Importers of the Year – Wine & Spirits Magazine

Importers of the Year


For our latest Buying Guide, we selected our Importers of the Year a new way. All twelve of these importers earned recommendations for more than half the wines they submitted to our panels this year, with average scores above 90 points—and many much higher. With those stats in hand, it’s very likely you’ll be holding a great bottle if you find one of these names on the back label.


Brian Larky and Scott Ades (Courtesy of Dalla Terra)

Dalla Terra

Brian Larky (Left) founded Dalla Terra in 1990. Initially on the winemaking path, he earned a degree in fermentation sciences from UC-Davis before focusing on importing small, family-owned wines from Italy. The company is now run by Scott Ades (right), working as a national agent, connecting the wineries it represents directly to distributors.


Tara Smeralda Empson (Courtesy of Empson USA)

Empson USA

Neil Empson founded Empson& Co. to export wines from Italy in 1972; he and Maria Empson formed Empson USA in 1991. Specialists in Italian wines, the portfolio contains 48 producers, now headed by the founders’ daughter, Tara Smeralda Empson, CEO since 2018.


Kermit Lynch (Courtesy of Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant)

Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant

Kermit Lynch opened his Berkeley, California, wine shop in 1972 and started importing wines several years later. Today, the company has grown to represent 159 vignerons from 13 regions in France and 48 producers from 14 regions in Italy.


Robert T. DeRoose (Courtesy of Kobrand)

Kobrand

Founded in 1944 by Rudolph C. Kopf, Kobrand represents wines and spirits from major regions all around the world. The Kopf family, having imported the wines of Louis Jadot for many years, purchased the Burgundy house in1985. The company continues to grow under the direction of CEO and President Robert T. DeRoose.


Kirk Wille (Courtesy of Loosen Bros. USA)

Loosen Bros. USA

Ernst Loosen launched this firm in 2003 with CEO Kirk Wille to import Dr. Loosen’s Mosel wines and Villa Wolf from the Pfalz. Focused on riesling and pinot noir, they distribute J. Christopher from the Willamette Valley, as well as wines from producers in Germany, Burgundy, Switzer-land and Australia.


Guillaume Fouilleron (Courtesy of MMD USA)

Maisons Marques & Domaines USA

Jean-Claude Rouzaud created Maisons Marques & Domaines USA in 1987 to promote both wines from Roederer Estate in the Anderson Valley and his family’s Champagne Louis Roederer. Guil­laume Fouilleron, now President of MMD USA, markets Roederer’s stable of estates as well as family-owned wineries from around the world.


Billy Weiss (Courtesy of North Berkeley Imports)

North Berkeley Imports

In 1999, Billy Weiss purchased North Berkeley Wine—a neighborhood shop established in 1979 down the street from Chez Panisse. He used the store as a launch pad for an import company focusing on French and Italian wines. Today, the portfolio includes 100 growers, their wines sold in 25 states, as well as in the wine shop in Berkeley.


Michael and Harmon Skurnik (Courtesy of Skurnik)

Skurnik Wines

Michael Skurnik (left) founded a wine distribution company in 1987 and was joined by his brother, Harmon (right), two years later. Originally focused on bringing California wines to the New York market, they soon expanded to imports as well, including wines from Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and South Africa.


Federico Zanella and Fabrizio Pedrolli (Courtesy of Vias)

Vias

Vias was created by Fabrizio Pedrolli, Pino Sola and Louis Iacucci in 1983 to bring Italian wines to New York and New Jersey; Iaccuci sold the wines through his shop, Gold Star. Pedrolli (right) is now chairman and his nephew, Federico Zanella (left), is CEO and president. The company has added wines from Argentina, Austria, Chile, France, Lebanon, Portugal, Spain, Slovenia and the U.S. to its portfolio.


Michael Quinttus (Courtesy of Vintus)

Vintus

Michael Quinttus graduated with a J.D. from Yale Law School before moving into wine; he spent 18 years at Kobrand before founding Vintus in 2004. This is the eighth year in a row that Vintus has earned a W&S Importer of the Year award, and the company continues to grow its portfolio of family-run estates from France, Italy and around the world.


Rocco Lombardo (Courtesy of Wilson Daniels)

Wilson Daniels

Win Wilson and Jack Daniels founded the company in 1978 with the aim of representing the most prestigious wineries in the world; they began importing Domaine de la Romanée-Conti one year later. The company continues to expand under the direction of Rocco Lombardo, who became President in 2015.


Ian Downey and Dean Ferrell (Courtesy of Winebow Imports)

Winebow Imports

Leonardo Locascio launched this Italian wine distribution company in 1980. Today, run by CEO Dean Ferrell (right) and executive VP Ian Downey (left), Winebow has grown to represent wines from 12 countries, still with a deep focus on Italy, and, as this issue attests, strength in Austria, France, Greece, Portugal, Argentina and Australia, distributing their wines in 19 states.


This story appears in the print issue of Fall 2022.
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