Michele Smith has always naturally gravitated towards a meaningful challenge. Having grown up in Connecticut, Michele moved to New York in 2000 to study at Pace University. In 2006, she joined the service team at Per Se, chef Thomas Keller's acclaimed 3-Michelin star New American restaurant. Soon after, Michele was promoted to Assistant Sommelier, a position in which she was responsible for managing the inventory and logistics of the wine program. In 2008, she won a scholarship to travel to France and study biodynamic farming in Alsace and Champagne. Upon returning to the United States, Michele left Per Se to join the celebrated restaurant Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare, in Brooklyn, New York, as wine director where she launched the wine program and worked service nightly as the sommelier. Michele’s foundational education in wine inspired a desire to travel widely and understand winemaking at its source. She always loved travelling to France, sitting in winemakers’ kitchens and hearing directly about what was special about the wines being produced. Having cut her teeth at the highest levels of food and wine in the United States, Michele soon arrived at the conclusion that she wanted to leave the restaurant scene in New York and work for herself. Despite plenty of questions about the precise moment in which she and David decided to leave New York and set up Domaine Chapel, Michele doesn’t recall the conversation. But, she says, “Once we did make that decision, it was always going to be Beaujolais.” Michele is married to David Chapel, with whom she has four children, twins Lucie & Eva, and sons Jules and Louis.
Looking back, David, the son of acclaimed chef Alain Chapel, was bound to become a craftsman. Chef or vigneron - that would be decided later on. As a child, David grew up in the rooms above the kitchen of Restaurant Alain Chapel, which undoubtedly had an influence on his view of life, farming and winemaking. In 2005, he worked his first harvest in Beaujolais with family friend Marcel Lapierre; and, again, in 2006 with Christophe Pacalet. His career in food and wine blossomed at the family restaurant, during stages in Japan, and again in New York as Head Sommelier at The Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare. In 2015, he decided to move back to Beaujolais to farm vines and establish Domaine Chapel with his wife, Michele.
The pressure to maintain the three stars was at its height, as his friend Pierre Overnoy says: The last year before he left us, Alain was exhausted.
He didn’t have a day off. Every day the restaurant was closed, he had an event. I remember he said, “You know, I think I’m going to stop this. I can’t take it anymore, it’s heavy. It’s exhausting. I have to decide: either I become a winemaker or I open a small bistro of 12 places, a simple place or something to please people”.
Alain had a real attraction for the vineyard and for all that was true. He felt good with us the peasant-winemakers. He respected our wines as we respected his cuisine.
Les Éditions de L'Épure