Ontario has a true gem in Hidden Bench Estate Winery in the heart of Beamsville Bench. Founded in 2003 by Harald Thiel and family, Hidden Bench’s varietal focus is Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. Their reputation is internationally acclaimed.
The winemaker is Jay Johnston. Jay was in the software business when he made a trip to the west coast and became infatuated with wines. Leaving the software industry behind for a life in vines and wines. Since then Jay received his formal wine education through Niagara College’s Viticulture & Winemaking program, graduating in 2005.
Jay Johnston was previously the associate winemaker at Hidden Bench from 2009 to 2012 before becoming winemaker at Flat Rock Cellars. He returned as winemaker at Hidden Bench in 2017.
Hidden Bench winemaking philosophy “terroir-driven” and “non-interventionist” All grapes are handpicked from their estate vineyards into 10kg baskets and then carefully sorted at the winery by the “triage team” so as to ensure that only the cleanest and best fruit is used to make their wines. All white wine grapes receive a single “triage” and then are whole punch pressed to assure the gentlest extraction of juice. All red grapes, particularly our Pinot Noir, are bunch sorted and destemmed and then receive a secondary individual berry “triage” prior to being placed in our oak and stainless steel fermenters.
Besides wine Jay is know to like cats. When he isn’t in our vineyard, he is often found as a defensive player for Hamilton United Old Timers soccer team, or cheering on the Arsenal Football Club with his wife and two boys.