To celebrate Vintegrity’s 12 year anniversary (our first day of business was November 6, 2008), we are sharing a new social media post for each year we have been in business featuring an anecdote about what made that particular year special for us! We’re also updating the blog below to include all posts – so this blog page will serve as sort of a digital archive of Vintegrity’s history. Thank you to everyone for all of your support over these past 12 years!
On November 6th, 2008 we sold our first case of wine to The Classic Cup on the Plaza in Kansas City. Thanks to great friends and long time customers we were given a chance for success in the middle of The Great Recession. We had multiple restaurants add our wines to their lists and several retailers add our items to their stores during the busy holiday season. In honor of our twelve year anniversary we will do twelve posts about each year we have been in business with what made that years special for us.
Here is a list of the first twelve accounts we opened in 2008.
1. Classic Cup
2. Starker’s Reserve
4. Gomer’s Midtown
8. Cellar Rat
9. Gomer’s South
10. Gomer’s North
11. Osteria Il Centro
12. Lukas Liquor Superstore on State Line
With our families support we worked insane hours and wore more hats than we could count to get our new business up and running. My friends Tom Riccardi, Kevin, and Mark Pereira, our first landlords at the Palmentere Beverage building gave us a discount on rent and even let us use office and warehouse equipment at no charge.
1st winery commitment ~John Anthony Vineyards by John Truchard
1st wine sold ~Renteria Vineyard Management LLC from my friend Oscar Renteria
1st Pinot Noir ~Dutton-Goldfield Winery
1st Spirit ~Averna Amaro
1st Malbec ~ Ernesto Catena Vineyards Selections Sista Malbec
1st Aussie Wine ~‘Some Young Punks’ Passion has Red Lips
1st Zinfandel ~Dashe Cellars Dry Creek
1st Oregon winery ~McKinlay
1st Importer ~Vine Street Imports
1st Broker ~Vesel Bev
Vintegrity is so grateful to have been able to surround ourselves with the best team in the business in both Missouri and Kansas these past twelve years. We are equally grateful for all the support in the community for what we saw as a new type of distributorship that could be truly special. As we wrap up what has been our busiest week since we opened twelve years ago, we want to say a heartfelt thanks to all that have made Vintegrity Missouri and Kansas possible.
January and February were pretty brutal in the fine wine and spirits business in 2009. The country was struggling to work through the mortgage crisis, the auto industry bail-out, the credit crunch and all exacerbated by a struggling stock market. Still with our business model of hard work and low overhead we plodded on. We hired our first salesperson in the St. Louis market and immediately began to open accounts there.
Working 80 hours per week became my norm again as I had done it before but just not with a wife and four year old daughter. Liz also worked full time and provided the bulk of our income and all of our benefits to include healthcare. She carried the burden at home and with little D as I worked to build our business.
The most important addition to Team Vintegrity in 2009 was Sean Ball. Sean brought several skills to our young company, such as organization, knowledge of technology and a mastery of our accounting system that we were lacking.
He also saw that our transfers to St. Louis made it there and relieved me of wearing some of the many hats I had been wearing and allowed me to concentrate on brand acquisitions.
Sean also automated our system of ordering wine and spirits from our suppliers and began building our logistics fleet. Just some of the important brands we added to our portfolio are as follows.
These acquisitions helped us build the foundation of our portfolio that helped us get where we are today.
Aveleda from Portugal
Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards
Domaine de Canton Ginger Liquor
Carol Shelton Wines
Carter Sellars ~ The late great Cliff Bath helped us get this great Napa producer.
Chappellet Winery ~ Making Vintegrity the third distributor JP has sold this wine through
Charbay Distillery ~ This and Domaine de Canton became the base of our Spirits portfolio.
Meyer Family Cellars
Mount Eden Vineyards ~ Our favorite Santa Cruz Mountains producer
Orin Swift Cellars~ This one really put us on the map as a upcoming distributor to watch
The Rare Wine Co. Imports to include Alvaro Palacios, Dominio de Pingus, Giuseppe Mascarello, Rene Rostaing, Jacques Selosse, Barbeito Madeira and others.
Shannon Ridge Family of Wines which gave us incredible Cab, Chard, Sb and Petite Sirah at affordable prices. Especially important during a recession.
Truchard Vineyards ~ Renewed JP’s relationship with JoAnn and Tony Truchard one of our favorite families in the wine business.
Vintage ’59 Imports ~ Became the backbone of our French Wine portfolio.
Villa Sandi Prosecco from Folio imports
York Creek Vineyards from Fritz Maytag gave us access to a library of Spring Mountain wines from more than a dozen bottlings, mostly Cabernet based going back fourteen vintages.
These great producers trusting Vintegrity to be their new distributor along with our customers loving these wineries and distilleries helped us not only pull through 2009 but turn a tiny profit our first full year.
Vintegrity began 2010 by hiring a new salesperson, James Vigliaturo, who became our first salesperson in Kansas City outside of the original partners. James brought incredible enthusiasm and knowledge for fine wine to our growing company. James also brought with him strong relationships with key accounts and enabled JP to concentrate more on growing management requirements.
We increased our sales 100% over 2009 and as our portfolio grew, we really began to get deeper into our existing accounts. Vintegrity also grew our number of accounts by 50% and began to make progress in chains, like HyVee and Schnuck’s and national accounts to include Cost Plus World Market, Costco and Whole Foods.
One of the most rewarding things about growing our own company was getting to reunite and do business with old friends like Chad Zimmerman with Animaux du Vin. As an importer, Chad brought us wines like Domaine du Pesquier, Château de la Terrière, Alain Voge and Haut Rian.
Other friends that we joined forces with again were Kansas City native, Brad McLeory owner of Ayres Vineyard & Winery in Oregon, Dan Lee of Morgan Winery, Tom Leonardini Jr. of Whitehall Lane Winery in Napa Valley, Dr. Jerry Seps of Storybook Mountain Vineyards in Napa and Rick Small of Woodward Canyon Winery in Washington state. These winery owners had great relationships in Missouri AND incredible wines for the price which very important because we were not yet out of the recession.
Vintegrity was an early believer in the Craft Cocktail revolution and kept adding pieces to our portfolio to include The Bitter Truth and spirits , G’Vine Gin, Castarde Armagnac, Rhum JM, Tuthilltown Spirits Hudson Valley Whiskies, and other craft spirits selections.
We were fortunate to be chosen by Vino del Sol to be their Missouri wholesaler for Argentine brands to include LaMadrid, Zolo, Altocedro, Verum and Tapiz. VDS would prove to be a great partner and would quickly become one of our top suppliers.
John Truchard of John Anthony Vineyards launched a brand called JaM Cellars and we began to sell JaM Cabernet Sauvignon, the predecessor to Butter Chardonnay which would soon become our number one selling item in a few short years. We continued to grow our business with existing importers like Vine Street Imports with selections that included Le Ragnaie from Tuscany, Misfits and Small Gully from Australia and Walnut Block from New Zealand.
Also, with the incredible portfolio of Vintage ’59 Imports and the hard work in the Missouri market of Debra Lewis, we placed brands like Champagne Jacquart, Gilbert Picq Chablis and Domaine Pfister on dozens of wine lists all over the state.
2011 was year #4 for Vintegrity and things were stagnant economically and the mortgage crisis was still leading to foreclosures. The Dow bounced around from 9,900 in 2010 up to 11,500 and then back down to 10,600 to end 2011. Many folks still were not in recovery financially and certainly were not loading up on expensive wine and spirits.
Vintegrity took a conservative approach to the market by keeping our overhead low and expanses down. Spending $100 at a restaurant, even under the guise of business, seemed like madness at the time. Our restaurant and retail friends were struggling to make ends meet and several businesses closed.
We worked to drill down and build categories in our portfolio such as our Italian offerings. With Domaine Select Wine Estates Imports we brought in great properties such as Massolino, Le Macchiole COS from Sicily, Castel’in Villa, Fontannafredda, J. Hofstatter, Giacomo Borgogno, Castello del Terriccio, Il Palazzone and Poggio di Sotto.
Sadly, in few years when the importer fell on hard times, these wineries would all move to other importers that we did not represent. Just one of the ways brands move around from importers to different distributors.
Sometimes it’s one step forward and one step back. We were fortunate to pick up some volume brands to include La Maialina, Primaterra, Ca Frulan and Palacios Remondo.
Domaine Huet of the Loire Valley was our coolest winery pick up in 2011 followed by Sineann in Oregon. Vintegrity had a lot of things in the works and were growing at a modest pace and were looking forward to 2012. Not all memories of 2011 are good ones though.
In October of 2011 we lost one of our favorite people in the world. Chef John McClure, Executive Chef and Owner of Starker’s Restaurant took his life leaving a gaping hole in the Kansas City restaurant scene and a bigger one in our hearts.
Big Country as we knew him was raised on a cattle ranch in Tescott, Kansas was definitely large in stature and larger in life. John was a Navy veteran, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of American, an immensely talented Chef.
John was the director of the Cliff Bath Scholarship Fund where he raised money to assist young, aspiring local culinary students with their education. John was warm, hilarious, tough, talented and everything you wanted in a friend. In the end John taught us how taxing our industry can be on us all and just how precious life and friends can be.
Continuing with post five of twelve in honor of Vintegrity Missouri’s twelfth anniversary, here are some notes on 2012. This was a crazy year as things really started happening for us. The Ball and Gilmore families bought out JP’s original partner in Vintegrity. At the same time, we had the opportunity to acquire
Brad and Kyle Harsha’s company Harsha Wines in St. Louis. This gave us an already functioning office and warehouse in the St. Louis market, a full time driver to do daily deliveries, three dozen new accounts, and over 100 new brands. Harsha wines was the first Missouri distributor to dive into keg wines (a new concept at the time) which is now a major part of our daily business. However, the part we enjoyed most was meeting Brad Harsha and working with Kyle Harsha, who was our St. Louis sales manager from 2012 to 2013 and
Kelly Sapot for seven years with five of those as our St. Louis sales manager.
Our moves in St. Louis expanded our blueprint for the growth of Vintegrity. Kyle and Kelly had great relationships with customers there and with an expanded portfolio to sell, they really increased our business. We were fortunate to hire Shannon Crowley, a well liked St. Louis restaurant veteran that brought fresh energy with her to our sales team. Brands from Harsha Wines included Ole Imports our favorite new Spanish importer, Enotec Imports, an Italian importer that JP had originally brought to Missouri in 2001 with a previous distributor, Aldo Conterno, Pierre Henri Morel, Boedecker from Oregon, Denner Vineyards from Paso Robles, Alias Wines and Scarpetta Italian Wines founded by MS
Bobby Stuckey and Chef Lachlan
Lachlan M. Patterson of Frasca Food and Wine.
We continued to grow statewide adding other producers such as Benovia our new Sonoma Pinot Noir specialist, Jarvis from Napa, Jowler Creek Missouri wines that helped us open several Price Chopper accounts and expand our grocery business, Hook & Ladder from Cecil De Loach and one that JP had been trying to bring back to Missouri for years, Pride Mountain Vineyards on top of Spring Mountain. We also added a few artisanal spirits to include Rhum Clement, Imbue Artisanal Vermouth, Darnley’s View Gin, Blackwell Rum, Excellia Tequila and Tapatio Tequila from the Camarena family which would become one of the building blocks of our Artisanal Agave portfolio. In Kansas City we hired our friend
Kimberly Gattshall as our newest salesperson from Capital Grille in KC who help JP pull back from all of the accounts that he have opened in the pat two years and again concentrate on management and growth issues.
By this time Sean Ball had built a nice team to give our customers good service and keep our warehouses in check.
Nick Garcia was vital in reorganizing our warehouse. Katie Brogan joined us to be Sean’s office assistant and Patrick Scanlan joined us and helped in a variety of areas in the warehouse and office. Sean really showed his organizational and planning skills when we merged an existing distributorship (Harsha) into Vintegrity. This execution of merging inventory, operating systems, employee programs, offices, sales teams, delivery routes and price books were flawless. JP had been through a few of these with larger companies and this by far was the most organized.
Vintegrity was able to grow our number of accounts, especially in St. Louis and we continued to develop chain business by adding more HyVees, Schnucks, Friar Tucks, Straubs (100% Kelly Sapot’s work) including restaurant chains like PF Chang’s and Flemings. By the end of 2012 the Dow was up about 7% in 2012 and the economy seemed to be ready to rebound just a bit. We were all really looking forward to 2013.
Continuing with post six of twelve in honor of Vintegrity Missouri’s twelfth anniversary, here are some notes on 2013.
Sean and I felt like Vintegrity was really firing on all cylinders in 2013. We had two warehouses on either side of the state, a great sales team, a fantastic wine portfolio and the beginnings of a great craft spirits portfolio. We were really enjoying working with craft spirits and the category was building into a way of life for may bars and restaurants in Missouri at this point. By now Team Vintegrity was doing hundreds of wine dinners, tastings and cocktail events all over the state of Missouri.
We were lucky to be researching Tequila Ocho at the exact time our friend Brandon Cummins called and asked if we would receive some new Artisanal Tequila samples called “Tequila Ocho” for him as he was doing a project. Call it good luck or good karma Brandon brought us together with Lyons Brown of Altamar Brands and we would soon launch Tequila Ocho in Missouri. Ocho was a brand that the well traveled bar professionals of Missouri had discovered previously in other markets like New York, DC, Chicago, Austin and San Francisco. Altamar also brought us Pierde Almas Mezcal that became the catalyst of Vintegrity beginning to develop our extensive Mezcal portfolio. Altamar astutely chose to hire Brandon and he has been one of our favorite and most effective supplier partners. In 2013 Brandon and Altamar also brought us Right Gin, Leopold Raffin Cognac and Kubler Absinthe.
Other brands that we added to our artisanal spirits portfolio included:
Koval Distillery ~ Chicago’s first legal, new distillery since prohibition producing fantastic Whiskeys.
Barsol Pisco Varnelli Amaro Casoni Aparativo
Samaroli ~ Specialty bottler of rare Rum, Whiskey and Armagnac.
More good karma would come our way when Doug Frost would introduce Vintegrity to Simon Ford of The 86 Co. Spirits. Simon was collaborating with Employees Only co-founders Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric creating a company that makes spirits for specifically for bartenders. Led by Fords Gin with Tequila Cabeza, Aylesbury Duck Vodka and Cana Brava Rum. Simon and his team already had a world-wide following and the spirits were a success for Vintegrity with Missouri bar programs.
With great wine salespeople in place we continued to build our fine wine program. We welcomed back another old friend, Larkmead Vineyards, one of Napa Valleys’ oldest and most prestigious wineries. This is another family winery that JP originally launched in Missouri with a pervious distributor.
Another cool winery that JP always wanted to pick up was School House Vineyard up on Spring Mountain in Napa. The founder John Gantner planted the vineyard in early 1950s with Pinot Noir cuttings from John Daniel’s (Inglenook) vineyard (said to be cultivated material from DRC) The wines were made at different wineries in different years to include Buena Vista, Montelena, Stony Hill and now at Pride. Winemaking alum include Fred McCrea (who planted some Stony Hill Chardonnay clones in the vineyard) , Andre Tchelistcheff, Mike Chellini, Bo Barrett, Ric Forman, Bob Foley etc. It used to be a wine that you could only find in winemakers’ cellars in Napa and maybe a few restaurants.
We welcomed back York Creek Vineyards after Fritz Maytag sold the winery stopped producing wine. We signed an agreement with Fritz to help him sell off this inventory of 14 or so vintages of 20 plus bottlings of incredible Spring Mountain Estate wines.
Along with John Anthony Vineyards and JaM Cellars we launched Butter Chardonnay in Missouri and it quickly became a sensation. We sold ever bottle we could get our hands on and it became our number one volume item.
We took time to develop out Burgundy program with producers like Bachelet Monnot, Joseph Voillot, Gilbert Picq, Jean-Michel Gaunoux, Alain Normand, Lucien Muzard, Louis Boillot, Joseph Voillot, Louis Chevallier and Jean Philippe Fichet.
Orin Swift continued to grow for us with new bottlings like Mannequin, Abstract, Veladora and Palermo. They also had big new projects to include D66 from France and the Locations series from five different countries. That little boutique winery that started with 56 cases of Prisoner coming into Missouri had turned into a 2,500 case brand in Missouri.
Like all growing business we had some employees move on but were fortunate to be in a position to add some great new salespeople to Team Vintegrity. Lou Ciccia replaced Kyle when he moved into the insurance business. We were very happy for him but at the same time sincerely bummed when James Vigliaturo took a great management position with Blue Cross Blue Shield. We consider ourselves fortunate to have been able to replace him with Aaron Fry who is our Missouri sales manager today. And another example of good karma coming our way, Tom Witwer a well-respected 20-plus year wine industry veteran that happened to be available and we ultimately created a position for him.
The economy had begun to recover and wine and spirits sales were brisk. New bars and restaurants were opening up as America began to work itself out of the great recession. The Dow started the year at 12,100 and ended the year at about 16,400. Due to our wonderful suppliers and the best sales staff in the business we Vintegrity raised our total sales 40% over 2012.
The most surprising development of 2013 was that the Kansas City Royals finished the season with a winning record for the first tie in ten years!
In honor of Vintegrity’s 12th anniversary, Vintegrity is posting details about each year we have been in business and listing some memories and successes. Post eight of twelve covers some particulars from 2015.
Vintegrity started off with a bang in 2015 as we opened our second distributorship in Kansas. Sean, I and our friend Chris Tridle had been working on this in 2014 and in January of 2015 sold our first bottle of wine. We had a number of brands lined up for Kansas that we already represented in Missouri especially our craft spirits portfolio. We were fortunate to have an opportunity to hire
Courtney Weaver as a Kansas salesperson and she had incredible success. It would not be long before we promoted here to Kansas Sales manager. In Missouri we continued to develop and grow team. We hired Courtney Foster as our office manager and she immediately made herself invaluable. We soon promoted here to Assistant General Manager of Vintegrity. Randall Miller joined our team in the warehouse and instantly became one of our favorites. We welcomed Pat Scanlan back onto the team and developed a hybrid position to put his skills to work for both Vintegrity Missouri and Vintegrity Kansas.
When Shannon Crowley changed industries to open her own Pilates studio, we hired industry veteran Michelle Rehmer Jaenke. Michelle had fine dining restaurant management experience in St. Louis before becoming a salesperson at Missouri Beverage. Michelle brought over a decade of wine, spirits and malt sales experience and was a consummate professional.
In St. Louis, we continued to add to our sales team by hiring Alisha Blackwell Calvert. Alisha brought restaurant and wine sales experience along with a dedication to honing her craft and continuing her wine education through the Court of Master Sommeliers . Alisha excelled at opening new accounts and expanding Vintegrity’s base in St Louis. In August we promoted Michael Schmitz to Springfield and South Easter Missouri salesperson. Mike got right to work expanding with what we had built there and gave us much-needed expertise with growing our spirits program in the area. Mike doubled our sales in his new region in the first sis months.
Vintegrity hired one of JP’s first customers in the KC wine business (back in 1997), Matt Vincent, to cover eastern Kansas City, Columbia, and Jefferson City. Matt immediately opened dozens of new accounts and grew our placements in current accounts in these areas. We were pleasantly surprised by a call from Martinelli Vineyards asking Vintegrity to represent them in both Missouri and Kansas. This legendary Zinfandel grower who also produces incredible Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs had been on our portfolio wish list since day one.
We also added Ancillary Cellars, a hot new Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. This was a new collaboration between Mark Carter of Carter Cellars and winemaker Mike Smith. After slowly building a successful category, we went all-in on Keg wines with The Gotham Wine Project from Charles Bieler ad Bruce Schneider. We added Mazzocco Sonoma, The Rabble Wine Co and Tooth and Nail winery which immediately grew to high volume wine sales.
We knew we were getting a good reputation for our craft spirits division when The Back Bar Project asked Vintegrity to be their distributor in Missouri and Kansas. Back Bar brought us the Giffard and Bigallet liqueurs, spirits, and syrups. Due to their quality, tradition, cutting-edge methods and use of whole, natural fruits, herbs, and spices many agree that Giffard and Bigallet products are essential in a true craft bar program. Back Bar also brough us El Jolgorio, Nuestra Soledad and Agave de Cortes Mezcals to add to our growing Agave program. They also brought us our first Sotol with Sotol Por Siempre.
The hits kept coming as we picked up the original Amaretto, Lazzaroni and their line of liqueurs, Amari, modifiers and not to mention Lazzaroni cocktail cherries.
Working with Rhum JM and Rhum Clement caused us to develop a real love and appreciation for artisanal rum. When Lyons Brown and Brandon Cummins brought us Foursquare Rum, we took it to a whole new level. The distillery was opened by Richard Seale and family in 1996 within the tiny Caribbean island of Barbados. Exceptional Cask Selections represent the unique and rate offering of Foursquare Rum Distillery that Richard has selected-his personal projects, only release when he feels they are of exceptional quality. These one-of-a-kind expressions are extremely limited and sell out upon release almost immediately.
Dave Phinney, of Orin Swift and The Prisoner fame, brought us Slaughterhouse Whiskey and Straight Edge Bourbon. These were an immediate success for Vintegrity and were our first experience working with whiskies finished on Napa Cabernet barrels, a practice Vintegrity would build on over the next few years.
J. Rieger & Co. released their vodka and we rolled out their products in the Kansan market. Our launch back in November of 2014 proved so successful that we hit our 12-month goal halfway through our sixth month. Later in the year the distillery partnered with legendary Master Distiller and Gin creator Tom Nichol. Meeting Tom was one of the highlights of our 2015. We liked him so much we took him to see the Royals beat the Astros in Kauffman Stadium during the playoffs.
Our original Mezcal, Pierde Almas, parted ways with one of our favorite importers and the Mezcal faded into oblivion. Luckily our friend Berto Santoro hooked us up with the owners of one of our favorite Mezcals, Mezcal Vago bringing Vintegrity another great artisanal Mezcal. Vintegrity also added handcrafted sodas and mixers from Boylan Bottling to our non-alcoholic portfolio. Their tonic, soda water and ginger beer add another quality ingredient to our cocktails.
The Kansas City Royals started the season by winning their first seven games and wrapped up their season by winning the 2015 World Series for the first time in 30 years. In June the United States Supreme court declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states agreeing that love is love. We ended the year thankful for many things, a great team at Vintegrity, most citizens doing better as we continued to move out of the recession, tremendous support from our customers and our families.
Continuing with post nine of twelve in honor of Vintegrity Missouri’s twelfth anniversary, here are some notes on 2016. We looked at 2016 as an investment year in our growing companies.
We bought a 26 foot temperature controlled, dock high Hino Truck. Our largest expenditure since starting Vintegrity in 2008. This gave us greater control over our KC to Stl transfers, big deliveries to accounts like Costco and other shipping. We added forklifts, in addition to electric hand jacks, in both Kansas City and St. Louis to help moving pallets around. We also invested in our team, adding restaurant industry veteran Stephanie Fuller to our office team in Missouri. Stephanie improved our transfer of orders to St. Louis by leaps and bounds.
When Lou Ciccia and his family moved back to his home state of Ohio, we were fortunate to land Aaron Sherman to add to Vintegrity St. Louis. Aaron brought a wealth of restaurant and wine experience from Chicago and hit the ground running. Vintegrity also expanded their fleet of vans and added additional delivery routes. In St. Louis we hired Bill Seib for our logistics team and he’s greatly helped out service over there. In Kansas City, we hired Glen Mies as a new route driver and instantly began getting positive comments from customers. Both are still with Vintegrity today.
Aaron Fry was promoted to Kansas City sales manager in 2016 to help JP and Sean manage Vintegrity as we grew. Aaron also passed the advanced level of the Court of Master Sommeliers exam leaving him with ‘just’ the Masters level to pass to become a Master Sommelier. Aaron’s first big project was the Vintage 59 Vintner Road Show. Our French importer V59 chose Kansas City as one of their cities to host over 20 French Vintners as we held a grand tasting at the American Restaurant. Over 200 customers attended making it on of their most successful events ever. This remains the best wine tasting that JP and Sean have ever hosted in all their years in the business. Many of the 2016 photos in this post are from the V59 Roadshow of 2016.
Vintegrity Kansas began to add more brands that we had represented in Missouri to include Ayres Vineyards, Larkmead Vineyards, Morgan Winery, Slo Down Wines, Whitehall Lane, D66 and Orin Swift. New brands we signed in the Kansas market included, Stewart Cellars from Napa, Champagne Jacquart, Broadley Vineyards, Crane Assembly from Prisoner and Orin Swift founder Dave Phinney, and Ransom Spirits from Oregon. A pleasant surprise for both markets was Lolea Sangria from Spain. Far different from the cheap, poorly packaged Sangria of old, Lolea was made with good wine, with a premium package and great marketing that uncovered a segment Sangria had been missing. Lolea blew up for us in both Missouri and Kansas.
In Missouri we added Broadley from Oregon, Bibi Graetz from Tuscany, Champagne Jacquart, Keenan from Napa Valley Spring Mountain, L’Ecole from Washington state, Barolo legend Bartolo Mascarello from Piedmont, Reeve Wines from Springfield Missouri natives, Noah and Kelly Dorrance, and Skinner wines from El Dorado. Vine Street Imports and Le Ragnaie in Tuscany launched Poggio Anima Wines that gave us extremely high quality Italian wines from Tuscany, Abruzzi, Sicily, and other appellations at a great value.
In our pursuit of great Spanish wines, we added wines Well Oiled Wine Co. that would include Anciano, Bodegas Lan and Rojo Mojo and Think Global Imports that represents one of the greatest Rioja wineries on the planet R. Lopez de Heredia. 2016 brought us some nice additions to our craft spirits portfolio to include Gracias a Dias Mezcal, Scrappy’s Bitters, Chateau Arton Armagnac from Altamar Brands and Manotsuru Sura Junmai Sake.
Vintegrity Missouri was fortunate to acquire the incredible Japanese Whiskies from Tokiwa Imports to include Ichiro’s, Iwai, and Akashi.
We had been sending proposals to Leopold Bros. Distilling in Colorado for years when one day Scott Leopold returned our call. Leopold built their distillery in the mid-2000s just as the craft spirits revolution was beginning. An artisanal grain to glass producer of liqueurs, whiskeys and flavored whiskeys Leopold had a strong cult following. Many of their products sold out upon release and fortunately for Vintegrity their production had increased enough to expand distribution into Missouri.
Orin Swift was purchased by global wine giant Gallo in June of 2016 which is an example of the consolidation that happens in our business. With all the great wineries and distilleries that Vintegrity had added to our portfolio in the past eight years, Orin Swift was one of many. Brands moving around was nothing new to our veteran team of sales representatives and they responded by finishing 2016 up 15% as a company over 2015.
Vintegrity was doing dozens of wine and spirits events and tastings monthly now and exciting new craft cocktail bars and restaurants were opening at a rapid pace. The economy continued its recovery, and we had a full schedule of vintners, distillers and cocktail brand ambassadors working the markets weekly.
2016 delivered two major losses to the Kansas City market with the passing of two of our favorite people in the world. Chef Jennifer Maloney of Café Sebastienne with whom many of us worked for over 20 years. Jennifer was an incredible chef, with a wonderful laugh, who participated in every charity event and if you were lucky, you got the table next to hers. We also lost Bob Swatzell know as Beer Bob to all. Many of us knew Bob as one of the most influential sale managers who built the craft beer business in Missouri, well before it was a hipster thing. When Bob walked into an account if immediately put a smile on everyone’s face.
We also said to goodbye to way, way too many great musicians in 2016 to include David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Merle Haggard, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell, Sharon Jones, Maurice White, Glenn Frey, Paul Kanter, Keith Emerson, Phife Dawg and Greg Lake.
We hired Meryl Medoff as JP’s assistant and to give Vintegrity Missouri some much needed organization help in our office. Meryl brought an incredible work ethic and knowledge of the business from here experience at restaurants such as Rye Leawood.