JONATHAN PRIMEAU DRAWS FROM THE VINE TO QUENCH HIS EVERY PASSION, AND IT IS THIS PASSION THAT BIRTHED THE ULTIMATE WINE EXPERIENCE.
Like all good stories, this one began with words on a page—but not from just any book! Jonathan Primeau’s abiding interest was first awakened by a history of Bordeaux wines. While still a boy, the president and founder of CellArt—a company that specializes in designing and building luxury wine cellars—learned all about Napoleon’s influence on the region’s vineyards, how the appellation system was developed, and how wines were marketed. Slowly but surely, wine worked its way into his heart, and now powers him with endless energy. “When I was young, I collected stamps. Now, it’s good wine. When a new vintage comes out, I’m usually among the first in line,” says Primeau.
It actually took some time before the businessman surrendered to his passion for wine and grasped the magnitude of this decision. Blessed with uncommon energy, Primeau is a remarkably quick study who began his career as a manager at Bell, then moving to Fujitsu, the Japanese tech giant. His path seemed clear, but wine flowed in his veins. “The passion was missing. I needed to live my dream and become an entrepreneur. I have a number of serious interests, but wine is the one that overshadowed all the others and became the common denominator of my life.”
With the support of his family, and a goal to have his own vineyard by the age of 50, Primeau founded his wine cellar company. Building wine cellars took a lot of effort and bold thinking, and the beginnings were modest. To distinguish himself in the market, he decided to create unusual designs, and was fortunate to carve out a niche among a wealthy clientele. He also scored a global partnership with STACT, a company that designs minimalist wine racks. His dream was becoming more focused; his passion, more tangible. Hard work and determination took care of the rest.
A book on the history of Bordeaux wines may have been the spark that ignited the passion, but Jonathan Primeau never wanted to feel bound by theory. The thirty-something describes himself primarily as a hands-on kind of guy, who learns by doing and squeezes every last drop of knowledge and understanding from every moment and every encounter. “I like to hunt and fish, and then pair the right wine with a good meal. There’s nothing more satisfying than catching a salmon in the Gaspé and then finding the perfect wine to accompany it,” he says. As everyone knows, fine dining and fine wines are a match made in heaven. Jonathan Primeau takes that passion to the limit and goes for the total experience. Gastronomy and building wine cellars are only part of the whole, which includes touring vineyards around the world, speaking with winemakers and feeling the soil beneath his feet.
With the support of his family, and a goal to have his own vineyard by the age of 50, Primeau founded his wine cellar company.
This deep and dedicated approach to his work, travels and networking feed Primeau’s love for art and design. “My market is wine lovers who work with designers and architects. I have to speak the same language,” he adds. In order to convey the advantages of his cellars to his clients, develop his creative talents, and work in concert with the other artists and craftspeople involved on a project, Primeau signed up for executive training in creative leadership at the THNK program in Amsterdam. “When I started my business, the average wine cellar was in a closed basement and contained the greatest number of bottles in the least amount of space. Today, wine is on display in kitchens and living rooms.” He often finds himself dealing with small spaces and is challenged to design glassed-in areas that are accessible from more than one room. Materials, finishes, lighting and optimum rack configuration are all important concerns. The young entrepreneur’s love of art and design bleeds into his primary passion, helping him to push the envelope with every project. A serious wine collector, he now finds himself fascinated by labels and bottle placement, and by the connection between wine and art. Without giving it a second thought, he will contact artists whose work he has been impressed by to suggest working together on a project. “I like to challenge myself and I like their feedback. I showed my work to some local artists and they all expressed an interest in developing something unique with CellArt. Just recently, in Los Angeles, I contacted an artist after seeing his work and proposed a joint project for a high-end apartment.”
Fine dining, creative people, art and design … a primary passion for wine has expanded into a lifetime project, and set the pace for this man who rarely takes a break. When Primeau does get the chance, Wine Ceremony has become a guarded sanctuary. Created and practiced by Thierry Forbois, the Wine Ceremony is a living art in which wine is the object of a ritual observed by a small group of people. It is a special “time out” that gives Primeau a chance to recharge, while sharing a deeper moment with clients, connoisseurs and ordinary wine-lovers. Together, they slow down in order to fully appreciate the splendours of the vine. “No matter how I try, I never quite manage to communicate the truly unique character of the ceremony! You really have to experience it to understand the magic.” For Jonathan Primeau, it is about getting back to basics—a soulful ritual that awakens the senses and honours the connection with nature, allowing him to put his passion into practice.