2020 Vision

A bumper crop from Bachelder

2020 Vision

Following established practice, November 1 marks the launch of Bachelder’s Toussaints online release. This year’s selection includes a dizzying array of 11 single-vineyard chardonnays and eight pinot noirs from the 2020 vintage on offer.

The range of small-batch wines continues to grow, with case lots ranging from 22 cases (effectively one barrel) of Bator Old Vines Pinot Noir to 145 cases of Wismer Wingfield Vineyard Chardonnay and 146 cases of Spencer Morgan Pinot Noir.

2020 was a warm vintage in Niagara, which can often obscure differences in individual blocks of grapes. Ripeness trumps all. But Bachelder’s Burgundy training helps to preserve the distinct character of each vineyard. “Warm vintages can minimize terroir effects, but long elevage (aging in barrel) brings it back,” he explains.

Some new vineyards have joined the ranks: Spencer Morgan (a block from John Howard's Megalomaniac estate in Vineland), Patte Rouge (formerly Coyote’s Run Red Paw Vineyard) and Heather Laundry’s organic vineyard in Beamsville. One has fallen off, Cuesta, while Grimsby Hillside gains more representation with the addition of a second label.

Bachelder launched his own micro négociant label with the 2009 vintage, working with purchased grapes in three countries. Wines made in Oregon and Burgundy have fallen by the wayside as Niagara has become the focus.

As always these are delicious and distinguished wines, each label promises enjoyment — some offer more layers of complexity and an X factor that makes truly stand out. If you buy nothing else, make it the Hanck Pinot Noir 2020. I said the same thing last year about the inaugural 2019 vintage and continue to be captivated by wines from this site. Wismer-Foxcroft Nord Chardonnay 2020 once again delivers real promise and potential, but the assortment of stellar chardonnays makes it difficult to single out a favourite single vineyard selection. Hopefully my notes say something that will help guide your choices.

Unedited notes for the November release are collected here, listed by score. More information is available from the Bachelder website.

Pinot Noir
Hanck Pinot Noir 2020
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 95 PRICE: $55

Second vintage. Located adjacent to Wismer Parke, some 10 metres to the north. 118 cases.

Great balance and charm. Sweet, perfumed red fruit and fine structure. Lively with a beautifully ripe core of fruit. Ripe, pure, polished, and persistent. Very long. The bargain of the collection? I think so. Drink now-2030.

Wismer-Parke “Wild West End” Pinot Noir 2020
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 94+ PRICE: $65

A mystery clone. The far edge of the vineyard. 66 cases.

Scented and savoury. Bold and concentrated. Gorgeous, rich, sweet core of fruit with enough savoury/meaty character to add complexity and interest. Complex. Confident and long. A treat to taste, a pleasure to drink. Drink 2023-2032.

Wismer-Parke Pinot Noir 2020
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula 

SCORE: 94 PRICE: $55

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. 124 cases.

Appealing ripe and rich nose suggesting more fruit than usual. The classic Parke savoury/spice side is more subdued in this young sample. The core of dark fruit is inviting and harmonious; charming fruit, balance and length. Just the ticket. Drink now-2030.

Lowrey “Old Eastern Block” Pinot Noir 2020
St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 94 PRICE: $75

Eastern part of the vineyard planted in 1984 and 1988. 91 cases.

A lovely expression of Lowrey’s historic block. A wine with perfume and poise, substance and vibrancy. More defined chalky texture, a core of tart red fruit and nice freshness on the finish. Firm, well-balanced and transparent. Lowrey fans are sure to love this. Drink now-2032.

Lowrey Old Vines Pinot Noir 2020
St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 94 PRICE: $55

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 used to run through the property 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.” 87 cases.

Lowrey’s distinctive chalky texture shines through adding grip that maintains focus and tension on the palate. The fruit spectrum is sour cherry and tart red fruit, which makes this just on the right side of ripe, a remarkable feat in a warm vintage. More approachable in its youth than usual. Drink now-2030.

Spencer Morgan Pinot Noir 2020
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 93 PRICE: $49

First vintage. From high elevation planting at Megalomaniac, a different illustration of Twenty Mile Bench. 146 cases.

An exciting addition to the range. A point of contrast offers a modern, rich and ripe expression of pinot noir that’s sure to turn heads. The big, bold core of dark fruit rules the day. More extracted and depth than most, dry end. Drink now-2026.

Saunders Bas Pinot Noir 2020
Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 92 PRICE: $49

Younger vines, planted in 2011 and 2015. Organic vineyard. Small berries, “smaller than Quebec blueberries” according to Bachelder. 46 cases.

Convincing nose. Concentrated palate with real sinew and spine. Spicy complexity. Needs time. Drink 2023-2027.

Bator Pinot Noir 2020
Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $49

First vintage. This is the barrel that was kept separate from the Bator P.T.L.G. Gamay Noir-Pinot Noir 2020 released in April. 22 cases.

A lovely, juicy expression of Niagara-on-the-Lake pinot noir if a touch simple compared to the rest of the lineup. Utterly refreshing and pure. Expressive. Drink now-2026.

Grimsby Hillside Frontier Block Chardonnay 2020
Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 95 PRICE: $49

81 cases.

An inviting nose with richness and expressive fruit. Excellent combination of salty minerality, zesty citrus and plush yellow apple and pear. Weight, ripeness of fruit and freshness. Long aftertaste, with complexity to develop. Drink now-2028. 

Hill of Wingfield Chardonnay 2020
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 95 PRICE: $75

Grapes sourced from the highest elevation and furthest from Lake Ontario parcel of Wismer-Wingfield vineyard located on the east side of Victoria Street in Vineland. As a result, this is latest ripening block, picking is 10 days to two weeks after other Vineland vineyards harvested by Bachelder. Formerly labelled Wismer Wingfield Ouest Vineyard Chardonnay, if price is any indication, this is presented as the flagship of chardonnay collection. 120 cases.

Complex, beguiling nose. Satisfying, classic style. A wine with weight and texture balanced by beautiful bright acid. (Remarkable to see the ripeness of fruit without losing freshness in a warm vintage.) Lots of depth. Truly interesting even at this early stage, with promise to develop nicely. Quite long. Drink now-2028.

Wismer-Foxcroft “Nord” Chardonnay 2020
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 95 PRICE: $55

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 Nord parcel is located on the west side of Victoria Street in Vineland. 119 cases.

Rich without being heavy. Layers of flavour, depth, persistence while still vibrant and fresh. Checks all the boxes: texture, density, and subtlety. Lingers. Drink now-2029.

Saunders Haut Chardonnay 2020
Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 95 PRICE: $49

Just 3.9km from the lake, but on the Bench at Mountainview road, Saunders is organically-grown on clay, silt, sand & limestone. 76 cases.

A return to form. Mineral and ripe nose. Expressive, rich and complex palate suggesting oatmeal, oyster shell and lime zest. Truly remarkable full and flavourful style. Sophisticated. Drink now-2027.

Bai Xu “Vignes de 1981” Chardonnay 2020
Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 94 PRICE: $49

Second vintage. Some of the oldest vinifera plantings in the region, located 6 km from Lake Ontario, roughly 4 km from the Niagara River. Clone 95 chardonnay, planted 1981. 119 cases.

Lots of life and density. A core of fruit that shows these old vines to best effect. Ripe yellow apple, strong lemon/lime streak making for an effective one-two punch of power and precision. Rewarding. Drink now-2026.

Grimsby Hillside Red Clay Barn Block Chardonnay 2020
Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 94 PRICE: $49

100 cases.

Love the purity of expression here. A refined chardonnay with richness and refreshment. Finesse and focus. Concentration. A real mouthful, with balance, intensity and length. Distinctive and delicious. Drink now-2028.

Willms “Vignes de 1983” Chardonnay 2020
Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 94 PRICE: $49

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. 94 cases.

Very rich and broad (by Niagara standards, no one would mistake this for Rombauer). Concentrated and powerful with its richness underpinned by zesty acidity. Truly pleasing. Welcoming fruit, with a persistence rich and rewarding finish. Drink now-2025.

Wismer-Wingfield Chardonnay 2020
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 94 PRICE: $60

Super rich and inviting nose. Concentrated and broad, with backbone and a remarkably long finish. Flavours suggest yellow apple and pear, ripe but not too ripe. Fine, mineral rich, broadens out on the finish. Drink now-2028.

Laundry Organic Chardonnay 2020
Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $39

First vintage. Chardonnay musque from longstanding organic wine grower Heather Laundry’s vineyard on the shore of Lake Ontario. 27 cases.

And now for something completely different… An elegant take on musque. The oily texture is a sign of the variety, but there’s welcome restraint thanks to the vibrancy. Appealling. Enjoyable. Drink now-2024. 

Patte Rouge Chardonnay 2020
Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $45

The vineyard formerly known as Red Paw. 66 cases

Ripe appley nose. Less concentration and interest on the palate. Toffee and caramel accents. Pleasant, easy-going but not much complexity. Drink now-2025.

Bator Old Vines Chardonnay 2020
Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $45

Niagara-on-the-Lake vineyard. Bachelder works with chardonnay, pinot noir and gamay from the site. 43 cases.

An attractive mix of yellow apple, cream and toffee/butterscotch. Rich start and refreshing finish, but not as distinctive as others in the lineup. Drink now-2025.

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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.