A good spot to start off with for this review is to state that Thirty Bench is a winery that is owned by the same group that owns Hillebrand, Trius and Peller Estates, Andrew Peller Ltd. Despite the fear that a big operation the size of Peller might corrupt or ruin the feel of a small specialty vineyard, they have done neither with Thirty Bench. In fact the opposite is true, this little gem is turning out to be a top 5 Canadian Winery. Initially dedicated to Rieslings (and still their primary focus and strength), they have started to turn out a fantastic Chardonnay as well as a Red blend and Pinot Noir. Their small lot mentality has very much grasped the idea that terroir and small (but well tended to) yields can produce remarkable wines. The 2006 Small Lot Chardonnay received a great deal of praise and with the 2007 vintage being considered one of the best of all time in Niagara it was with great anticipation that this bottle (plus a few more) was purchased. On to the tasting!
This barrel fermented Chardonnay was aged sur lie before being bottled. With it’s honey colour capturing the eye, you instandly get a nice caramel toasty smell. A few good sniffs and you are getting more of that and a bit of vanilla with underlying peach. The first few sips will give your mouth a nice crisp sensation with a polished ‘velvety’ feel. This is rather surprising as many Chardonnays achieve this through malolactic fermentation (that buttery taste/feel) which this wine has not gone through. The balance of acidity, fruit and smooth oak work well and the winemaker Natalie Reynolds has done a great job in bringing a Burgundy style to her wine. The fruit is understated throughout but still evident, with hints of peaches and pears running on your tongue. Overall this is a very good offering, in fact when we went to the winery to do tastings I was pleasantly surprised by it, figuring, as I often do, that I knew what I was going to purchase well in advance (and a Chardonnay was not in the ‘plan’). This wine has the structure and taste that allows me to recommend grabbing 6 bottles and putting them away. Two to three years minimum will really make this go from very good to great in my humble opinion. As it is now, for $30 (from the vineyard) you will richly reward if you drink it now or put it down. A great Canadian wine.
Please note, while I was pleased overall with the entire experience at Thirty Bench (and yes this is nitpicking) I was rather shocked that a $10 tasting charge was added to a wine purchase totaling well over $250. This is the first time in my wine tasting life, anywhere, that a tasting charge was actually added to a purchase bill. I fully understand that a charge needs to be applied to the free wine slurp hounds that jump from winery to winery looking for free stuff with no purchases, but when you buy significant wines I have always found the fee to be waved. I know, petty, still Thirty Bench when you read this, you can do better then that.
The CWGSR is 90 out of 100.
Mrs CWG states