Sebastien Marquet. ##Photo by Kathryn Elsesser

Meet Mr. Marquet

French sailor disembarks in Oregon wine biz

By L.M. Archer

For some, the call to winemaking arrives early. For Sebastien Marquet of Crush2Cellar in Newberg, it appeared at age 14.

While an unmotivated student, Marquet enjoyed working harvest with his winegrowing grandfather in Molesme, a village in northern Burgundy near the border of Champagne. But it was the call of the sea which eventually altered the trajectory of his vigneron path, leading him to Oregon.

The Calling

Direct routes may prove efficient, but circuitous ones often prove more interesting. Upon graduating from The Lycée Viticole et Oenologue de Beaune in Burgundy, Marquet moved on to graduate school in Macon, studying marketing. Post-graduate work led him to winemaking in prestigious villages like Pommard, Volnay, Beaune, Meursault and Monthélie. But the restless young winemaker yearned to learn about grapes other than Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. When an opportunity arose to work in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France, he took it. There, Marquet learned about other varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Carignan. He also fell in love with the sea and sailing.

Sailing Away

A chance encounter while sailing in the Mediterranean led to a new job in Martinique. Marquet planted groundbreaking Caribbean vineyards through an EU program focusing on wine grape experiments. The project thrived. “You can make wine every day. You can prune vines every week. You can walk in the vineyards and see every stages of the vineyard just walking,” he said. But after eight years learning to grow wine in a humid region with two growing seasons, Marquet felt not only disconnected from other winemakers but unchallenged. One day, he appeared on a local island radio program, inviting listeners to tour the vineyards.

Serendipity struck. The next day, Marquet received a call from Canadian professor D’Arcy Dornan of UC Davis in the region studying Caribbean agritourism. Dornan, who would prove a lifelong friend and mentor, viewed Marquet’s vineyards. Impressed, he urged the winemaker to visit him in California, where he was consulting at the time. Marquet agreed. While there, Steve Ledson of Ledson offered Marquet a job. Again, the path shifted. In Napa and Sonoma, he learned to produce wine for 75 labels, rubbing elbows at crush facilities with the likes of Chris Madrigal and Heidi Barrett. But the economic crisis of 2008 halted his time in California.

Looking for something different, Marquet moved to Virginia to work for Doukénie Winery, where he remained for 11 years. He also assisted a veritable who’s who of the Virginia winemaking community, including Septenary Winery, Bozzo Family Vineyards, Greenhill Winery, Lost Creek Winery, Willowcroft Winery, The Winery at La Grange and others

Not only did the move to Virginia allow him greater proximity to his son in Martinique, it also led him to his second wife, artist Isabelle Truchon. Together, they started a consulting company called Burgundy Style. “Our clients range from small winery owners looking to increase their business potential and the quality of their wine, to wine industry investors in need of expert advice and services,” he explained. Since 2010, the pair has offered annual immersive tours for clients to Burgundy, offering a glimpse into the region’s culture through visits to domaines, heritage sites and tonnellerie.

Marquet’s time in Virginia also allowed him proximity to Chesapeake Bay, and more sailing. Life was good. But in 2019, when both their children moved to California, Marquet and Truchon followed. After working non-stop for 30 years, Marquet realized he needed a break. He also needed to get his boat, still moored on the East Coast. “I needed to step back,” he said. “So I re-fitted the boat, resigned from my job and sailed for six months.” Marquet traveled from Chesapeake Bay to the Bahamas, Jamaica, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, San Diego and San Francisco.

“The trip put me in the middle of storms, lightning … we got stuck in the Papagayo trade winds, going 50 mph for 24 hours,” he recalled. “Instead of winemaker worries, these were new challenges: navigating on the open sea and solving new kinds of problems. It allowed me to reset.”

Full Circle

Ready for another challenge, Marquet accepted a position as commercial director at  Crush2Cellar (C2C) in Newberg. For Marquet, Oregon felt like love at first sight. “It reminded me of my childhood in Burgundy,” he said, “Picking wild hazelnuts — the plants are identical. The vineyards are incredible.” Marquet had come full circle.

C2C, celebrated as “one-stop shopping for growing wineries,” shares its building with ETS Labs. The Covid-19 epidemic motivated C2C and ETS laboratories to work together. “We launched same-day complimentary delivery and pick-up service for the Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill, Carlton, McMinnville and Dundee areas,” Marquet explained. “You contact us in the morning before 9 a.m., and we will drop your needs (such as vials of yeasts or nutrients) and pick up your wine samples that day.”

Marquet praises this unique relationship with ETS. “We are so lucky to have in the heart of the Willamette Valley, in the same building, the most technologically advanced and accurate wine laboratories in the nation.” ETS offers C2C clients a bevy of services, including analysis, troubleshooting, designing testing plans and interpreting results. ETS also provides developing technologies, research and innovation.

In addition, Marquet seeks to improve not just service, but quality and education. “The wine industry is an expensive industry, and mistakes cost a lot of money and time to correct,” he said. “Quality is a must, not an option. To produce high-quality wine, you must have accurate data. From grapes to bottling, ETS laboratories bring knowledge and support to winemakers and winery owners.”

He also hopes to open up conversations about winemaking issues, featuring local and international experts. Topics include: how to make sparkling wine from vine to bottle; how to prevent TCA (trichloroanisole) in the wine and winery; and best practices, from sanitation to fermentation. Due to Covid-19, these workshops will shift to online indefinitely.

“I love to bring knowledge,” Marquet said. “If Crush2Cellar can help bring winemakers to the next level, it’s fabulous.”

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