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“Dear Karen, I sometimes see the word bench as part of a wine region’s name. When it comes to wine, what’s a bench?”— (Mike A. Traverse City, Michigan)    

Hi Mike. Right you are. In particular, the names of many of the appellations in Ontario, Canada, end with the word bench — There’s Twenty Mile Bench, Beamsville Bench, Short Hills Bench, plus several others. And — there are benches along Lake Okanagan in British Columbia, Canada, too. The geology can get pretty complex here, but essentially a bench is a lateral outcropping that runs (like a giant step or a terrace) across a sloped area interrupting the steep decline in elevation. Benches are usually formed by erosion, weathering, or successive deposits often left behind by a river or a retreating glacier. In Ontario, the benches that run parallel to the Niagara Escarpment are protected from strong cold winds and drain potentially damaging cold air away from the vines. In the hottest months of summer, the benches’ elevation catches cool breezes, and in winter, warm air over the adjacent lakes helps to moderate the climate. So in short, a bench is often an ideal place for a vineyard.

—Karen

Have a wine question for me? Great. I love questions, and I’ll do my best to get you the right answer. Send your question to [email protected]

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