Tag Archives: reliable wine importers

Wine Importers to Rely On: Leonardo LoCascio Selections (Specialty: Italy)

5 Jun

by Sharon Kapnick

Shopping for an Italian wine? You’d do well to look for Leonardo LoCascio’s name on the label, for many consider him to have the most impressive Italian portfolio in the U.S.

In 1980, after he left a prestigious position at Citibank, LoCascio launched Winebow, Inc., a wine importing and distributing business. While he carries many excellent wines from more than 30 countries, LoCascio is renowned for his Italian wines.

Leonardo LoCascio Selections, the Italian arm of Winebow, features some 75 producers, many small to mid-size, independent and family owned. That ensures, LoCascio says, that “the grapes are cared for on a very intimate basis.” While he of course imports wines from the superstar viticultural areas of Tuscany and Piedmont, he’s especially proud of the wines he’s discovered in southern Italy—from Sicily, where he was born, Sardinia, Campania, Basilicata, Calabria and Apulia, regions not generally recognized for stellar wines. Finding topnotch wines there is more of a challenge, which excites him. By venturing off the beaten path, he aims to discover wines of “distinctive character and exceptional value,” and his selection of inexpensive wines is indeed noteworthy.

In 1998 LoCascio was named one of the most influential wine personalities of the past 20 years by influential wine critic Robert M. Parker Jr. The same year he received Food & Wine magazine’s Golden Grape Award, which recognizes “visionaries in America who are not only changing the way we think about wine but also determining what we will be drinking in the 21 st century.” If LoCascio is right, grapes like Nero d’Avola (red), Grillo and Inzolia (whites), the mainstays of Sicily, will someday be as well known in the U.S. as Pinot Grigio—well, at least much better known than they are today.

Awards and recognition keep rolling in. In 2009, Winebow was named Importer of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine. In 2010 the Quarterly Review of Wines and the New York Institute of Technology honored LoCascio with their 13th annual Professional Excellence Award.

His website (www.winebow.com) boasts that “the Leonardo LoCascio Selections logo on a label has become the de facto seal of approval for Italian wine enthusiasts.”’ It’s got that just right.

Wine Importers to Rely On: Kermit Lynch (Specialty: France)

22 May

by Sharon Kapnick       The first in a series of posts about importers to rely on.

Many studies indicate that wine in moderation is good for us, but many of us aren’t sure which wines—especially imported wines—are good. When in doubt, I call upon an easy way to deal with the overwhelming options: I look for wines from importers I’ve come to trust.

These savvy importers help you make smart choices. They’ve done the swirling and the sniffing, the sipping and the spitting, the sleuthing and the schlepping. All you have to do is look for their name on the back of the bottle.

Kermit Lynch of Kermit Lynch Selections (www.kermitlynch.com) is a superstar among importers and a role model for those who followed in his path. His influence has been monumental.

In 1972, he opened a wine shop near Berkeley, California. At the time there was a wine recession, and he was able to scoop up great bargains. “Low prices on great wines,” he wrote, “began to attract customers to my hole-in-the-wall shop.” Lynch quickly became enamored of French wines and soon began importing them. He boldly filled his store—right in the middle of California wine country—with Burgundies and little-known gems from little-known regions in France.

Lynch is a self-described “specialist in off-the-beaten-path wines.” Some have become esteemed wines in the U.S., including Bandol’s Domaine Tempier, Alsace’s Domaine Zind-Humbrecht and Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe. The pioneering Lynch insisted on nonfiltered wines and refrigerated containers for shipping at a time when such practices were uncommon. In the course of all this, he introduced new French grapes to California winemakers, who proceeded to plant them.

In addition to being a retailer and an importer, Lynch is an award-winning author. In 2000 he received the James Beard Foundation Wine Professional of the Year Award and in 2005 the French government dubbed him a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.

Lynch’s friend Alice Waters, who revolutionized American cuisine via her Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse, touts him as “the revolutionary wine merchant who, almost single-handedly, has brought about a new understanding of wine as a unique expression of land, tradition and people.” Lynch’s name on a label is a very, very good thing.