Signing autographs and meeting with admiring fans used to be the stuff of in-store appearances at record shops or bookstores. Today it's happening at wine shops as celebrity vintners travel to promote their wares.
Last week it was Pascal Madevon, of Osoyoos Larose in British Columbia, making the rounds to promote the release of his 2005 vintage in Ontario. The unassuming winemaker stopped in at three Toronto-area Vintages stores to conduct tastings of his impressive red wine. He says he wasn't prepared for the response.
"There were lineups," the Bordeaux-trained winemaker explained later that day. "I was asked to sign a number of bottles."
Madevon happily reported how many people were impressed when they tasted his wine, particularly the number of people who had not sampled it before and were compelled to buy some. He estimates his visits inspired the sale of 100 bottles or so, not a small sum given the $45 retail price per bottle.
At one location, the store manager asked Madevon if he would mind taking a phone call. A customer who had purchased six cases (of six bottles each) of the Merlot and Cabernet-dominant red wine wanted to speak with the man responsible.
"Six cases," commented a still beaming Madevon, who said he was happy to speak with the gentleman.
"He told me he thought it was the best wine from British Columbia... I told him I'd like to meet him the next time that I am in Toronto. I look forward to tasting with him."
Madevon, who moved to the Okanagan Valley in 2001, is soon to receive even more attention — this time from his native France. During the upcoming Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival in March, he will be named a Knight of the Order of Agricultural Merit for his work at Osoyoos Larose. The award, which was established in 1883 to reward services to agriculture, is colloquially called "the leek" because of its green ribbon.
Working as the point person for Osoyoos Larose, a joint venture between Vincor Canada and Le Groupe Taillan (the largest winegrower of the Medoc region of Bordeaux), Madevon has embraced working in a new region with an unproven track record for age worthy, premium wine based on the five red wine varieties of Bordeaux.
Each vintage of Osoyoos Larose is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. The grapes come from an estate-owned 80-acre parcel located near the community of Osoyoos in the southern Okanagan Valley.
Madevon's tireless efforts have led to improvements both in winemaking and vineyard techniques. One of the biggest quality improvements he explained came from a recent experiment with a basket press that sister winery Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate uses to crush its Icewine grapes.
"We cleaned it first..." he said light-heartedly.
He said he wanted to see how that old style of hand-operated press would compare against the automated pneumatic press they typically used. "The results from the basket press were incredible." A larger version was ordered to replace the pneumatic press.
Most of his work, he said, however, centres on the vines. "I spend a lot of time in the vineyard," he explained. The equipment and practices used in the winery aren't that different from what his colleagues at Group Tallion's properties in Bordeaux are using. The fundamental difference is the vineyard's site, geography and climate — what the French call terroir.
"When I bring the wines home to taste, we don't compare the work," he said, referring the winemaking practices. "We compare our terroirs."
His Canadian wines always meet with approval, he said. His winemaking friends either see the proof in the wine or the passion Madevon clearly has for the project — or both.
After three days in the Okanagan Valley, he said, he knew he wanted to stay. This summer he and his family are set to become Canadian citizens.
"I thought it was important," he said. "We are very happy here."
Wine of the Week:
Osoyoos Larose 2005 Le Grand Vin
Okanagan Valley, British Columbia $44.95 (626325)
The top wine from Osoyoos Larose continues to impress. It has the firm structure and complexity of blue-chip Bordeaux, with appealing and mouthfilling mocha character that seems to be a hallmark of wines grown in the desert-like southern Okanagan Valley. This is a wine made for the cellar — Madevon estimates it will mature nicely over the next decade. Decant for an hour or two for best enjoyment if you plan on drinking this soon. (LCBO Vintages)