A Platinum Tasting Tour Around One Of Canada’s Most Award-Winning Wine Regions
Finding a direct route to Canada’s most critically acclaimed vineyards and wineries boils down to two words: Niagara Benchlands. The proud home to the Regional wine-growing appellation known as the Niagara Escarpment, as well as the terroir expressive sub-appellations of the Short Hills Bench, Twenty Mile Bench and Beamsville Bench; Niagara Benchlands wineries were recently recognized with over 213 medals at WineAlign’s National Wine Awards of Canada. In addition, Niagara Benchlands wineries took home the Winery of the Year Award, as well as second, third and ninth place overall in the competition’s ranking of Canada’s Top 25 Wineries.
According to WineAlign critics, “If there is one region of Canada that caught platinum’s glare it is the appellations of Niagara’s escarpment.” With a nod to the important role that the blend of place and time play in producing world-class wines, the critics went on to note, “The sites occupy the cooler, limestone-laced, north-facing escarpment benches several kilometres from Lake Ontario. But at least as important as the terroir is that many vineyards in this area are now more than 30 years of age, and strutting their stuff.”
Follow this itinerary to taste for yourself why so many of the wineries located within Niagara Benchlands have Canada’s top wine critics buzzing. Located less than 13 kilometres from each other “as the crow flies,” spending a day sipping your way through this freshly crowned pack of five platinum-award winners couldn’t be easier!
Thirty Bench Wine Makers
Start your Platinum Tasting Tour at a boutique winery that wowed judges with its Small Lot Riesling. Thirty Bench Wine Makers has been producing premium red and white wines for over three decades. In addition to a killer Niagara Escarpment view, Thirty Bench offers a range of tasting experiences, wine by the glass and summer and fall yoga classes in its vineyard.
Just Around The Benchlands Bend … Late summer and early fall are very tasty times to travel through Niagara Benchlands. Watch for roadside stands along your route overflowing with the season’s freshest finds, as well as preserves, honey and baked goods.
Hidden Bench Estate Winery
In addition to an exciting Canadian Winery of the Year win, the extra effort that Hidden Bench puts into its certified sustainable, organic, and terroir-driven approach was rewarded this year with two platinum, five gold and five silver medals! For the ultimate Hidden Bench schooling, reserve your space in advance for the winery’s daily Root to Glass Experience, which includes a tour through a vineyard, the winery and the barrel cellar and a tasting of six premium wines on the indoor veranda.
Just Around The Benchlands Bend … Wineries aren’t the only Niagara Benchlands residents winning awards. Just before you turn off the highway for your next winery stop, you’ll pass Bench Brewing Company. This Belgian-inspired farmhouse brewery recently won a 2023 Water Canada Award in recognition of its Zero Wastewater Footprint initiative.
Perfectly perched atop the Niagara Escarpment, Megalomaniac, which brought home a platinum award for its Bubblehead Brut as well as third-place honours in WineAlign’s ranking of Canada’s Top 25 Wineries, makes an ideal stop for a mid-day meal break. The talented culinary team, who also call local brunch hotspot Revalee home, serves up brunch, lunch, dinner and small plates that pair beautifully with Megalomanic wines and a tasty selection of sparkling wine cocktails. For wine country pics that will wow your social media followers, Megalomaniac’s daily Insta-worthy Vineyard Walks and Wine In The Vines Bottle Service are a must!
For your next stop, make a short roll down the Escarpment to Tawse Wine & Spirits, which brought home two platinum awards, 18 other medals and the distinction of second place in WineAlign’s ranking of Canada’s Top 25 Wineries. Consider booking the Vineyard Tour and Tasting, where you can say hello to the resident sheet and goats as your walk off the mid-day meal you’ve just enjoyed at Megalomaniac. If you’re interested in trying some Tawse back vintages, the Library Tasting Experience is an excellent choice.
Just Around The Benchlands Bend … As you make your way to your final winery stop of the day, stop in the village of Jordan to browse the collection of eclectic shops that call this historic community home. If you’d like to squeeze in an additional tasting at another critically acclaimed winery while you’re in the neighbourhood, visit Cave Spring Vineyard’s Winery Tasting Room. If you’re in need of a mid-afternoon caffeine kick, RPM Bakehouse, the sensational sibling property of Restaurant Pearl Morissette, uses Canadian-roasted beans and rich and delicious grass-fed Jersey milk for its delicious coffee-based concoctions.
While the vines at Westcott Vineyards, your final stop of the day, may miss out on some of Lake Ontario’s moderating effects, the Chardonnay grapes on the south-facing slopes here soak up longer and stronger sun exposure quite happily! This year, Westcott was recognized with a platinum award for its Block 76 Chardonnay.
A relaxed dinner on Westcott’s tented seasonal patio is a wonderful way to wrap up your day of touring. Consider timing your visit with live music on Sunday evenings or buck-a-shuck oysters on Mondays. Powerhouse culinary duo, Ricky and Olivia, transform just-picked produce from Westcott’s garden and other locally sourced products into creative farm-to-table dishes that are a true treat for diners.
When it comes to award-winning wineries that call Niagara Benchlands home, this itinerary just touches on the top of the barrel! Other Niagara Benchlands wineries to add to your must-try list include The Organized Crime, which WineAlign recognized as one of Canada’s Top 10 Small Wineries, and other WineAlign gold-medal winners, including Fielding Estate Winery, Magnotta, Malivoire, Redstone Winery, The Foreign Affair Winery, The Good Earth Food & Wine Co., Cloudsley Cellars, Le Clos Jordanne, and Vineland Estates Winery.