Emma Garner

Seated in the lush fruit belt just below the belly of Lake Ontario is where you’ll find the century-old brick town of Beamsville. “It’s close enough to the action of Toronto or St. Catharines but still far enough away that you get that small-town feel when you are there,” says Emma Garner. Having travelled to Australia, New Zealand, France and Germany, she never thought she’d settle down. That is, until she discovered the terroir of the Niagara region.

Emma had always been interested in science—specifically archaeology, forensics, and oenology. Like many of us though, she wasn’t sure how these interests would manifest in her career. Pursuing an education felt misguided without a goal. After taking some time to travel the world, she decided to pursue Oenology at Brock University in St.Catharines, Ontario.

“After travelling some more and learning about wine, I realized that it’s something that creates moments and brings people together. I also recognized that it’s much more interesting to discuss wine at dinner parties than dead bodies or digging in the dirt.” Who could blame her?

“I came to Niagara to go to Brock and never thought I would stay in this area. I had been bitten by the travel bug and wanted to get my degree and hit the road again. That changed when I was working at the tasting bar at Inniskillin Wines,” she says.

“Now I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

Winemaking in Niagara

She settled down in Niagara with her partner and began honing her practice at Truis Winery, then Thirty Bench Wine Makers.

Despite her decision to settle down, her love of exploration has never dampened. “I get inspiration from a lot of places. Finding a region that produces amazing Rieslings or sparklings really gets me thinking. I’m not trying to recreate what those regions are making, however, I like to utilize some of their techniques to see how they affect our wines.”

It was her history of exploring that led Emma to recognize the special terroir of the Niagara region—she could tell that the founders of Thirty Bench Winery had spent time with the land in order to decide on the right location. Based on the Niagara Escarpment, a cliff that plunges at the falls and stretches out across Ontario, New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois, “The Beamsville Bench” is a slim plateau that slouches from the Escarpment to the land below. Carved out from old sea, time, weathered limestone and shale, Thirty Bench Winery’s sub-appellation has been taking shape for the past 450 million years.


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That, and the vineyard has had a cult following that dates to when Emma was in university, specifically for their Rieslings and Bordeaux Reds. Their secret? A Small Lot program.

Thirty Bench Winery’s Small Lot Program

Thirty Bench Winery’s portfolio is home to a range of award-winning wines across nine different varietals. Their Small Lot program has been met with critical acclaim. In 2015 Emma won Winemaker of the Year at the Ontario Wine Awards and shortly after Thirty Bench Winery was named Canada’s Best Small Winery by WineAlign. If you’re curious how small, check the bottle! Each label is marked with the exact number of cases made for that vintage.

“I like to create wines that represent the space in which they are made.By making wines in small lots, we are able to really focus on every detail required to make it—from how much crop to leave in the vineyard to the fermentation temperature.”

Emma’s specialty is Rieslings. She uses a signature method of fermenting at a low temperature to enhance the aromatic compounds and add complexity to the otherwise sweet wine. That, combined with the terroir of the bench is one of the reasons the vineyard creates some of the most unique Rieslings available. A similar method is applied to her red wine portfolio, too.


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Due to a high volume of traffic, tastings at Thirty Bench Winery are by walk-in only and are served in a rustic wooden barn with large windows facing the rolling vineyard and trees outback. Doing their part to make Niagara a ‘must-visit’ destination, through the winter, the vineyard is transformed into a snowy arcadia where activities include snowshoeing with tastings around the vineyard and a warm fire to wrap up the experience. When temperatures increase, the vineyard offers tasting hikes around the bench too.

Award Winning Canadian Winery

Canada is relatively new to the wine industry, which means that each time Emma and her team win an award at Thirty Bench Winery at the international level, it’s a huge win not just for themselves, but also for the industry as a whole. Being a small Canadian winery and receiving such accolades is a massive success.

“When we receive international awards for our wines it means a tremendous amount to myself and the team.

“It’s not only a win for us at Thirty Bench, but it’s also a victory for the Canadian wine industry. We are a very young industry so when we are able to create some waves on the global scene it is certainly worth celebrating! It’s also significant for myself and the team knowing that our hard work has paid off and we have created something really special.”


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When asked further about her approach to winemaking, Emma says, “small really is beautiful.” Whether in the details, vineyards or towns that make Niagara what it is, we couldn’t agree more.

“I’m very fortunate to be able to make wine from such a special vineyard,” says Emma. “I love it because of its unique terroir and how it is a place where you can create world-class wines in an unassuming location.” Emma goes on to mention her love for the area encapsulates Beamsville, too. The area is abundant in restaurants, wineries, and breweries. Not to mention it’s where she met her husband, who was born and raised in Niagara. She credits him as being a large part of the reason why she fell in love with the area. “It’s a great spot to establish a life together and start a family.” Emma warmly continues, “I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”


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Thirty Bench Wine Makers
Website: http://www.thirtybench.com/
4281 Mountainview Rd, Beamsville, ON L0R 1B2

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