Our Story

David Chapel and Michele Smith met in 2013 when Michele, former sommelier and wine director of the Michelin 3-star restaurant Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare, in Brooklyn, New York, was visiting wineries in Beaujolais. At the time, David had been working in the vineyards and cellar at the historic Domaine Lapierre. When Matthieu Lapierre, co-owner of Domaine Lapierre was unable to host Michele’s visit, he sent David instead. David moved with Michele to New York where the couple would live for the next two years. In 2015, they made the decision to move back to Beaujolais and move forward with plans to establish Domaine Chapel.

Meet Michele

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.


Meet David

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. 


In the 1980s, David's parents, Suzanne and Alain Chapel would often host winemakers at their 3-Michelin star restaurant, Restaurant Alain Chapel, crafting menus to pair with their wines. They forged friendships with the likes of Jules Chauvet, Marcel Lapierre, Pierre Overnoy, Gerard Chave and many other vignerons from his native Savoie, from Burgundy and from the Northern Rhône. Alain appreciated the company of who were extraordinary at their craft and was happy to shed light on the vignerons’ work by featuring their bottles on his wine list. Wines, which before finding a global audience, were at that time only locally appreciated. Over hearty meals, many bottles and late night conversations, they forged deep and now historic friendships.

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.

L’Esprit Chapel
Les Éditions de L'Épure

A look in the cellar