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Feb 2, 2007 05:48 PM

wine importers

I find myself more and more often turning bottles around to see who brought it in. Louis/ Dressner is one of my favorites. I also like the stuff that Tempranillo brings in from Spain. Polaner's a name I trust too. I think I buy less italian wine spur of the moment because I don't know any italian importers. Recommendations from any country are welcome, but especially Italian and German. Any that you think are not to be trusted (again from anywhere)?

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  1. Not necessarily limited to Italian, but . . .

    Trusted (alphabetically):
    -- Beaune Imports [France]
    -- Classical Wines of Spain [Spain]
    -- Estate Wines [France, Italian]
    -- Hand Picked Selections [France]
    -- Jorge Ordonez [Spain]
    -- Louis/Dressner [France]
    -- Kermit Lynch [France, Italy]
    -- Kysella Pere et Fils, Ltd. [France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain]
    -- North Berkeley Imports [France]
    -- Oliver McCrum Imports [Italy]
    -- Terry Theise Selections (Michael Skurnik) [Champagne, Austria, Germany]

    All of these tend to be solid importers whose name on a bottle I find reassuring.

    21 Replies
    1. re: zin1953

      I also trust Beaune, McCrum, and Theise, if I see their label on the back of a bottle I know it'll be well-made and interesting. There's one other I can't think of offhand. French stuff, including some really obscure items.

      Some of Kermit Lynch's prices seem inflated, particularly on wines that he has been selling for 20+ years, compared with similar wines from other importers.

      Same goes for North Berkeley.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Kermit is, no doubt, high on the price side. (I was able to "beat" his prices for years on the wines I grey-marketed.) North Berkeley less so, but the point remains valid.

        1. re: zin1953

          Kermit Lynch has added a lot of less expensive new wines in the past year or so. Some of those are good values. A few I've tasted were excellent values but they sold out before I could buy more.

          Since the company is an importer and distributor, the retail shop charges full retail. Other retailers sometimes sell some of Kermit's wines cheaper.

          Gray-market versions aren't always the exact same wine. Especially at the higher end of the price range, some of Kermit's suppliers make special blends.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Well, Robert -- I'm presuming that you already know that I know all that, and that you're explaining that for the other people here who may not know.

            What you are saying is true IF I were, for example, to import a filtered version of a Rhone or Burgundy that Kermit brings in as an unfiltered wine. That said, it wasn't true of the wines I brought in.

            1. re: zin1953

              There are also wines where Lynch or one of his employees have selected particular lots. In at least one vintage, the Vieux-Telegraphe from Kermit was noticeably superior to the cheaper gray-market version.

              Speaking of which, I just splurged on a bottle of '95 Le Crau last night. Man was that a treat with grilled duck.


            2. re: Robert Lauriston

              Maybe you're thinking of Charles Neal and his imports from SW France? His brett tolerance is a bit higher than mine (yeah, seems impossible!), so best to taste first before buying in quantity.

              I also think the 1995 VT Le Crau CDP is magnificent and still on the upswing. Some of the best Kermit values are in the Italian selection. Not carried by many retailers, underreported, and priced below the market, all of which can deliver some bargains. I think I've rec'd the Valpolicella before.

        2. re: zin1953

          For anyone out there familiar with SF area --
          Any insight to who are the local importers, distributors, and primary retail outlets for Southern Rhone wines. Northern as well.

          1. re: StephP

            All the usual suspects . . . where do you live within the Bay Area? that is, what's convenient? All the small importers mentioned above are available in the SF Bay area.

            Are there any Rhône producers you are looking for specifically?

            1. re: zin1953

              East Bay/ SF is convenient.

              I actually am asking for two reasons, one, I'm finding things to drink (that would be the CdR and CdRV stuff from some of the producers previously mentioned veneur, modoree, segries).

              Two, a friend who's doing a marketing program at Univ of Beaune is looking for an internship in the Bay Area. I'm thinking he'll need to contact some of the bigger distributors or importers of French wine in the area to see who might offer him a job this summer. The importers are I suspect, the list you've already posted, but the distributors I've no clue who those might be.

              Thanks in advance!

              1. re: StephP

                The big California wholesalers/distributors are
                Southern Wines & Spirits
                Young's Market Co.
                Wine Warehouse
                Henry Wine Group

                Some of these large firms will do in-house marketing, but many rely on the national importer. Small importers and/or wholesalers have little (or NO!) marketing budget of any kind. They spend their money on printing their sales brochures and doing an annual or semi-annual trade tasting.

                1. re: zin1953

                  would you say that we should stay away from small importers. I would think that their personal touch and small library would be a big plus..

                  1. re: Foodandwine

                    Where on earth would you get that idea from all I've posted here???

                    1. re: zin1953

                      from your post above. did not intend to hit a nerve :) I have not read much of your posts to get a better feel..

                      1. re: Foodandwine

                        Did you read the post to which I was replying?

                        StephP asked: "a friend who's doing a marketing program at Univ of Beaune is looking for an internship in the Bay Area. I'm thinking he'll need to contact some of the bigger distributors or importers of French wine in the area to see who might offer him a job this summer."

                        So I gave him a list of the larger distributors who might actually have a position for an intern . . .

                        Context is everything. ;^)

                        1. re: zin1953

                          lets not argue here. I think you add allot to the board. I did read the post again and perhaps you left this out by accident:

                          I actually am asking for two reasons, one, I'm finding things to drink (that would be the CdR and CdRV stuff from some of the producers previously mentioned veneur, modoree, segries).

                          Perhaps we sould get back to the task at hand and not be so particular with one another.

                          The reason that I asked is that I am contemplating on becoming an Importer/Distributor and was curious about your thougts about doing so without saying that outright. SORRY! for the confusion..

                          1. re: Foodandwine

                            >>> perhaps you left this out by accident <<<

                            No, it was on purpose. I did NOT address that comment in my initial reply, because a) it wasn't really a question; and b) all -- or almost all -- of the top "small" importers have already been addressed in this thread.

                            The thoughts/questions/contemplations about possibly becoming an importer/distributor is -- of course -- an entirely different issue. ;^) There is, as I'm sure you already know, no end to the questions this raises, let alone no end to the government red tape!

                            Being in California, Lloyd, it's an already crowded market. This is not to say a new importer/distributor could not thrive, but it DOES mean you need to fill a niche and/or have connections . . . careful business plan, and all that.

                            -- Do you want to be a national importer, a regional one, or just one for the State of California?
                            -- Do you want to focus on one region? one nation? one continent? or import wines from all over the world?
                            -- Do you want to be an importer and wholesaler? or an importer and distributor?
                            -- At the very least, you will need a Federal Import license and a California state distributor's license. Other states, other activities, and you'll require more licenses . . .

                            I don't expect you to answer the questions here, Lloyd, but if you check my profile, my email address is there, and I'm happy to continue this in private if you wish . . .


                            1. re: zin1953

                              Jason, sent off a an email to your address hope I had it right.. Thanks

                              1. re: zin1953

                                Hi Jason,I like to read you so much,I cant beleieve the wine culture there are in Usa, like you,and the interest to find new wine producers.I really think that the wine market in Usa are still so big,to export our products.I try to find some importers mail address,but couldnt not contact them,like kysella,classical wines of Spain,and ordoñez(they are ony whole salers and distributurs,who buy directly to us importers.
                                Can you help me?

                  2. re: StephP

                    hi I like so much your discussions about wines,but my interest to stay here,is to looking for serious importers to export our wines.We are a little producers of good price quality relationship french type wines,cabernet,syrah,mourvedre,white garnache and vermentino(italian),in the spanish wine region called Penedes(catalonia).Can you help me?

                2. re: StephP

                  One distributor with a strong presence in the bay area that you should be aware of is WineWise. They have an outstanding French portfolio, especially as value is concerned, and their Spanish producers are very good, too - especially the legendary Lopez de Heredia. They have a couple of producers in the southern Rhone - check them out.

                  1. re: georgempavlov

                    WineWise has a presence here in Southern California as well and the book is strong....but for value, dunno I think Beaune Imports has them there.

              2. rosenthal imports many of my favorite italian wines.

                1. To me Kermit Lynch is the king, but I also like a lot of wines imported by Siena Imports (San Francisco).

                  1. Palm Bay Imports is a wine importer whose wines I really seem to end up liking. They import Fonterutoli and Mazzei from Tuscany, Feudi Di San Gregorio from Campania, and Anselmi from near Verona. They also import a wine I've been enjoying from Spain, Condesa de Leganza. I often buy by this importer and it's usually a hit. They have a website (where I looked up the spellings) -

                    1. in addition to the worthy nominations already mentioned, for Italians, winebow/leonard locasio and Eric Solomon (praised by R.Parker when asked by Charlie Rose for high q.p.r. wines) cheers