Wine Talk

Snooth User: John Andrews

Niagara Peninsula Tasting ...

Posted by John Andrews, Dec 13, 2009.

If you didn’t know before you will know now, I am Canadian and I have a lot of pride in being Canadian. Canada is known for a lot of things, hockey, snow and actors that people think are American. But, let’s face it wine is not one of them. Okay, we are known for ice wines but, in the wine world, that is being a one trick pony.

I recently was home in Ontario and I had fully intended on spending a full day wandering through the Niagara wine country. However, a cold jumped on to me very quickly such that I only got two places before I decided to call it a day. The two places that I did go to happened to be two of the places I think highly off in Niagara; Fielding Estate and Thirty Bench.

Fielding Estate:

Fielding Estate is one of the new boutique wineries that are springing up along the Niagara peninsula. It is a family owned winery that is experimenting with a lot of varietals and fine tuning in on the ones that are already showing great potential. This is a winery that I believe has enormous potential and one that will become a classic producer in Niagara in the years to come.

• 2006 Sparkling Riesling $25 (2/5) - Really wanted to like this wine but is just didn’t do it for me. Nice aromas of melon but the flavors didn’t really hold up.

• 2007 Unoaked Chardonnay $25 (2/5) - Was hoping for a nice Chablis style Chardonnay and it didn’t get there. Surprisingly low in acid for a stainless steel aged Chardonnay. Wonder if it was just a bad bottle or one that had been opened for a long time.

• 2008 Riesling $25 (3/5) - An example of what I think is a key varietal for the Beamsville Bench. Riesling seems to shine here and this is a solid example. This would be the everyday Riesling. It is light and has good body.

• 2008 Lot 17 Riesling $25 (3.5/5) - This Riesling takes Fielding to the next level. There is a level of sophistication above and beyond their non-designate Riesling. Nice citrus and mineral aromas. Nice acid to the wine but smooth with hints of lemon and honey.

• 2007 Cabernet-Syrah $25 (3.5/5) - Love this style blend although I feel it should be called Cab-Shiraz. Nice earthy aroma with layers of red cherry and a nice funkiness. The funkiness burns off with air. Flavor is a little tart at first but has nice dark fruit to it plum and blackberry. Needs some time and this should evolve nicely.

• 2006 Syrah $25 (3.5/5) - Seriously nice wine here. I think that Fielding should spend some time and effort to cultivate their Syrah. Aromas were dominated by smokiness and spice but there was a little dark fruit in there. This wine is nicely balanced with dark fruit followed by some spice. It would be interesting to see what a bit of time does for this wine.

• 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon $25 (3/5) - I was expecting a little more but 06 might have been a week vintage for Cab in the area. Nose was very typical cab with earthiness, clove, spice and leather. There just wasn’t the power I was expecting but it was nicely balanced with spice and herbal notes with a medium finish.

• 2005 Meritage $25 (3.5/5) - This has always been the star of Fielding for me. The wine has nice smokey aromas with lots of black fruit in the nose (black plums and blackberries). Great mouth feel with spice and dark fruit. Cab franc definitely plays a big role in this wine.

Thirty Bench:

I have to admit that I like Thirty Bench wines. I think they are on the fast track to really understanding what works well in their vineyards. And the one thing that does work really well for them is their Rieslings. I was looking forward to trying their various Rieslings but it was not to be. There was a special event going on. As it turns out, this event was interesting. Thirty Bench was tasting and selling some wines with age. This was a great chance to try wines with proper cellaring. Nice … I was game.

• 2005 Riesling $25 (4/5) - This is a great example of white wine that can age. This is a classic aged Riesling. The aroma was definitely petrol. That unique aged Riesling aroma. The flavors were citrus and tang with good acidity and nice long finish. I suspect this wine could age a few more years and I can only imagine what the single vineyards are aging like.

• 2008 Rose $25 (2.5/5) - Classic rose with strong aromas of strawberry. Good acidity and strawberry flavors. Fall is not rose weather for me so I may be rating this lower because of the season.

• 2004 Chardonnay $25 (3.5/5) - This has to be the most surprising of the wines that I tried this time around at Thirty Bench. This older chardonnay had a lot of life and complexity. It is a nice rich golden color that shows some age. The aroma had a lot of layers that included caramel, apple, and nutmeg. The aromas led to a lot of layers in the taste. This is not a light Chardonnay. It still had good acidity with flavors of candied apple, light. Nice example of an older, rich style chardonnay.

• 2005 Red $25 (3.5/5) - To me, this is one of the most underappreciated wines at Thirty Bench. It is clear that Riesling is king but this wine is great. It is understated. The aromas are a bit muted but there are in is a nice spice, earth and fruit combination. There is good balance in the flavors that show dark fruit and spice. It may not be a wine to age for a decade but one that shows nicely after five years and probably a few more.

My goal is to share some insight to the great things that are going on in the Niagara Peninsula. As Greg Dal Piaz pointed out in his article on Clos Jordanne ( there is more to the Niagara Peninsula than Niagara Falls. In fact, I truly believe that the Niagara region is on the verge of greatness. The wineries finally understand their terrior and are bringing to life wines that reflect that terrior. The wines will show elegance and refinement but will be affected by yearly conditions more than some other areas.

Contact Info:

Fielding Estate Winery (

4020 Locust Lane
Beamsville, Ontario
L0R 1B2

T: 1.888.778.7758
T: 905.563.0668
F: 905.563.0664

Thirty Bench (
4281 Mountainview Road,
Beamsville, Ontario L0R 1B0

T: 905.563.1698
F: 905.563.3921


Reply by Philip James, Dec 14, 2009.

How big is the area? How far were these places from Clos Jordanne, for example?

Reply by John Andrews, Dec 14, 2009.

The Niagara Peninsula is the largest appellation (VQA) in Ontario. There are a number of sub-appellations. The one I spent my time is Beamsville Bench which is a series of ridges formed from the Niagara Escarpment which is a geological formation. It is essentially the extension of the ridge that forms Niagara Falls. This geological formation is one of the oldest in Canada.

Le Clos Jordanne is about 15 miles east in the Twenty Mile Bench Sub-Appellation. They don't seem to be a VQA member so it is not clear where they source from.

The Niagara Peninsula is about 13,600 acres of land. I am not sure if that is all farmed. I would wager that it is not. There are other VQAs (Vinter's Quality Association) Appellations in Ontario but 85% of Ontario's wine comes from the Niagara Peninsula. The biggest challenge the region faces is not a short growing season but humidity and rot.

You can read more here:

Reply by tbowman, Jan 4, 2010.

Le Clos is unfortunately not open to the public but if you ever get a chance to sneak in there for a tasting I would higly recommend it Thomas (winemaker) is unbelievably passionate

Reply by cigarman168, Jan 4, 2010.

Honda, How do you compare Canadian ice wines with others country dessert wines?

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