Our Review of the Best Beamsville Wineries
While not as well known as the wineries at Niagara-On-The-Lake, Beamsville wineries are becoming a popular destination for those looking for an amazing wine experience while visiting the Toronto or Niagara Region.
In fact, in the 2023 Wine Align Top 25 Wineries of Canada awards, Beamsville wineries boasted 4 in the top 10 including all the top 3: #1 Hidden Bench, #2 Tawse Winery, #3 Megalomaniac and #9 Thirty Bench.
That is quite the accomplishment for such a tiny area, especially considering the tough competition from the more established British Columbia wineries!
We have been coming to the Niagara region for wine tastings for the last 20 years. In that time, we have found ourselves spending more and more time visiting wineries on the Beamsville Bench.
That is not to say that we don’t like the other appellations in Niagara – they are all quite good. But there is something special about the Niagara Bench wineries that keeps us coming back year after year.
While it may not be as large or famous as other New World wine regions like New Zealand, we feel Beamsville is well worth a visit!
Highlights of Beamsville Wineries
✅ If you are looking for a tour where someone else takes care of the driving check out this tour that we have done. It makes for a fun day with a variety of wineries being visited.
Understanding what makes Beamsville such a great wine-producing area requires a little bit of knowledge about Beamsville’s topography and climate.
Beamsville is located on the Niagara Peninsula, the narrow piece of land that separates the southern tip of Lake Ontario from the northern tip of Lake Erie.
The approximate width of the peninsula between the 2 lakes is 40 kilometres (25 miles). The Beamsville Bench, one of 10 sub-appellations of the Niagara Peninsula, is situated much closer to Lake Ontario than Lake Erie. In fact, Beamsville is only about 5 kilometres (3 miles) from Lake Ontario.
Lake Ontario is about 99 metres (325 feet) lower in elevation than Lake Erie with the cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment rising just behind (south of) Beamsville.
This change in elevation from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie creates wind currents that help to control the temperatures of the Beamsville Bench leading to ideal conditions for grape growing.
Wondering why are there so many vineyards in Niagara? It’s the climate. The circulating airflow coming off Lake Ontario and bumping up against the Niagara Escarpment creates cool drying winds in the hot summer months.
That same airflow brings in warm air off Lake Ontario in winter which moderates the temperatures across the Niagara Peninsula during the coldest months.
The other important thing about Beamsville that makes it a great viticultural region is the soil. There are several different terroirs in the Niagara Region because of erosion that melted glaciers after the ice age.
The soil closest to Lake Ontario tends to be shale-based clay and sandy loam while the soil on the Beamsville Bench is primarily limestone clay above a shale base. This provides the perfect combination of soil that drains well when it rains, yet still maintains some moisture during the dry periods.
Our Favourite Beamsville Wineries
Ok, enough about geography and climatology. Let’s look at some of our favourite Beamsville wineries and why we keep coming back
Cave Springs Vineyards
Cave Springs Vineyards has been on our “places to come back to” list since 2008 when we first visited their original tasting room in Jordan. We are big fans of their Riesling, Sparkling and Cabernet Franc. So much so that we have become wine club members and receive their wines delivered bi-monthly.
Cave Springs Vineyards has been at the forefront of Niagara Region viticulture for over 40 years. This family-owned business was started when John Pennachetti Senior and his sons converted an abandoned orchard into a vineyard of Riesling and Chardonnay vines.
Today, Len Pennachetti oversees Cave Spring Vineyards and is a passionate advocate of producing top-quality wines that reflect the terroir of the Beamsville Bench and of Cave Springs in particular.
We were fortunate enough to be taken on a vineyard tour by Len and gleaned some fascinating information about the terroir and Len’s personal philosophy on wine production.
✦ Cave Springs has added to the original vineyard over the years and now the farm consists of about 225 acres with 170 acres planted with vines. Half of the vineyards comprise the Riesling variety and that grape has become the mainstay of Cave Springs Cellars.
✦ The winery also grows Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gerwürztraminer, Gamay and Pinot Gris.
✦ There are 4 different tiers of Cave Spring wines: Regional, Dolomite, Estate and CSV/Proprietary.
✦ The Regional tier is VQA appellations of Niagara Peninsula, Niagara Escarpment and Beamsville Bench with 80% being Estate grapes.
✦ The Dolomite tier is 100% Estate grown and the grapes used are from vines that are 20 to 25 years old.
✦ The Estate tier is produced from the fruit of vines that are in select parcels on the vineyard and from vines that are 15 to 43 years old.
✦ The CSV/Proprietary tier is the top-level wine produced at Cave Springs. This wine comes from the oldest vines, up to 47 years old that are grown on the finest parcels of the vineyard.
These are among the best vineyards in Niagara. This tier is reserved exclusively for Cave Springs Riesling and Chardonnay, reflecting the terroir’s inherent characteristics that bring out the best in these varietals.
✦ There are two venues for wine tasting at Cave Springs, the Winery Tasting Room and the Vineyard Tasting Room. On previous visits to Cave Springs, we would go to the original Winery Tasting Room in the lovely village of Jordan. That was before Len built the new Vineyard Tasting Room on the Beamsville Estate in the midst of the luscious vineyards.
This new 2 story glass, steel and wood building is a wonderful piece of architecture. Much of the structure uses recycled boards from barns in the Niagara region. Even the tables in the tasting room are hand-crafted from reclaimed barn board.
This is all part of Len’s philosophy about using local products and resources to capture the essence of the Beamsville Bench. That same philosophy influences the wine-making process.
✦ Cave Springs uses only indigenous yeasts in the fermentation process, unlike many wineries which depend on commercially available procured yeasts.
✦Likewise, Cave Springs uses neutral oaks for their wine barrels, not imported French Oak which would influence the subtle qualities of the Beamsville terroir.
Taking this one step further, Cave Springs is experimenting with concrete vats that are made with stone drawn from the Vineland Quarry, just up the slope from their vineyards. The wine would therefore mature in vats that share the same minerals as the soil the grapes were grown in. Can’t wait to see how this turns out!
In the meantime, we continue to enjoy our regular favourites. For Kim, it’s the Cave Springs Dolomite and the Cave Springs Estate Reislings. For Denis it’s the Cave Springs Estate Cabernet Franc. And we both really enjoy the Cave Springs Reisling Brut, a crisp sparkling wine done in the French Traditional Method.
Aside from the fact that Cave Springs produces some great wines in a near-perfect terroir, the main reason we keep coming back is we just feel so welcome here.
Back 10 Cellars
Back 10 Cellars is one of those small, understated wineries that you might almost drive past and not notice except for the small rectangular sign at the edge of the road.
But it is one of our favourite spots to visit in Niagara Wine Country. And it all starts with the owners, Andrew and Christine Brooks.
Unlike the more established wineries in the area, Back 10 is quite recent to the Beamsville wine fold. The Brooks purchased their Beamsville property, a run-down 10-acre parcel of land, including a farmhouse, in 2002.
Without any previous experience in agriculture or winemaking, they set out to establish their vineyard and produce their first bottle of wine.
That process took them 10 years of hard work and dedication until their dream began to unfold.
While it wasn’t easy, Back 10 has established itself as one of the best wineries in Beamsville.
And the Brooks continue to grow their brand. During the Covid-19 pandemic when most businesses were shut down and downsizing, the Brooks took a different approach.
Relying on their entrepreneurial spirit and drive, they invested in their winery by adding a large, outdoor facility to allow them to continue to host visitors at their winery.
The result of that investment is Smit-Ten Summerhouse, a rustic and elegant covered structure that opens out to an outdoor patio and the vineyard. We spent the better part of an afternoon on the patio sampling Back 10 wines and enjoying the ample sunshine.
Smit-Ten Summerhouse is a great venue for special events and weddings with an amazing backdrop of the vineyard and views of the Bench.
Because Back 10 is a small property and most of it is allocated to their vines, there isn’t a lot of room for a bottling facility. But Andrew has that figured out. He uses a local mobile bottling service that brings its state-of-the-art bottling equipment to the farm in a 50-foot trailer.
The trailer is a mini bottling facility that allows Back 10 to bottle their harvest without the expensive investment in a bricks and mortar structure that would take up space on the property. Quite ingenious!
Back 10 focuses on Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. Our favourite wine at Back 10 is their signature Smitten Sparkling Riesling, an aromatic off-dry white that goes with anything.
We love coming to Back 10 to sit back and relax inside their sipping room or out on the patio and sharing a glass of wine with friends. This is a must-do on your visit to the Beamsville wineries. And if you get the chance, introduce yourself to Andrew or Christine if they are around (which they usually are).
Chat with them for a while. They are both very engaging people and love to talk about their venture with visitors.
Cornerstone Estate Winery
We discovered Cornerstone Estate Winery on our last visit to Beamsville and it instantly got added to our favourites list.
Much like Back 10, this winery is a relative newcomer to the Beamsville Bench. This family-owned winery was founded in 2002, though the land was purchased in 1999.
Cornerstone Estate Winery is owned by Jerry Kopanski and his family. We met his daughter Nina (who runs the day-to-day operations of the winery) at the tasting room as she introduced us to the premium wine collection that Cornerstone has on offer.
Nina explained that they opened the winery to the public in 2005 and before they started using the grapes for their own wines, they used to sell them to other producers. Now, the 20-acre estate produces wines exclusively for its own brand.
The estate consists of 20 acres, but only 11 of those acres are planted with grape vines. For that reason, they are considered a micro-winery. Nearly half of their vineyard, 5 acres, is planted in Cabernet Franc.
We tried several of the Cornerstone wines during our tasting. Since Denis prefers reds, and Kim prefers whites we managed to get a sampling of most of their wines (along with the bachelor party that was in at the same time).
Kim’s favourites were the 2019 Reisling and a very nice un-oaked Chardonnay. Denis enjoyed the 2016 Cabernet Franc and a “mystery” wine that turned out to be a 2012 Cabernet Franc (his favourite) that won’t be offered for sale until December 2024.
Needless to say, we will be coming back to Cornerstone on our next trip to the Niagara Region!
Hidden Bench Estate Winery
Hidden Bench Estate Winery was the #1 winery at the 2023 Wine Align Top 25 Wineries in Canada awards. And for good reason – their wines are excellent.
The Wine Align awards are evaluated based on a producer submitting at least 5 wines. The wineries with the highest point score for the best 5 wines that have entered are then ranked from 1 to 25.
Hidden Bench walked away with 12 medals in total for their wine entries – 2 platinum, 5 gold and 5 silver. That is quite an accomplishment for a winery that started out just 20 years ago.
Harald Thiel, owner of Hidden Bench, founded the winery with his family in 2003. Since then, his focus has been on producing estate-grown artisanal wines using organic and biodynamic principles.
Hidden Bench is home to 3 distinct vineyards all located on the Beamsville Bench. The vineyards range in age from 25 to 40 years old and combine for a total of 31.5 hectares (78 acres). In total, the winery produces about 120,000 bottles of wine per year.
As an artisanal winery, all grapes from the estate vineyards are handpicked and sorted by triage teams. Their focus on precision and sustainability carries through to the final product. While the winery produces several different varietals, its main focus is on Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
The winery sits on the slopes of the Beamsville Bench and offers lovely views of their Locust Lane vineyard. The setting and architecture of the wine store and winery exude a serene, pastoral ambience. Take advantage of their outdoor patio on a sunny day and enjoy a glass of one of the best wines in the country.
Here are the top 5 Hidden Bench wines from the 2023 Wine Align awards:
- Platinum – Hidden Bench 2020 Pinot Noir Felseck Vineyard
- Platinum Hidden Bench 2020 Chardonnay Tête de Cuvée Rosomel Vineyard
- Gold – Hidden Bench 2020 Riesling
- Gold – Hidden Bench 2017 Natur Zero Dosage
- Gold – Hidden Bench 2020 Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard
Rosewood Estates Winery
Rosewood Estates Winery is another great family success story that contributes to the legacy that has become the wine region of Niagara.
The estate was purchased by Eugene and Renata Roman in the early 2000s. The Roman family brought their bee-keeping skills (and their bees) to the estate with the intent of building a grape and honey winery. The first vines were planted in 2003 and by 2008, when the Romans opened their wine shop, they offered up their 2006 vintage.
Today Rosewood Estate Winery consists of 15 acres of vineyards on the Beamsville Bench, where the home winery is located. They have another 40 acres of vineyards located in nearby Jordan on the Twenty Mile Bench.
Rosewood Estates uses an interesting blend of 2 farming concepts, apiculture and viticulture to create one of the most unique wineries in the Niagara region. The 20 bee colonies contribute to the wine-making process by pollinating the vines on the estate.
Stop by this winery to taste the wine and mead, and while you’re here, take home some of their estate honey and beeswax candles.
Vieni Estates Inc.
Vieni Estates Winery was founded in 1998 by Pasquale Raviele when he purchased a 175-acre parcel on the Beamsville Bench.
The estate is now operated by his 2nd generation Italian family and has grown to 250 acres. Vieni Estates has evolved into an all-encompassing enterprise that includes a winery, restaurant special events venue and a full-service Bed and Breakfast.
The winery produces a variety of still, ice and Sparkling wines along with a selection of spirits which use locally sourced fruits. Of particular note are its Sparkling wines which are produced using the Charmat method (Metodo Italiano). These were the ones that stood out for us when we did our wine tasting here.
Other Popular Beamsville Area Wineries
This was the #2 winery on Canada’s 2023 Wine Align Top 25 Wineries. The winery took its inspiration from the owner’s love of Burgundy Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay.
Top 5 Tawse Winery 2023 Wine Align awards:
- Platinum – Tawse 2020 Carly’s Block Riesling
- Platinum – Tawse 2020 Tawse Riesling
- Gold – Tawse 2020 Quarry Road Riesling
- Gold – Tawse 2020 Cabernet Merlot
- Gold – Tawse 2020 Limestone Riesling Spark!
Megalomaniac was #3 on the Wine Align list of top wineries in Canada. There is a certain amount of “sas” about this winery and that is borne out by their branding. Here are their wines that won awards:
- Platinum – Megalomaniac N/V Bubblehead Limited Edition Brut
- Gold – Megalomaniac 2020 To Be Frank Cabernet Franc
- Gold – Megalomaniac 2021 Narcissist Riesling
- Gold – Megalomaniac 2020 Sonofabitch Pinot Noir
- Gold – Megalomaniac NV Bubblehead Rosé
Which Beamsville Wineries Serve Food?
While there are many wineries on the Beamsville Bench, not all of them serve food. Here are a couple that we have tried and can vouch for.
Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery
Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery has one of the most breathtaking settings on the Niagara Peninsula.
It sits high on the western slopes of the Beamsville Bench with spectacular views of the vineyards below and Lake Ontario in the distance. On a clear day the skyline of Toronto is visible in the distance, including the iconic CN Tower.
Our first culinary experience at Peninsula Ridge was several years ago, in celebration of Denis’ birthday. We enjoyed a magnificent tasting menu on the outdoor terrace. We were served several courses, each one paired with a Peninsula Ridge vintage wine. This has remained one of our most memorable eating experiences at Niagara wineries.
More recently we invited some friends to share a fabulous meal in the restaurant proper – an enchanting Victorian Mansion that maintains its classic character both inside and out.
The Good Earth Food and Wine Co.
The Good Earth Food and Wine Co. is another little gem to be discovered on the Beamsville Bench.
This working farm and winery is a cozy, welcoming venue that offers its own craft wines and an extensive bistro menu featuring locally grown Niagara region products.
The restaurant and winery are tucked in the vineyard and surrounded by lovely gardens and a patio. We enjoyed our lunch on a bright, sunny day sitting on the patio and listening to soothing live music.
The Good Earth also offers cooking classes during the summer, which has become a very popular event requiring advanced reservations.
This is another place that we have added to our “come back to” list.
The Final Word on Beamsville Wineries
Niagara area wines are gaining a worldwide reputation for their cool climate varietals including Reisling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. Among the best wineries in Niagara region (and our perennial favourites!) are those found along the Beamsville Bench.
Whether you are a casual wine drinker or an avid connoisseur of quality vintages, make sure to add the Niagara Region and Beamsville in particular, to your Bucket List!
Make sure you come back to this blog for updates as we continue to tour and write about the best wine tasting in Niagara – the Beamsville Bench.