidity that assures balance. For sure the best Canadian Sauvignon tasted in the past year!
As to reds, Pinot Noir seems to be the chief varietal. As most of you know, Pinot Noir is the perfect grape to show off terroir characteristics. With Hidden Bench’s philosophy of minimal intervention winemaking, you not only perceive terroir characteristics but also obvious vintage variations in their lovely Pinots. Again, great expressions of terroir driven Pinot Noirs!
Other reds tasted:
Terroir Caché 2019 : a Bordeaux blend that includes a surprising 16% Malbec to complement the 50% Merlot and 34% Cabernet Franc. Classic nose reminiscent of Bordeaux reds, quite plummy, good weight, balanced and elegant.
Gamay Noir 2020: the Gamay vines were planted in 2017 in the Lincoln Lakeshore appellation. Tasted the 2020 and a tank sample of 2022. Very promising offering typical Gamay characteristics.
Hidden Bench has established itself as a reference when it comes to elite Niagara-Ontario wineries (Top 10 in Ontario), but also as a leading high quality Canadian winery (Top 25 in Canada)! Bravo!