If you venture to Vineland in the Niagara Region and wander up to one of the highest vantage points on the southern side of the Niagara Escarpment, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Lake Ontario, the Toronto skyline, Niagara Falls and a winery that sets itself apart from the rest—Megalomaniac. With a name as intriguing as Megalomaniac, you can expect their offerings to be just as unique. Known for their playful branding and wines bursting with personality, it’s the only winery in the region that will entice you to enjoy a savoury glass of wine with a “touch of sass.” What started as a leisurely retirement project to help raise funds for charity, quickly turned into one of the fastest-growing wineries in southern Ontario. In the blink of an eye, their first vintage sold out in ninety days, while their second made the front page of USA today—growing their offering from 2,000 cases of wine per year to 40,000. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for winery Owner John Howard, to decide to jump headfirst into the world of winemaking, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Read: This Ontario winery quietly earned 20 medals from top world wine competitions this yearView this post on Instagram
Award Winning WinemakerDespite their ego-fueled namesake, John humbly shares that the winery wouldn’t be where it is today without the amazing team behind the dream. One of those team members is globally acclaimed winemaker Sébastien Jacquey, Megalomaniac’s Vice President, Winemaking and Vineyard Operations. Wildly passionate about wine and hailing from no other than France’s own Burgundy, Sébastien is an integral part of the continued success of Megalomaniac. “John and I connected very well right from the start because we shared the same vision of what it takes to make good wines and how to best run a wine business in Niagara,” he shares. And Sébastien certainly knows a thing or two about making world-class, highly coveted wines. For the 2019 International Wine & Spirit Competition, Megalomaniac entered 18 of their offerings, taking home a whopping 15 medals. Those awarded include their Narcissist Riesling, Big Kahuna and Sparkling Personality, proving all jokes aside, their wine is something they take quite seriously. So what’s with the cheeky names? It all starts with the name behind the winery itself.
“The reason why we wanted to be called ‘Megalomaniac’ and use these tacky labels was originally to poke fun at people that take themselves too seriously in the wine business”As the story goes—and is shared on the back of every bottle—Howard originally was looking to grace the bottles with his own name, but his friends accused him of being another ‘megalomaniac’ and that name just had a winning ring to it. Naturally the name and brand stand out in a wine industry that can often seem quite traditional and rigid, but Sébastien notes it’s anything but.
Making Niagara Wine Fun
“If I compare Europe to Niagara, I would say that the Niagara Wine industry could be viewed as quite innovative and fun,”Playing their part in that, each bottle at Megalomaniac is full of personality, and not just when it comes to flavour. “We always try to create a name that matches some of the characteristics of the grape variety. For example, the Sonofabitch Pinot Noir is related to the fact that this grape variety is very difficult to grow and make.”
“It’s very finicky at every stage of the process, the grapes are very sensitive to disease and micro-climate and the wine has a tendency to go the wrong way if you don’t have your eye on it at all times,” Sébastien adds. Megalomaniac has just as much fun with the names of their offerings as they do with bottle design. On the label of their Narcissist Riesling, you’ll spot a faceless man with a foil on his coat. Lean in a little closer and on the foil’s shiny surface you’ll see a reflection of yourself. Yet let it be known, that Megalomaniac wines undeniably taste more serious than their playful backstories or the notorious faceless labels on every bottle. “Making great and balanced Ontario wines is our mandate for every single vintage but this should not be a reason to stick to traditional packaging that isn’t distinguished from other wines,” Sébastien notes.View this post on Instagram
Uniquely NiagaraSure Megalomaniac can credit themselves for their idiosyncratic branding, but they have the Niagara vines and land to thank for their big, bold flavours. A lot of the credit goes to the escarpment’s limestone shale which infuses the fruit grown in the region and flavours their wine offerings. And although Sébastien came to Megalomaniac with extensive winemaking experience in France, he shares that it was the Niagara wine region that pushed him to think outside of the box to make wines that are the best representation of the area’s unique climate and terroir.
“Niagara inspires me to deepen my understanding of how to grow better vineyards and how to craft wines that are really representative of the area. I want to continue to work on making our region well understood by the wine world and continue to train and inspire new people in this industry on how to approach wine production here”Not only is Megalomaniac committed to Niagara, but they are also committed to being a true Canadian winery inside and out. All materials from the winery itself are sourced from the Niagara Escarpment, their cabinetry crafted from Canadian wood and to top it all off, their property is lined with none other than Canada’s statement tree—the maple tree. Whether walking through the vines or the winery on your own or on a tour, a visit to Megalomaniac must start and end in their winery itself. Built in 2014 over their original underground cellar, the tasting room and retail shop’s glass walls allow visitors to take in the breathtaking views of the winery’s vines and beyond. It’s a view unlike any other, by a winery unlike any other. Experience it all, only at the sophisticated and sassy home of Megalomaniac Winery, where wine and life need not be taken too seriously.
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