People



Harald Thiel

Vigneron / Proprietor

Since he was a young man Harald has had the dream of owning a premium quality artisanal winery. In 2003, after a successful business career in the audiovisual industry, he and his family founded Hidden Bench Estate Winery with the goal of producing premium quality estate grown wines, which Canadians could serve with pride side by side with the best wines in the world. As a hands-on fully engaged owner he is actively involved in the day to day operations of the winery from vineyard to bottle and provides the winery its strategic direction and focus. A passionate foodie and wine consumer, he is also one of the founders of the Upper Canada Cheese Company and the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Festival. A strong believer in giving back, he sits on a number of not–for–profit boards, is the current Chair of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and has spearheaded a number of local environmental causes to protect the Beamsville Bench area. In his spare time Harald loves to read, cook, fly fish and ski.

Vital Wine Stats:

Aha! Wine: 1970 Chateau Cheval Blanc
Favourite Pinot Noir Pairing: Butterflied Leg of Lamb grilled over vines
Favourite Chardonnay Pairing: Steamed Canadian Lobster with clarified butter
Favourite Riesling Pairing: Alsace Tarte/ Flammkuchen or Atlantic Oysters
Favourite HB wine: Love them all equally but differently!!!




Jay Johnston

Winemaker

Following an inspiring food and wine trip to Canada’s west coast in 2002, Jay returned to Toronto with one thing in mind: Leave 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 was a part of the Hidden Bench team previously, and we are thrilled to welcome him back as our winemaker. Passionate about cool-climate varietals, with their finesse and their delicacy, Jay feels back at home to be focused on Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Chardonnay in the HB estate vineyards. With a deep passion for terroir, a desire to farm our vineyards to their greatest potential and a profound respect for cellarwork, Jay is extremely excited to be returning to the Hidden Bench family. 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.

Vital Wine Stats:

Aha! Wine: A 1999 Pinot Noir from the Okanagan while on his honeymoon!
Favourite Pinot Noir Pairing: Everything!
Favourite Chardonnay Pairing: Locally raised Berkshire Pork
Favourite Riesling Pairing: Seafood and Shellfish
Favourite HB wine: Roman’s Block Riesling




Alex Baines

Assistant Winemaker

In January of 2017 Alex joined our team after having completed his degree at Niagara College in Viticulture and Winemaking. Originally from Finchingfield in Essex County, England he has completed more than 10 vintages at different premium producers in California, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. The small quality focused team at HB and the multifaceted responsibilities is what attracted Alex to join our small winery team. Alex has a keen interest in organic and biodynamic viniculture and will be a key assist to our viticulture team in the ongoing implementation of our biodynamic programme. When not in the cellar Alex enjoys being active hiking the Bench or playing soccer a couple of times a week year round.

Vital Wine Stats:

Aha! Wine: 2010 Pyramid Valley Earth Smoke Pinot Noir
Favourite Pinot Noir Pairing: Duck Confit Leg, Seared Duck Breast with Red Cabbage
Favourite Chardonnay Pairing: Roast Chicken with roasted potato and seasonal veggies
Favourite Riesling Pairing: Blue Cheese and Pear Wood Fired Pizza
Favourite HB Wine: Felseck Pinot Noir




Mike Boland

Assistant Retail Manager

An ongoing curiosity has driven Mike from graduate studies in classical political theory, philosophy, policy and systems analysis and history, to an in-depth and extensive study & practice of cool-climate wine making in Niagara. Mike joins our team with a WSET Advanced Certification and multiple harvests at some of Niagara’s best cool-climate producers. He chose to join the Hidden Bench team to apply and share his knowledge in providing a memorable experience to our visitors in the tasting room, as well as providing logistical support to our licensee and distribution channels. In his spare time, he actively participates in Pug dog rescue, gardening all manner of heirloom fruits and vegetables, scouring the dining & drinking landscapes of Hamilton & Buffalo, drinking bourbon and good wine, and visiting, reading about, eating and cooking, all manner of Southern fare.

Vital Wine Stats:

Aha! Wine: 1991 Chateau d’Yquem
Favourite Pinot Noir Pairing: Hoppin John with Carolina Gold Rice & Sea Island Red Pea Gravy
Favourite Chardonnay Pairing: Campfire Roasted Marshmallows
Favourite Riesling Pairing: Scallop Ceviche & Corn Tortilla Chips with Queso Fresco
Favourite HB wine: Nuit Blanche




Maura Casey

Assistant Retail Manager

In July 2017 Maura joined us as Assistant Retail Manager. With a business degree from St. Francis Xavier University, a wine business certification from Niagara College, coupled with a passion for wine, gives her a great foundation for her role at HB. In June of 2017, Maura completed her WSET Diploma with Merit from the WSET Headquarters in London. After returning from studying and working as a sommelier in London, England, Maura was happy to hear Hidden Bench was looking for someone with her interests to join the team. The ability to be so hands on in many areas of Hidden Bench, and the quality of the wine, is what attracted her to this newly created position. Her role is to help you enjoy your time at our estate, as well managing our website and other direct to consumer functions. A proud Newfoundlander, she enjoys heading back to the Atlantic Ocean as often as possible to visit her sister and brother-in-law in Halifax, or her family in St. John’s.

Vital Wine Stats:

Aha! Wine: 2007 Esk Valley, Gimblett Gravels, Syrah
Favourite Pinot Noir Pairing: Pancetta Stuffed Mushrooms
Favourite Chardonnay Pairing: Oven Roasted Guinea Fowl
Favourite Riesling Pairing: Peanut Satay
Favourite HB wine: Felseck Riesling




Melissa Marynissen

Hospitality Manager

Spending most of her childhood in Niagara, Melissa always felt a connection to wine, but it was not until many years later that her experiences brought Melissa full circle back into Niagara’s wine country. She spent 10 years working in the hospitality industry in Toronto, but it was not until after getting married that Melissa studied with CAPS and began her Sommelier career at Langdon Hall, where she was able to fine tune her attention to detail and guest experiences. She finally made her way back to Niagara in 2015, immersing herself into Niagara wine and culture. Melissa is excited to join the Hidden Bench management team and to share her deep industry knowledge and experience. When away from the winery Melissa enjoys spending time with her husband, son, and two dogs exploring Niagara.

Vital Wine Stats:

Aha! Wine:1996 Marynissen Gewurztraminer
Favourite Pinot Noir Pairing: Seared Ahi Tuna with Pinot Noir braised leeks
Favourite Chardonnay Pairing: Potato Crusted Halibut
Favourite Riesling Pairing: Fresh Mushroom Soup
Favourite HB wine: Nuit Blanche




Joel Williams

Vineyard Manager

Originally from New Brunswick, Joel’s love of quality focused organic agriculture and great wine has led him to his current role at Hidden Bench. Quality driven with an acute attention to detail, Joel leads a dedicated team of 12 in the maintenance and continual improvement of HB’s 32 hectares of certified organic vineyards. A CAPS certified sommelier, Joel’s understanding of the direct link between precision organic viticulture, the winemaking process and the final product makes him a vital component of the HB viniculture team. Prior to joining HB Joel attended St Thomas University in New Brunswick and acquired valuable experience working with a couple of the top Niagara producers.  When he is not working, Joel loves to cook, enjoy great wine and forage in the natural surroundings of the Beamsville Bench with his wife, Jen and their son, Sawyer

Vital Wine Stats:

Aha Wine: 1996 Frei Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon
Favourite Pinot Noir Pairing: Braised Rabbit with Morels
Favourite Chardonnay Pairing: Seared Scallops with butternut squash purée
Favourite Riesling Pairing: Charcuterie
Favourite HB Wine: Felseck Pinot Noir