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  • Writer's pictureToronto Vintners Club


Tonight we were treated to a tasting of nine Hidden Bench Estate Winery's finest wines. A vertical tasting means we get to taste the same grape from different vintages and explore the aging potential of an Ontario winery. Jay Johnston, the winemaker at Hidden Bench, led us through the tasting of three Rieslings (from 2011, 2014 and 2017), three Chardonnays (from 2009, 2011 and 2016) and three Pinot Noirs (from 2013, 2017 and 2019).

Jay gave us some background to the history, terroir and culture of the Winery and their unique approach to winemaking. Founded in 2003 by Harald Thiel and his family, Hidden Bench Estate Winery focuses on non-interventionist winemaking techniques, sustainable best practices in the vineyard, and a commitment to using only certified organic fruit; they have been uncompromising in their pursuit of quality and terroir.

The 75 acres in their care produce 20-22 different wines every year and they only produce wine from the grapes they grow on the Estate. Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir make up over 90% of their plantings and each provide a real insight into what Beamsville Bench's unique terroir can produce.

Jay guided us through each of the vertical tastings, starting with the Rieslings. He described how the different vintages (all from the same "Roman's Block" in the vineyard) produced three quite different Riesling wines on the palate: from the cool 2009 and its later harvest, through the smoother, creamier 2011 and its shyness on the nose, to the much more punchy 2016 and its hot, dry year.

After each vertical we got to vote for our favourite of the three before The Big Reveal of our top 3 wines at the end. See scores below.

Here are the group scores for the Rosomel Roman's Block Riesling (Jay's favourite was the 2011):

Next were the Chardonnays from Felseck Vineyard - the vines that can be seen directly across from the tasting room in Beamsville Bench. Being an unapologetic fan of both Ontario's Chardonnays and Pinots, tasting a 10-year-old Chardonnay was my favourite part of the evening. And how balanced it tasted, with a butterscotch nose and a freshness still on the finish. Remarkable!

Here are the group scores for the Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard (Jay's favourite matched the Group's in this vertical):

And finally the Estate Pinot Noirs, which can now be found in the Vintages Essentials collection at LCBO. From the savoury and complex nose on the 2013 with its tawny edges, through the beautiful aromatics and smokiness of the 2017, to the younger, fruitier and still acidic 2019.

Here are the group scores for the Estate Pinot Noir (Jay's favourite matched the Group's in this vertical):

Please see the tasting notes for a fuller description of these nine exceptional wines from our very own Ontario:

Hidden Bench Vertical May 2021
Download PDF • 121KB

Here were the overall winners from the evening as voted by the Group:

And my takeaway learning from the night? Apparently I am a Big Fan of older wines regardless of grape, as my top three Wines were D, G and A (in that order). Although one of the notes I wrote on the evening was: I love them all(!).

What did you learn about your taste in wines from the evening?

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