Hollywood Ending

2021 (Thomas' Version)

Hollywood Ending

It is fitting that the 2021 Bachelder launch comes on the eve of the release of Crush: Message in a Bottle, filmmaker Maya Gallus’ remarkable documentary about the travails of Bachelder and other Niagara wine country luminaries during that challenging growing season. 

In 2021, Niagara winemakers dealt with variable weather from start to finish, experiencing record setting temperatures and drought as well as periods of high rainfall and humidity around harvest that required intense vineyard management to reduce disease from mildew and rot. All that rain was a particular threat to thin-skinned pinot noir grapes. The anxiety radiates off the screen as winemakers try to negotiate with Mother Nature.

Spoiler alert: the wines come through in the end albeit with strong support from selective picking and sorting tables to ensure only healthy and ripe fruit was sent along to be made into wine.

How many times have I heard Thomas Bachelder say “the vintage is what ends up in the bottle…?” In this case, Niagara's 2021 vintage — with regards to early ripening varieties at least — was a resounding success. These are pinot noirs I appreciate and enjoy more than the richer and riper 2020s that are breathlessly hailed as the vintage of the century by many. (Call me out of step, I can take it. My favourite Taylor Swift era is Folklore/Evermore — intimate and comforting albums best experienced broadcast through headphones rather than amplified by a stadium soundsystem.)

The chardonnays? Never better. Vineland and Grimsby vineyards are particularly impressive/expressive. 

My unedited notes for the November release are collected here, listed by score. The wines were tasted sighted, seated across from Thomas Bachelder on October 30. A second set of the pinot noirs that were opened the day before were tasted alongside freshly opened bottles to see how the wine's develop. More information is available from the Bachelder website.

Pinot Noir

Wismer-Parke Pinot Noir 2021
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula 

SCORE: 95 PRICE: $60

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. 200 cases.

Tighter style, with a core of dark fruit that emerges. Youthful, just starting to open up, but with structure and harmony that suggests this will develop beautifully. Ripe and complex expression with serious fragrance and flavour. Drink now-2031.

Hanck Pinot Noir 2021
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 95 PRICE: $60

Third vintage, moving from strength to strength. Located adjacent to Wismer Parke, some 10 metres to the north. 194 cases.

Ripe and concentrated charm, with cherry and berry fruit and fine structure. Purity and polish. Love this style. Drink now-2030.

Wismer-Parke “Wild West End” Pinot Noir 2021
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 94+ PRICE: $75

A mystery clone. The far edge of the vineyard. 71 cases.

Ripe and flavourful with a core of sweet dark fruit, polished tannins and a lingering finish. Heady and enjoyable but perhaps too open-knit? Drink now-2026.

Lowrey “Old Eastern Block” Pinot Noir 2021
St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 94 PRICE: $75

Eastern part of the vineyard planted in 1984 and 1988. 123 cases.

More concentration and character in the historic block. A riper core of fruit makes this more satisfying overall. The perfume is still the best attribute of this otherwise lean and pretty pinot. Drink now-2032.

Lowrey Old Vines Pinot Noir 2021
St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 94 PRICE: $60

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.” 219 cases.

Delivers that pot pourri nose that I associate with Lowrey, followed by bright cranberry and citrus fruit that marks a lighter and brighter style. Spicy and chalky finish. Fans are sure to love this year’s model. Drink now-2030.

BeamCity Pinot Noir 2021
Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 92 PRICE: $39

First vintage. A blend of pinot noir from two vineyards in Beamsville. 316 cases.

Less focused and refined than other Bachelder pinots, this offers a core of cherry and currants, with floral and spicy accents. Brawny, youthful style that is sure to plump up in bottle. Drink now-2030.

“Ivy and Warren” Saunders Bas Pinot Noir 2021
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. 72 cases.

Strong Beamsville vibe here, a lot of sinew and structure. Savoury, earthy and bright character. Honest, straightforward with potential to age. Drink now-2030.

Patte Rouge Pinot Noir 2021
Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $45

The vines have been pulled out at this Niagara-on-the-Lake site, making this its last hurrah. 94 cases.

Fresh and fruity expression, with polish and persistence. Drink now-2027.

Bator Old Vines Pinot Noir 2021
Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $49

Second vintage. 46 cases.

Juicy style with cherry and spice notes. Simple, effective pinot style. Lacks the stuffing of other single vineyards, but has charm. Drink now-2027.


Wismer Wingfield “Hill of Wingfield” Chardonnay 2021
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 96 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; the flagship chardonnay. 100 cases.

An incredible combination of vineyard, variety and vintage. Hill of Wingfield shows its best in a cooler (you might say “classic”) vintages. A lithe and compelling style that promises to develop beautifully. Richly textured and finishes beautifully. Does Niagara chardonnay get any better? Drink now-2035.

Grimsby Hillside “Frontier Block” Chardonnay 2021
Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 95 PRICE: $60

The name alludes to the location of the vineyard, at the extreme edge of Niagara wine country, on the doorstep of Hamilton. 233 cases.

Remarkable for its richness and expressive character. A stylish mix of stonefruit and spice notes, with freshness and a chalky finish adding elegance and refinement. Great balance; harmony to age. Long. Drink now-2031.

Wismer-Wingfield Chardonnay 2021
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 94+ PRICE: $60

175 cases.

Love the complexity here, makes an immediate first impression with oyster shell, wood-derived and fruity aromas. Wow factor. More precision and focus than Foxcroft, with oatmeal, apple and pear notes that carry to a chalky finish. Drink now-2031. 

Wismer-Foxcroft “Nord” Chardonnay 2021
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 94 PRICE: $60

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. 201 cases.

Classic bench barrel fermented character here. Checks all of the boxes… Complete. Complex and inviting with apparent minerality, but lacking the electricity that makes the Wingfield chardonnays stand out. Drink now-2028.

“Ivy and Warren” Saunders Haut Chardonnay 2021
Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 93 PRICE: $49

Just 3.9km from the lake, but on the Bench at Mountainview road, Saunders is a case study in regenerative farming. Clay, silt, sand & limestone soils. 74 cases.

Serious, earthy and elemental style that’s rich and complex. Solid and vibrant. Oatmeal, oyster shell and savoury notes contribute to the full and flavourful style. Drink now-2028.

Bai Xu “Vignes de 1981” Chardonnay 2021
Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 93 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. 74 cases.

Serious wild ferment character here. Textured, complex and a touch funky. The palate has flesh and energy. Flavours are savoury, with citrusy and stony notes. Long. Drink now-2029.

Grimsby Hillside Red Clay Barn Block Chardonnay 2021
Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 93 PRICE: $45

The gateway to Niagara wine country, the foothills of the escarpment. Tremendously promising site that has pinot and gamay vines coming on stream. 96 cases.

Expressive and enjoyable. Rich and refreshing style. This textural chardonnay offers a lot to chew on. Persistent finish, potential to develop. One to watch. Drink now-2030.

Willms “Vignes de 1983” Chardonnay 2021
Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 92 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. 48 cases.

Textbook Niagara-on-the-Lake chardonnay. Richer and broader than the rest of the lineup. Fuller and softer, with yellow apple and peach. Nice seam of acidity, with a lingering spicy finish. Drink now-2026.

Laundry Organic Chardonnay 2021
Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $39

Second vintage. Chardonnay musque (planted in 2000) from longstanding organic wine grower Heather Laundry’s vineyard on the shore of Lake Ontario. 47 cases.

Restrained take on musque, with citrus, peach and melon rind flavours. Subtle floral and spice. Some weight thanks to oily texture but with refreshment to balance. Drink now-2027. 

Bator Old Vines Chardonnay 2021
Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $45

Second release from this Niagara-on-the-Lake vineyard. Bachelder works with chardonnay, pinot noir and gamay from the site. 47 cases.

Clean and fresh style. Simple. Good fresh acidity with some barrel fermented weight. Lemony, touch green, spice notes. Drink now-2027.

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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.