Sommelier Michael Madrigale will be departing Bar Boulud, Boulud Sud, and Épicerie Boulud after April 22, his last day on the Broadway corner, and with the Boulud empire. Madrigale, who is taking up a role with a direct to consumer sales operation that, like him, has Philly roots, will be ending an eight-year run at Bar Boulud from which he rose to become one of the most recognized and admired sommeliers in the country. His move away from a four star pulpit, early embrace of social media, and easy going athletic sneakers in the Burgundy vineyard persona made Madrigale’s career a template for many aspiring American sommeliers, while the strength of his palate, and his everyman descriptions ("This wine has that mulch smell you have in your clothes after your uncle makes you mow the lawn") gained him the respect of others in the business. While it was common to read about Millennials changing the face of wine consumption, it was clear to anyone watching that a coterie of near 40-year-olds (Madrigale, Pascaline Lepeltier, and Patrick Cappiello, among others) ran the trends in New York City, and Madrigale’s move away from the floor does seem like a changing of the guard in some respects.
Foremost a Burgundy fan — Madrigale had done harvests in the Côte de Nuits after chasing a girl there — Mike was one of the adherents that put those wines front and center on wine lists, making them the coin of the realm in New York. He also had a buyer first approach, meaning that where an earlier generation of sommeliers had tended to pander to a supposed customer preference for big fruited wines with occasional selections that themselves didn’t enjoy, Mike went with what he liked. That sometimes led him to embrace overlooked regions before other sommeliers, and he was early into Greece, the Canary Islands, and more recently, the new wave of Australia.
His laid back confidence and easy grin made him a very effective proselytizer, and his charm with social media was also abundant. He was so early into Twitter that no one demurred when he took the name of his workplace for his personal account, broadcasting limited-time-only wine offers with a great deal of only in New York atmosphere. One famous pic showed the neighborhood hot dog vendor hoisting aloft a big bottle of Cru Beaujolais. That image nicely summarized Mike’s evangelism for wine from large format, his never ending hunt for affordable Burgundy, his media savvy (no one was better with a tagline or a sound bite) and again, his everyman enthusiasms. Above all, Mike was not a snob, and he eschewed several seemingly more prestigious job offers for the constancy of working with wine friendly country pâté. In an era of financial recession, and with the full dawn of the idea that you didn’t have to be foreign to be a great sommelier, Michael Madrigale’s sommelier run felt right.
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