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Niagara’s Domaine Queylus: An upstart winery that hits the ground running with winemaker Thomas Bachelder

qquey mainThe guiding principle for establishing Niagara’s newest winery was relatively simple: “The business plan was easy — all the bottles would have to impress our wine club members,” says Gilles Chevalier (top photo), proprietor, along with 11 other partners, of Domaine Queylus.

There’s likely no better way to impress his Pinot Noir-loving wine club members in Montreal than to hire Thomas Bachelder (below photo), he formerly of Le Clos Jordanne and presently master of his own tri-regional Thomas Bachelder project, which crafts Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from various terroirs in Burgundy, Oregon and Niagara.

The first task was to find a suitable location for the new project.

qthomas botChevalier is an ardent fan of Burgundy, specifically Pinot Noir from Burgundy, but after a friend introduced him to a Le Clos Jordanne Pinot from Niagara, he had found his Nirvana: “Wow, this is great terroir for Pinot Noir,” he said at the time. “We need to be a part of it.”

A site situated on the top of the escarpment with the highest elevation vineyard in Niagara, in the far reaches of the Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation, was chosen to house the winery and eventually the tasting room (by appointment only). It was the former property of Lloyd Schmidt, viticulturalist, winemaker and founder of International Viticulture Services (his two sons, Brian and Allan, run Vineland Estate Winery).

qpour qthomasgillesThe home site is being planted to five acres of Chardonnay, but the bulk of the fruit for the wines is from two vineyards. The key property is on Mountainview Rd. (Beamsville), purchased by Queylus in 2007 and planted from scratch. The former orchard is planted to multiple clones and consists of Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay. The second vineyard is on a long-term lease from Le Clos Jordanne’s La Petite Colline Vineyard, planted in 2002. The Pinots will be a blend of the two terroirs from the Twenty Mile Bench and Lincoln-Lakeshore sub appellations.

As I toured the winery on Sixteen Road, it was clear that Chevalier and his partners have spared no expense with the new Niagara project. Brand new stainless steel tanks, new French oak from the best forests, everything shiny and perfect, have this winery off to a bright future. Bachelder, along with assistant winemaker Kelly Baker, are crafting top wines dedicated to a select, limited number of cépages that it has identified as adapted perfectly to the region’s soils and microclimate.

qthepinotsFor Chevalier and Bachelder, they are in search of Pinot Noir that thrives in the rich clay/limestone and the region’s geological diversity that is ideal for Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay. The hope is to tap into the knowledge, skill and fine workmanship of Bachelder, who has a proven track record, to produce quality wines from the very best of Niagara’s vines and soils.

Out of the gate, this is an impressive winery, with the first vintage already showing the quality of wines we have come to expect from Bachelder.

Here are some of the wines I can highly recommend.

Note: For information or to purchase our wines, contact or phone 905-562-7474. The tasting room is under construction, so it is best to call first if you would like to taste. The wines are also in select restaurants in Montréal and Toronto, in the SAQ and coming soon to Vintages.

quey wneDomaine Queylus Pinot Noir Tradition 2010 ($30, 90 points) — What Bachelder refers to as a “Village” style Pinot, sourced from the western portion of both the Mountainview and Le Petit Colline sites. The nose shows crunchy red fruits, mushrooms, mineral and light spice notes. It is nicely balanced on the palate with supple tannins, bright acidity and integrated fruit and spice.

2010-pinot-noir-tradition 2011-merlot-cabernet-franc-reserve 2011-pinot-noir-grand-reserve

Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Reserve 2010 ($45, 92 points) — A powerful nose of damp earth, black cherry, and interesting oak spices. The red fruits on the palate are lavishly appointed yet finessed and fresh with a silky feel through the finish.

Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Tradition 2011 ($30, 89 points) — A lighter style than the 2010 with bright red fruits, bramble and spice. The tannins provide good structure that plays nicely with the persistent red fruits, touch of cassis and wood spices.

Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Reserve 2011 ($45, 92 points) — A nose of black cherry, cassis, concentrated small berries, lavender and rich spices. This grows in intensity on the palate with finessed fruit, minerals, good structure and length through the finish.

Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir La Grande Reserve 2011 ($60, 93 points) — To quote Thomas Bachelder, “it’s like Grace Kelly just walked into the room.” Perhaps sip with this Mika song playing in the background. Such a gorgeous and complete Pinot with aromas of black cherry, field raspberries, toasted vanilla and nutmeg with a subtle floral note. It has beautiful concentration of red currants, cherry, raspberry, oak spices and pure elegance from sip to finish. Such depth and complexity all delivered on a lovely bed of firm tannins. One to lay down for a few years.

Domaine Queylus Reserve Merlot Cabernet Franc 2010 ($45, 90 points) — This is a blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc that shows dark, ripe fruit, toasty barrel spices and a floral note on the nose. It’s big, bold and structured on the palate with the stuffing to age for a few years in the cellar.

Domaine Queylus La Grande Reserve Merlot Cabernet Franc 2011 ($65, 91 points) — The blend is 65% Merlot and 35% Cabernet Franc. Such a gorgeous nose of sweet tobacco, ripe cherry, cassis, graphite and vanilla oak spices. It is nicely integrated on the palate with a core of juicy fruit, bramble, spice and depth of flavour through the finish. A beauty.