RICK VANSICKLE/Wines in Niagara
To his Twitter followers he’s know as @BenchVigneron, an “active winery owner from the Beamsville Bench who loves good food and wine, cares about the environment and people who care.”
In his previous life, Harald Thiel, proprietor of the Beamsville Bench winery Hidden Bench, owned a large audio-visual services company with his brother that had 35 offices and 1,500 employees spread across North America. You can add banker, law student and MBA to his resume, as well.
In 2001 he sold the business and, with the blessing of his wife Ann, pursued the dream of building a winery in Niagara.
Thiel takes his job as a vigneron seriously. He walks the vineyards almost every day during the season and works closely with vineyard manager Steve Roche and winemaker Marlize Beyers to “constantly improve our product,” he says.
“When people ask me what the title on my business card ‘vigneron’ means, I respond that it is as close to being a player-coach as you can get. That is my role.”
And as such, Thiel strives for perfection in all aspects of the operation with a singular goal of making wines that best represent the terroir of the estate vineyards that he owns and farms.
Thiel’s portfolio includes a series of Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Rieslings from top estate vineyards. His Felseck Chardonnay is the key Niagara wine being released at Vintages this Saturday. It is one of our WIN wines of the week along with two others being released Saturday.
The Felseck 2009 is tight on the nose but beginning to unwrap lovely lemon-citrus, pear, mineral and toasty oak and spice aromas.
It is perfectly ripe in the mouth with beautiful integration of oak to go with alluring spiced apple, pear and citrus fruits.
A vein of minerality runs through the mid palate of this wine that’s lifted by the racy acidity the vintage delivered.
Buy, hold and watch this beauty evolve.
Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling 2010
($18, 88 points)
Notes of limes, white peaches and a touch of honey and mineral notes on the nose.
Fresh and lip-smacking good.
Reif Estate Vidal Icewine 2010
($24 for 200 ml, 92 points)
I know we’re not thinking about icewine quite yet, but I tried this recently and was impressed with the complexities a little age has brought to the table.
It has a sensational nose of compoted tropical fruit, peach, apricot, wild honey and caramel-toffee notes.
It’s rich, textured, viscous and luxurious on the palate with gorgeous flavours of marmalade, roasted almonds and apricot jam flavours that are perfectly integrated. A totally decadent icewine drinking at its peak right now.
• Fielding Unoaked Chardonnay 2011 ($15)
• Henry of Pelham Gamay 2010 ($15)
Rick Vansickle is a veteran journalist, wine reviewer and publisher of Wines in Niagara. His reviews appear each Friday in Bullet News. Previous reviews are archived under “Grapevine” tab on the Bullet News home page, under Wines in Niagara. Rick can be found on the web at www.winesinniagara.com.
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