As I enter the spacious tasting room at Megalomaniac, a Vineland-based winery in the Niagara region managed by John Howard, I’m greeted by the vice-president of winemaking and vineyard operations for the business, Sébastien Jacquey. Tall, friendly and approachable, this young man is the viticulture and oenology engineer in charge of production at the large vineyard.
Like others who makes wines in Niagara, Sébastien—a native of France’s Burgundy region born in April 1981—faces challenges specific to northern countries. He has to create high-quality wines in a cool climate that poses various risks: springtime freezes, a short growing season and premature ripening of the grapes. Despite these drawbacks, the rich soil, the availability of agricultural land and, most importantly, Canadians’ interest in local wines make the viticulture and viniculture challenges appealing to Sébastien, who is known among his peers for his energy, patience and diligence.
Holder of a National Diploma in Oenology and a master’s degree in Earth and environmental studies, Sébastien graduated in viticulture and oenology engineering from the Institut Supérieur d’Agriculture, Rhone-Alpes, in 2007. Having grown up in a family that worked in the construction business, he spent some time on building sites, but as a young adult, he resolved to pursue a career in winemaking.
Compared to France, with its endless red tape, Canada seemed like the promised land. Upon arriving here, he was first taken under the wing of Montrealer Thomas Bachelder. Sébastien was his assistant at the renowned Clos Jordanne vineyard until 2010, then became a cellar master for Fortune 500 company Constellation Brands from 2010 to 2015. While there, he developed the Arterra brand.
The desire to create new wines in a flexible working environment led to his joining Megalomaniac, where his dynamism and creativity have yielded remarkable results. In 2019, the winery won a total of 60 awards at international competitions in Canada, France and Great Britain! With a touch of pride, he shows us his award-winning creations: a Cabernet Franc, a Pinot Noir and a Riesling.
He also felt a sense of pride when he was sworn in as a Canadian citizen. Even now, he gets emotional when he thinks about the words spoken by the official at the ceremony: “We all have different backgrounds, but we are all here with the shared goal of building a country. Our diversity is Canada’s greatest resource.”
Sébastien is doing that work of building every day of the year. “Bérangère and I have created a family here, we became Canadians in 2016 and we live in an exceptional place, the community of Welland,” he says. “My children Lou and Norah, who are now bilingual, are growing up surrounded by friends from many different francophone countries. I’m appreciative of living in a country where cultural diversity is valued and there are opportunities of all kinds available.”
It’s evident that Sébastien means what he says. His words suggest a strong sense of belonging and an affirmation of well-being. “Canada respects family values,” he adds. “We really appreciate the quality of health and education services, and we’re supported by the community and our fellow professionals. Canadians are very invested in their family’s well-being. They visit their cottages, hold parties, go fishing and spend lots of family time together...”
It’s a pleasure to hear his observations, which remind us that quality of life, mutual aid and equality of opportunity are Canadian values that we should cherish, and which define who we are.
Sébastien offers the following advice to young people: “Find a profession that you’re passionate about and brings you pleasure; don’t let physical distance or cultural barriers become an excuse for inaction; seize the chances that come your way.”
This young leader also shares some wisdom about the keys to achieving balance in your life: learn from your accomplishments and your failures, stay humble about your successes and, first and foremost, keep pushing ahead.
Despite his highly organized attitude, this driven executive also dreams of taking some time off to explore the wilderness of the Rocky Mountains and the Yukon and to visit scenic regions of Quebec like the Gaspé and Saguenay.