Sheltered from the stronger prevailing southwesterly winds by the Niagara Escarpment, and enjoying lake breezes reflected by the escarpment ridge, the benchland macroclimate is well moderated throughout the year. With the higher elevation, temperatures warm gradually in the spring, encouraging later bud-burst and avoiding risks of frost. In the fall, the escarpment slopes trap warm lake air and allow for an extended season for grape maturation.
The benchlands begin below the ridge of the Niagara Escarpment, a prominent feature cutting across the Niagara Peninsula. Below the forested ridge, a myriad of north-facing slopes characterize this appellation. The topography ranges from a distinct bench in the west Beamsville Bench, backed by steep cliff faces, through a double bench in the Twenty Mile Bench, to undulating hills in the east Short Hills Bench. Another important topographic feature is the many streams and their tributaries whose headwaters rise from the escarpment. These streams have cut through the land, creating multiple slopes, and are important both as a groundwater source and to provide water drainage during the spring melt.
From highly variable soils consisting of water-stratified clay and silt to rich calcareous clay loam, most of this area’s soils are deep and moderately drained with good water-holding capacities. Combined with groundwater flowing from the base of the escarpment during the dry summers, these soils provide steady moisture to vines throughout the growing season, while the slopes provide excellent natural drainage. The fossil-enriched sedimentary dolomites that underlie this appellation contribute to the distinct minerality found in many bench wines.
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