For those who want a unique, outdoor experience in Niagara Wine Country – the Beamsville Bench Vineyard Trail is an ideal day-trip destination. The trail (funded by the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation and the Beamsville Bench Winery Association) is 4.5 kms long and runs through seven wineries- connecting one of the most gorgeous parts of Niagara by foot.
If you haven’t yet visited this part of Niagara- it can come as quite a rolling-hilled, picturesque, pleasant, surprise. It is a lovely combination of rugged escarpment (along the Bruce Trail) and design wineries (rustic and modern) with both intimate and jaw-dropping views respectively.
So, without further ado- here is the first in a series of Local Guides we will be featuring in the coming year. I have included a few pictures from my latest visit to get you motivated. The wineries are also harvesting right now, so you are likely to get lucky and see the harvesting process up close.
Fall colours and fresh air. A perfect pairing for the Beamsville Bench Vineyard Trail!
The first thing to know is that you have a couple of options to enjoy the Bench and the Vineyard trail. The easiest option is to drive to any of the wineries listed and just visit one or two neighbouring wineries by foot. Or, you could choose to hike along the Upper loop or a Lower loop (each route is described in detail here ). *This is the same information you will find on the back of the Beamsville Bench Vineyard Trail Map that you can pick up at any of the wineries. Do stop in and pick up a map; it is handy to orientate yourself along the trail.
The regular Beamsville Bench trail through the vineyards is fairly gentle. The Bruce Trail Side Trail -a wooded trail which can be added to the Lower Loop- is more of a refreshing (and rewarding) climb.
For the full-Bench experience I recommend walking the entire trail (Upper Loop + Lower Loop + Bruce Trail Side Trail). If you walk at a fairly steady pace-and stop at a few of the wineries for tastings- this will take you a good few hours.
If you only have time for one loop, I would suggest the Upper Loop. It has a lengthier walk through the vineyards and the views are just a little bit longer and a little bit more epic. Did I just say that? Yes, I did. The views are impressive!
Note: Before you get to the Bench, and depending which way you are coming from, I suggest stopping at Stoney Ridge Winery (Vineland) or Upper Canada Cheese (Jordan) for a selection of cheese. De la Terre Bakery (closed Sunday) rounds out the picnic with some bread and quinoa salad. Apples from a roadside stand complete the basket. You are allowed to snack on your nibbleys on the patios of the tasting rooms or you could go all out and bring a little picnic blanket and basket and perhaps just a little Dillon’s gin like I sometimes do. I do also like to bring Provision’s Red Pepper Jelly to sweeten up my cheese plate.
Now that you have your hiking snacks, here is how I would approach a full-afternoon experience on the Bench.
First order of business. Don’t be timid trying to find the path. Sometimes it is hard to find the signs, or wonder where to start/go next. Sometimes the trail is just part of the vineyard rows and you kind of wonder if you are going the right way. Rest assured, you are in the right place (if not exactly on the trail) and you will eventually get from one winery to another.
I would suggest a start at Mike Weir Winery. You can park here as you can at any of the wineries. There are spectacular views and from here you can orientate yourself to the Bench. (*Try the Pinot Noir or Cab Franc)
Turn left out of Mike Weir and walk up the lane (or vineyard row) to Fielding Estate Winery. (*Cab Franc)
Next, head back down Fielding’s lane/vineyard towards Organized Crime Winery. (*The Mischief)
Continue north (down the Escarpment) towards secluded, rustic Hidden Bench. (*Nuit Blanche).
From Hidden Bench snake your way through the vineyard rows towards Mountainview Road passing the ever-so-photogenic white barn.
After the white barn you will have to walk north down along Mountainview road (unavoidable but it is short and still pretty enough).
At the bottom of the hill, turn right along the Riesling Trail into Thirty Bench (*Riesling).
Cross over the road to Rosewood Estates (*The Mead!). Make sure to stop in and enjoy the peace of the pond on your way. The view from the pond up to the winery is lovely and provides a different type of photo op.
After visiting Rosewood, head south up the hill through the vineyards to Angel’s Gate (*Mountainview Pinot Noir). Angel’s Gate has a stellar patio with a gorgeous view. Good spot to stop and get your snack on before heading into the forest.
Behind Angel’s Gate you will see a sign for Bruce Trail Access. It is located right where the vineyard rows end and where the forest begins.
Head into the woods! Follow the trail and the signs. There are two types of signs. One is the large white Beamsville Bench Trail signs. The other is the small diamond-shaped yellow signs. They are fairly easy to spot once you know to look for them. They will encourage you to find your way through the brush and up the hill. (This part of the hike is a bit strenuous so this recommendation isn’t a good match for low mobility).
When you surface from the Bruce Trail portion of the Vineyard trail you will be a bit north of Organized Crime Winery back on Mountainview Road. Back track a bit down the hill and head up Organized Crime’s laneway.
You can then retrace your steps back towards Fielding and Mike Weir Winery. When you are able to pry yourself away from the vista, you can hop back into your car and go pick up the wine you set aside on your wine tour. Post-hike reward.
If your hike has worked up more of an appetite- there are two sit-down favourite restaurants close-by: The Good Earth (*Bistro open till 5 on weekends so plan accordingly) and August Restaurant (8/9 pm*) Both offer some of the tastiest, freshest food in Niagara. A great way to end a day of exploring the Beamsville Bench.
See you out on the trail!
*Check restaurant website for updated hours