Angelic Upstarts

Bachelder's 2020 Toussaints release

Angelic Upstarts

Last November when Thomas and Mary Bachelder sought to sell their wines online, they were anxious about how the cyber play would be received. Canadians were accomplished online shoppers except when it came to wine it seemed. Had the couple built up enough of a reputation over their 10 years in Niagara that shoppers would commit to purchase without first tasting the wines? Would wine lovers click to check out their premium selection of single vineyards chardonnays and pinot noirs?

Those small lot selections sold briskly, which helped put to rest any fears the couple may have had. Since COVID-19 arrived on the scene, every winery and agent has since moved at least some portion of their sales online. It turns out that doing what came naturally helped the Bachelders pave the way forward.

Which brings us to the current slate of wines available as part of the 2020 Toussaints release, so named as it’s launched on November 1, All Saints’ Day. The lineup is smaller than last year’s offering, which included selections from 2015 and 2016, including the less expensive Les Villages chardonnay and pinot noir labels, blended from barrels that were declassified from the single vineyard bottlings.

The tidy selection of 2018 wines available now makes consumers focus on one harvest and how it was handled across the different parcels and vineyards that Bachelder works with around Niagara. Now that the April and November release cycle is ingrained, this is what consumers can expect going forward.

portraits courtesy Elena Galey-Pride,

The mostly dry conditions and generally warm weather experienced in the summer and fall of 2018 created good conditions for pinot noir and chardonnay. As always is the case in Niagara, meticulous attention to detail in the vineyard was necessary and rewarded, which was certainly true for the grapes grown on the Wismer properties in Vineland and by the Lowrey and Willms families in Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

The release included mixed packs of chardonnay and pinot noir that sold out quickly. At the time of posting, inventory remains good for individual bottles, with supply for the small lot Lowrey Pinot Noir from the 1984 Plantation dwindling the quickest.

If you buy nothing else, make it the Wismer-Foxcroft Nord Chardonnay 2018. While there’s justifiable excitement surrounding the Wismer-Wingfield Ouest Chardonnay 2018, to my taste, Foxcroft is extremely enticing right now and has the capacity to age — the best of all worlds! You cannot go far wrong with any of the pinot noirs, but, once again, my head and heart combine to push forward Bachelder Wismer-Parke Wild West End Pinot Noir 2018 for the same reason. Drink now or hold.

Bachelder Willms Vineyard 1983 Plantation Old Vines Chardonnay 2018
Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 91 PRICE: $44.95

Willms Vineyard, which provided the grapes for the original Sandstone label that was part of the founding partnership for 13th Street Winery, is located between two bodies of water, some six km from Lake Ontario, and about four km from the Niagara River. Soils are combination of silt, loamy-clay, gravel, limestone and sand. 1,196 Bottles produced.

The richest and the ripest of the current crop of chardonnays, this has an overriding honeyed character, with a mix of nectarine, yellow apple/pear, buttery and leesy accents. It’s powerful but focused, thanks to a seam of vibrant acidity that runs from start to finish. The persistence and purity stand out and are reason enough to cellar for two to four years to see how this exciting Niagara-on-the-Lake chardonnay develops. Drink now to 2025.

Bachelder Wismer-Foxcroft Nord Chardonnay 2018 
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula 

SCORE: 93 PRICE: $47.95

Located 5.4 km from the lake, at an altitude of 110 metres, the Wismer-Foxcroft vineyard is a steep site with stony-silty and limestone soils, and beautiful view of Lake Ontario. The Foxcroft ‘Nord’ parcel (“more characterful, more savoury and defined than our ‘Sud’ parcel,” according to Bachelder) is located on the west side of Victoria Street in Vineland. 1,392 Bottles produced.

One of the highlights of the new online release of single vineyard wines from veteran wine maker Thomas Bachelder, the Wismer-Foxcroft Nord selection is produced from vines planted in 1993. This is made in the rich, ripe style that Bachelder is known for, with ripe citrus and buttery notes nicely balanced by vibrant acidity, minerality and a lingering, refreshing finish. Despite the warmth of the vintage, this is classic and age worthy. Drink now to 2028.

Bachelder Wismer-Wingfield Ouest Chardonnay 2018 
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula 

SCORE: 94 PRICE: $47.95

Located 6.8 km from Lake Ontario, at an altitude of 160 metres, the Wingfield parcel sits on well-drained slope on the east side of Victoria Street in Vineland. The vineyard is the highest elevation and furthest from the lake of all of the parcels Bachelder works with — 50 metres in altitude and 1,000 metres further from the Lake than other Wismer parcels). Grapes are harvested 10 days to two weeks after the other Chardonnay vineyards. 1,632 Bottles produced.

Hailed by Thomas Bachelder as his grand cru, this is an expressive and ripe model of chardonnay. The mix of white peach, apricot and citrus fruit with spice and leesy notes support his claim. This is rich and refined, with vitality and a racy, refreshing finish that is awash with mineral, apricot and spice notes. More time in bottle would be beneficial to such a superb calibre of white wine. Drink 2021 to 2028.

Bachelder Wismer-Parke Pinot Noir 2018
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 92 PRICE: $47.95

Wismer-Parke sits 5.4 km from Lake Ontario, at an altitude of 110 metres, and features reddish magnesium and dolomitic-limestone clay soils with a solid silt component. Planted in 1999 (115 and 667 Pinot Noir clones on 3309 rootstalk) to the south of Highway 8 on the Bench, on a well-drained slope on the east side of Victoria Street in Vineland. 1,080 Bottles produced.

Fragrant and fresh nose suggests ripe cherry and berry fruit with some sweet spice notes. Some savoury (that spice again with something more herbal) and mineral accents add interest to the ripe core of cherry fruit. Youthful, just starting to hit its stride. Drink 2021 to 2028

Bachelder Wismer-Parke Wild West End Pinot Noir 2018
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 93 PRICE: $55

Just 50 metres from the centre of the Wismer-Parke vineyard, there is a little north-western oriented slope planted to a mystery clone, which has been isolated to produce this small lot wine. 600 bottles produced.

More structure and stuffing than the Wismer-Parke single vineyard as one would expect. More fruit intensity too. A more-ish style pinot overall, really juicy and fine-grained, layered and intriguing, powerful and pure. The most crowd-pleasing style of the bunch. Drink now to 2028.

Bachelder Lowrey Vineyard Old Vines Pinot Noir 2018
St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 92 PRICE: $47.95

Located five km from the Niagara River, and under its considerable influence, the Lowrey vineyard has complex soil variability and limestone content (due to both its glacial heritage, and the fact that the river actually used to run through the property many eons ago). Getting enough heat is never an issue here in St. David's, which is some 13 km from Lake Ontario and is locally considered a bit of a "suntrap." The growing season usually benefits from a 10- to 14-day head start in the spring. 1,044 bottles produced.

Fragrant nose defined by berry and exotic spice notes. Complex with bold cherry and earthy / faded floral notes that add lift and perfume to the finish. Very floral and persistent aftertaste. Youthful tannins underneath those layers of ripeness, which will soften over time. No rush to drink this. Drink 2022 to 2032.

Bachelder Lowrey Vineyard 1984 Plantation Old Vines Pinot Noir 2018
St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 93 PRICE: $65

From the Eastern parcel of the Lowrey vineyard and the oldest vines, planted in 1984. 588 bottles produced.

Heady and perfumed nose. Bold fruit flavours with juicy cherry notes leading the charge. Spice and floral accents follow behind. Drying tannins on finish that need time to integrate, unwind. More firm than the Lowrey single vineyard, with more upside for development. One to watch. Drink 2023 to 2032. 

About the Author

Christopher Waters

Christopher Waters

Christopher Waters has been writing about wine for two decades. He is the wine and spirits columnist at The Globe and Mail, education director of IWEG Drinks Academy and a WSET certified instructor at the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, Brock University.
For 21 years, he was the editor/co-founder of Canada's largest circulation wine publication, VINES, and author of the nationally syndicated column, Waters & Wine.
An internationally recognized wine judge, Christopher represents Canada for the Six Nations Wine Challenge and served as head judge and organizer of the InterVin International Wine Awards from 2009-2019. He was awarded the Business Citizen of the Year at the 2011 Niagara Grape and Wine Festival and was received the VQA Promoters Award for Education, also in 2011.
Christopher has been organizing and conducting unforgettable corporate and private fine wine events for 20+ years. He has developed and conducted masterclasses and seminars and moderated panels for organizations, such as The Wine Marketing Association of Ontario, Wines of British Columbia, Wines of Chile, Wines of Germany and Wines of South Africa.