Terroir Hunting with Thomas Bachelder

A Mixed case of Bachelder Single Vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

By David Lawrason

Rarely does our group get so excited by one set of wines.”

Several Canadian wineries are now producing exciting wines from single grape varieties, from single vintages, from different vineyards. It could be called terroir hunting—exposing the differences, even if subtle, that single locations exhibit. Thomas Bachelder of Niagara is digging deepest and offering the widest range, and WineAlign is very pleased to be able to offer a mixed case of Bachelder single vineyard chardonnays and pinot noirs that enable you to explore from the comfort of your own dinner tables. (There are still a few more cases left.) Read more about Bachelder Wines below.

The Terroir Hunting with Thomas Bachelder Happy Hour took place on Saturday, March 5th. David Lawrason and Thomas tasted and discussed the wines and their terroirs in the mixed case offer. Here is a recording of the Happy Hour in case you missed it or would like to watch it again.

The terroir hunters are important because they are accelerating the process of defining sub-regions that regulators, such as in the VQA of Ontario, eventually recognize as being different enough to have their names on the labels. As is the case in Europe where there are hundreds of appellations, large and tiny. Why this is important to consumers of Ontario wine may not be readily apparent now when the quantities are small, availability is scarce, and the prices are higher. But efforts like this by Thomas Bachelder are an ideal chance to taste the progress.

I met Quebecer Thomas Bachelder, a fellow wine writer at the time, in the early 1990s and travelled with him in Europe. He became enraptured with making wine, especially from pinot noir and chardonnay, grapes that express terroir with more precision and detail than many other varieties, especially in cool climates. He moved to Burgundy and plumbed the depths of the world’s most terroir-driven region. He then travelled to Oregon, another cooler climate enclave, to make pinot and chardonnay there.

In the late 1990s, Thomas, being a Canadian with experience in Burgundy, was asked to become the winemaker for Le Clos Jordanne, an ambitious Franco-Canadian joint venture in Ontario between Vincor of Niagara and Boisset of Burgundy. He hadn’t seriously considered Niagara for terroir-driven wine at the time, but as his understanding grew with each passing vintage and new vineyard discovery, he developed a passion for Niagara. (VQA sub-appellations were created in Niagara in 2005. The first release of a full range of the Le Clos Jordanne wines was in 2004.) He is now all-in on Niagara and has shelved his business making wines from Burgundy and Oregon. But I’ve learned to never say anything is final with Thomas, who is among the most restless and inquisitive winemakers of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, I have met in my 35-year career.

Bachelder Wines is something of a negotiant business, sourcing and buying grapes from various sites, with the grapes being processed at Southbrook Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, then aged in what he calls “Bat Caves” number one and two in facilities on the Escarpment. The business is managed by his wife Mary Delaney-Bachelder. The quantities of each wine produced are small, with labels multiplying each year.

Thomas and Mary

In his latest annual release called “Toussaints” (All Saints) he made seven single-vineyard chardonnays and seven pinot noirs, not including some single-barrel wines bottled in magnums. The WineAlign case brings you three chardonnays and three pinots, each reviewed, rated and curated by the WineAlign “cru” of critics. We have been tasting together for years now, averaging just over 200 wines every month. And rarely does our group get so excited by one set of wines. Our scores are routinely in the low- to mid-nineties and I have given my first score over 95 for a Canadian table wine.

We won’t detail each wine here. They are fully reviewed by all of us, so just follow the links below. And for even more background detail on each you can go to https://bachelderniagara.com.

There are 120 mixed 12-bottle cases available (six bottles times two). To get the maximum effect and pleasure from your case, I suggest you arrange one fine post-Covid tasting and dinner for eight to ten people and open six bottles, one of each. You then still have a set to repeat the exercise after some maturation, or to dabble personally one bottle at a time in the months and years ahead. Or, better yet, taste along with Thomas and me during the Bachelder Wine Happy Hour on Zoom on Saturday, March 5 at 5 p.m., where we will discuss the six wines in the case. You will have received your case by then.

Bachelder Wines in the Case: Price: $612/case Bottles   Score
Wismer Parke “Wild West End” Pinot 2019 2 96
Lowrey “Old Eastern Block” Pinot 2019 2 95
Cuesta Pinot Noir 2019 2 92
Wismer Wingfield “Ouest” Vineyard Chardonnay 2019 2 95
Grimsby Hillside “North Slope, Starry Skies” Chardonnay 2019   2 97
Wismer Foxcroft “Nord” Chardonnay 2019 2 95