A sip of red Burgundy struck Michael Madrigale’s brain like a bolt of lightning when he was 24 years old, a jolting episode that inspired him to move to the epicenter of Pinot Noir production.
Infected with the Burgundy bug, Madrigale found an opportunity to work at the celebrated Domaine de l’Arlot in Nuits-St.-Georges from 2002–2004, an experience that deepened his passion for the vine.
“It’s common for people in the wine trade to work a harvest, but I wasn’t satisfied with only that,” Madrigale says. “I wanted to work the entire yearly life cycle of the vine. It made me respect wine much more [by experiencing] all of the sweat and effort that it takes to produce just one bottle.”
But Madrigale’s time in Burgundy did more than just fuel his fervor. While in France, he met Daniel Johnnes, wine director of The Dinex Group—the umbrella company for chef Daniel Boulud’s restaurants—a fortuitous encounter that would prove to be invaluable to Madrigale’s career.
When Madrigale moved back to New York City, he didn’t immediately trade in his grape shears for a tastevin. Instead, he took various sales and marketing positions at wine groups like Michael Skurnik Wines and Clicquot, Inc., learning the business side of the trade.
Ultimately, Madrigale decided that the industry’s office culture couldn’t slake his thirst for wine knowledge. He determined that his desire to learn about and taste the legendary wines of the world could only be satisfied by becoming a sommelier.
Intent on landing a position with The Dinex Group, Madrigale again crossed paths with Johnnes. He was soon hired as the chef sommelier for db Bistro Moderne in New York City—the first of many Boulud restaurants at which he would work.
Today, Madrigale oversees the wine programs for Bar Boulud, Boulud Sud and Boulud Épicerie, all in New York City, where his fun, sincere approach to wine service is built on emotion.
“I pursue things that give me an emotional charge…music, art…[and] wine [are] the same for me,” he says. “I can only put wines on my list that I love and connect with emotionally. Just liking the wines is not enough.”
Beyond the emotional facet of his beverage program, Madrigale emphasizes wine education and social media. His “Big Bottles” program is a case in point: Each night, he offers guests by-the-glass pours of rare wines served from a large-format bottle, enabling diners to experience selections that are often only enjoyed by elite collectors. Before dinner service, he posts that evening’s offering on his Twitter page.
As a sommelier, Madrigale gets to taste a lot of wine. So each night, he also posts a brief tasting note and a picture of the greatest wine he sampled during service. “The best bottle I opened tonight: Praline. Limestone. Hay. #magnum,” he recently tweeted about Ramonet’s 1989 Montrachet.
It is for his contagious love and passion for wine, his commitment and boundary-breaking approach to wine service that Wine Enthusiast names Madrigale our 2012 Sommelier of the Year.