Uncork the Unexpected
Vine Connections is a category leader that champions wine regions and sake brewers that deserve to be known, making them relevant to the U.S. fine wine and sake markets.
AHEAD OF THEIR TIME
Lifetime wine guys, Nick Ramkowsky and Ed Lehrman got their wine careers started early. Nick began working at North Berkeley Wine Shop while attending UC Berkeley, eventually becoming the store’s manager and wine buyer. Ed started collecting wine as a hobby and storing it in the bottom 2 drawers of his dorm dresser at Duke University before moving to NYC where he worked at New York’s premier wine shop, Sherry-Lehmann.
THE SPARK THAT STARTS IT ALL
While on a trip visiting wineries in Mendoza, Argentina, Ed and Nick realized they had to introduce America to the best wines from the world’s 5th largest (but still fairly unknown) wine producing country. They decided to form and launch Vine Connections, which pioneered the first nationally-imported portfolio of artisan wines from Argentina.
GOING FOR IT WITH GINJO
Just a year after launching the Argentina portfolio, Ed and Nick decided to introduce Japanese premium ginjo sake from 11 brewers. Vine Connections was the first non-Japanese company to nationally distribute sake.
INTRODUCING “THE NEW CHILE”
Noticing Chile was on the cusp of a fine wine revolution that will be felt for decades to come, Ed and Nick introduced the world to “The New Chile” with an appellation-based portfolio representing the diversity of Chile's terroir.
LOOKING TO ITS CALIFORNIA BACKYARD
Recently, Vine Connections launched its "Small Batch California" portfolio with a group of local winemakers who embrace history while pushing innovation and challenging preconceptions of California wine.
The Vine Connections Team
Ed is the Managing Partner at VC and oversees all departments. He got into wine by chance when he was in college, and by junior year he was already “cellaring” wines in his dorm clothes bureau. He’s been in the wine biz ever since. When Ed is not drinking wine and sake, you can find him burning off the calories on his road or mountain bike in Marin County where he lives. Ed refuses to pick favorites among the incredible VC portfolio (says “they are all my children”), but he has been known to express a fondness for Tentaka “Silent Stream” Junmai Daiginjo sake.
Nick is the co-founder of Vine Connections and has an extraordinary enthusiasm for championing unknown regions. The “VC Visionary,” Nick leads portfolio development, supplier relations, and sales strategy. His wine career started as a wine buyer at Vintage Berkeley while attending UC Berkeley. Upon graduation, Nick moved to France for a year to explore its wine country and later began working in wholesale distribution when he returned to the US. He and Ed started Vine Connections in 1999. Based in Jackson, WY, Nick can often be found on the mountain, skiing with his wife and two daughters.
As the Design and Marketing Associate at Vine Connections, Aisha works with the Marketing team to design sales and marketing materials ranging from sales sheets to store displays. Aisha is a Northern California native that grew up in the Napa Valley and graduated from California State University Chico. Growing up in Napa definitely had an influence on her interest in wine; however working in the hospitality industry sparked her love for wine. Aside from graphic design, Aisha is passionate about traveling, photography and exploring the outdoors. She loves enjoying VC wines with friends, and can often be found with a bottle of Luca Pinot Noir or Graffito Malbec.
Curious where VC sells their wine? Need to know what market or account to pitch next? As VC’s Sales Analyst, Chris is responsible for digesting our data and developing a clear sales narrative for the team. When he’s not busy with numbers, Chris enjoys spending time with his friends and family. You'll find him hiking, playing soccer, cooking or exploring the San Francisco food scene. As a Bay Area native, Chris’ initial interest in wine sparked from childhood visits to see his grandparents in Napa. An Intro to Viticulture and Enology class at UC Davis sealed the deal. He’s been learning about and enjoying wine since! He is currently sharing with friends the Mendel Semillon, his favorite Vine Connections wine.
Darryl Vennard began his career in the wine business over 30 years ago, first working in a research lab at Michigan State University, then as an assistant winemaker/cellar rat at a boutique winery. He spent three years as state-wide manager for a large California winery, and has logged almost 20 years of distributor experience. He is also a certified sommelier with training in enology and wine production. He is a contributing wine columnist for St. Louis Magazine. Darryl Vennard has represented Vine Connections for nearly 15 years, first as a distributor, later as a broker. About four years ago he was brought on board as their Midwest Regional Sales Manager. In his spare time he spends time in his “chemical free” flower garden listening to music, gardening and creating art(his Corked Tree project was the only one of its kind in the world until he began working on two others. An avid concert goer ranging from bar bands to the Symphony, he is also involved in a charity helping kids take music lessons from professional instructors.
Donna Creese is the Mid-Atlantic Regional Sales Manager, encompassing DC, MD, DE, VA, NC, WV, TN, PA on premise. She comes to Vine Connections with a strong background in luxury properties/food & beverage management, both independent as well as corporate companies, key account distributor management and regional supplier management. Donna joined the Vine Connections team in October of 2014. She grew up on a farm in Virginia, driving a tractor with her dad, tossing hay bales, birthing calves and working with horses. She climbed into the saddle at the young age of six; eventually embracing her competitive edge in the hunter/jumper circuit showing and ultimately foxhunting. Donna enjoys lots of completive sports: captain of her varsity tennis team, captain of her varsity soccer team, varsity field hockey, advanced skier and cyclist. Today she resides on the eastern shore of Maryland, in a small sailing community enjoying her down time with her two dogs and lots of friends. Donna takes pride in her cottage and accompanying gardens. She is an accomplish cook and polished entertainer. She strives to make her Vine Connections events both unique and irresistible, sharing her passion for South America, Japan & California with as many fans possible. Her biggest challenge joining the Vine Connections team was Japan and the extensive portfolio of premium sakes. Today she finds those sakes the most fun to sell. She loves teaching people about something new, out of the comfort zone and sharing the nuances she once feared, demonstrating how eloquent and easy to pair these selections are with all foods, not just sushi.
As Operations Manager, Emily has been closely following container trajectories from all points of supply in Argentina, Chile, Japan and California to our own warehouses as well as those of our distributors. She also places orders with suppliers, manages inventory and monitors alcohol compliance with customs. When not wrangling containers, Emily will read or fruitlessly search for movies while sipping her currently favorite Matensei Star-Filled Sky sake and eating packaged ramen.
Fabian is the South East Regional Sales Manager covering Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, as well as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Fabian has a wealth of experience working with South American wineries and has traveled extensively throughout Latin America, including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Brazil. His first experience with wine was during his college years working in a fine Italian restaurant which led him to pursue a career in hospitality, then eventually, a sales role for a wine & spirits distributor. His passion for Latin American wine trade led him to pursue the import business for Argentinean and Chilean wine. He says that a glass of a fine Carmenere or Malbec is the perfect end to any day! Salύd!
Jonas is a 16 year veteran in the wine industry having joined Vine Connections in 2004. He oversees all manners of Financial and Operational functions for the company as well as collaborating on long term strategy. Outside of work he enjoys the trails of Southern Marin, spending time with family and throwing the ball to his rescue dog. His introduction to wine came from working as a youth/teenager in his family’s bustling college town gourmet food store where wine was barely marked up over wholesale to draw customers in for baked goods and cheese.
Jonathon is a Sake Specialist based in Chicago and the newest member of the Vine Connections team. He is always working to support and grow the sake community. Jonathon is also passionate about jazz, a good glass of shochu, and just recently got his first pair of cross country skis. When thinking about his favorite sake moment he recalls every time he’s seen someone have their own “Aha!” moment and beginning to fall in love with sake!
Julie grew up in wild and wonderful Wyoming where she graduated from the University of Wyoming with degrees in English and Art History. During a semester abroad, Julie’s passion for food and wine pairing was kindled while staying with a family in France who introduced her to their estate Alsatian Riesling paired with Truite au Bleu. This inspiring moment led Julie to attend the Scottsdale Culinary Institute in Arizona, where her true wine education began. Following a successful run with her catering business, The Culinary Connection, Julie made a departure into the wine industry, first as a distributor sales rep and owner in Northern Colorado and then as one of Vine Connections’ first regional sales managers. Julie has also held the titles of Field Sales Support Manager and Associate Director of Sales prior to her current role as the Coordinatrix of Global Events. When not managing suppliers, distributors or her own children, Julie can be found on a run, at the gym or cooking something delicious to pair with VC’s wines and sakes!
Kim joined Vine Connections in 2012 with an extensive experience in customer service, freight logistics and business operations. Kim’s main responsibilities include the Brand Planner, strategic sales initiative execution and tracking, national program coordination, programming and pricing updates and communication. She connects the office with the sales force and supports them in the field. Kim’s favorite summer activities are biking with her kids and friends to a local beach and sharing a glass of Luca Chardonnay or Mayu Pedro Ximenez while the kids blissfully play on the sand and soak up the sun or fishing on the San Francisco bay with a bottle of Boya Sauvignon Blanc.
Native Texan, Kristin Breshears, studied Communications at the University of Texas & graduated with a Master’s of Science in Communication Sciences & Disorders. After working as a pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist for almost 10 years, she stumbled into the fun & fabulous world of wine & figured she’d take her good work karma & apply it to a career in wine sales. Kristin was a Brand Manager for Crush Wine Marketing, an independent wine brokerage in Texas for two years. She then became a Sales Manager for the state of Texas for Hahn Family Wines, and quickly added the Southwest Region, including Louisiana, Oklahoma & Arkansas, as her territory. Kristin represented the Hahn family for 8 years. Her passion for continued wine knowledge & experience lead her to Vine Connections’ impressive & vast portfolio. She joined the team at the beginning of 2016 & has flourished as a champion of the categories of New Chile & Argentine wines & Boutique Sake with her extensive relationships in the South Central Region.
Lei Wang is the Staff Account for Vine Connections and works on all aspects of accounting and finance related activities. He graduated from UC Davis with a Managerial Economics major and minored in Statistics. After he interned in Morgan Stanley and worked a couple years for Wells Fargo, he was looking for a dynamic, challenging and fun place. Then, he found the VC family. Tikal Jubilo is his most favorite wine because he feels it not only speaks wine of Argentina but also the spirit of the country. When he has free time, he prefers to spend time with his fish tank. He loves nature and enjoys the peace with his fishes. He also likes reading history books. He sees human history as more dramatic than any novel.
Lizzy has lived and worked with wine on both sides of the Andes, starting in Argentina working for the Catena family and then landing in Chile to work for Viña Mayu in Elqui. After The New Chile portfolio launched in 2013, Ed y Nick hired her on full-time as Vine Connection’s Chile Brand Specialist. Lizzy combines her marketing skills of writing, photography, Spanish and Chilean wine expertise to support the education and sales of VC’s pioneering premium ‘New Chile’ portfolio in the US. Lizzy also leads dynamic educational trips for distributors and key trade in Chile every harvest. In her free time, Lizzy loves being outdoors – exploring her passions of trail running, hiking, writing, and photography.
Melanie Malosky has over 20 years of experience in the wine and spirits industry. Her passion is to find and expand opportunities by building relationships, educating others, and inviting them on a journey to discover the unexpected. Melanie’s first foray into the wine business came at a young age working for a boutique luxury hotel operated by the New England Culinary Institute. After moving from Vermont to Colorado in 1995, her passion for wine was solidified by curating a unique award winning wine list for a prominent Italian Restaurant, Antica Roma. After a visit to Italy, she moved into selling wine and never looked back. After a few years of selling and managing distinguished import portfolios, she then became a partner in Magnum Wine Group, representing Vine Connections along with several other importers and wineries. Melanie then transitioned to working for Vine Connections and has served as our director of sales and is currently the Director of Business Development. The wine industry is more than just a job for Melanie; it is a lifestyle that combines all of the things she finds important in life including family, history, culture, community, evolution, travel, and a vast array of flavors found in food and wine. In her spare time, Melanie and her husband are raising five-year-old triplets and enjoying adventures in the mountains of Colorado.
Monica Samuels is the National Sake Sales Manager for Vine Connections. Monica has worked in the sake business for over ten years, at the restaurant, distributor, and importer level. Monica grew up bilingual and bi-cultural, speaking Japanese at home while living in Los Angeles, and spending every summer in Tokyo with her grandparents. With a grandfather who was a sake brewer Monica has been around sake from a young age, but the turning point was working for the Japanese-Peruvian-Brazilian inspired SushiSamba, her first job after moving to NYC. Monica’s insane love for eating, drinking, and meeting new people match perfectly with the demands of her travel schedule. When at home in NYC she loves cooking, yoga, and making people laugh.
Rachel oversees the Marketing department and has been working at Vine Connections since 2013. She specializes in branding, packaging/label development, and creative communications for all VC categories and products. Rachel spent a year living in Argentina after graduating from UCLA, and this experience getting to know the people, food, and wine of South America led her to become a passionate champion of the region. In her spare time, Rachel loves camping, snowboarding, hiking, cooking, and traveling. Lately she can be found drinking Casa Silva Sauvignon Gris or Kanbara Bride of the Fox Junmai sake.
Based in Boston, Rachelle Bose is responsible for the Northeast. She has spent her career focused on her passions: wine, cheese, beer, and, since joining Vine Connections, Sake! In her free time she likes traveling, snow skiing, and yoga. A wine trip to Mendoza early in her career made her a life-long evangelist for one of the world’s unique wine producing regions.
Richard joined Vine Connections over a decade ago. He finished a two year run as an independent national wholesale wine broker and joined Ed and Nick as their first sales ambassador, helping Nick to open new markets across the United States for Vine Connections as the company expanded its distribution network. Prior to getting on board with Vine Connections he worked as a supplier for Cartlidge and Browne in 18 states after completing a 9 year stint as an Account Manager at Associated Wine Distributors in San Francisco. The Hotel and restaurant trade were the main influence on Richard’s passion for wine. Starting at the original Ritz-Carlton in Boston, then later moving to San Francisco to work at the Clift Hotel and numerous Bay Area restaurants in varied front of the house positions created the foundation for a career in the fine wine business. A New Englander by birth, growing up in Connecticut, Richard later attended Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts, lived in MA and briefly in FL before permanently relocating to San Francisco in 1976.
Ryan was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and attended the University of California, Berkeley. After a few years of work in the entertainment industry, he started on the path that would eventually lead him to the promised land that is Vine Connections. He started in finance in the world of non-profit accounting. After several years in the non-profit sector, he found himself as a temp at a small Sausalito-based wine importer, and within months was a full time employee who was finally realizing his dream of making the world a better place, one glass of wine/sake at a time. He is happily married with two wonderful children and two cats.
Terena’s official title is Office Manager but she wears many hats at Vine Connections. She is the unofficial assistant to every department and juggles a variety of requests daily. A positive attitude and a can-do mentality are her trademarks. Terena is the liaison between the office team and its on-the-go sales team, always happy to help get the job done. She spends her free time on the water-- rowing, sailing and occasionally paddle boarding. Terena also loves tennis and playing golf with her dad. Her passion is animals and she can be found volunteering at the Marine Mammal Center helping with the care of the Pinnipeds. As far as wines are concerned Terena’s favorite VC brand is Tikal as it speaks to her penchant for things that combine environmental responsibility with genuine spirit. Tikal’s biodynamic vineyards and holistic farming cycle captured Terena’s attention, but what won her over in the end was the passion that lives in the bottles and comes alive on the palette.
Valeria’s work at Vine Connections combines her vast experience as a designer, an undeniable understanding of business and logistics in Argentina, and originality in planning and coordinating groups of people. She graduated from the prestigious Arts and Design School of National University of Cuyo in Mendoza, Argentina and, even as a student, excelled in her creativity and originality in designing wine labels. With the expansion of the wine growing business in Mendoza, the need for an indigenous artistic expression became obvious and Valeria was asked to transform her paintings into labels. Soon after, more of her illustrations and sculptures were adapted for use in the rapidly booming winemaking business that has brought overnight prosperity to the Mendoza region of Argentina. Valeria’s passion is to be a key contributor to the artistic side of this growing commerce and she stands out as one of the only artists who have successfully combined art with graphic design and communication. Her knowledge of the terroir as well as her fluency in communication with entrepreneurs willing to start marketing a product and trademark in Mendoza has distinguished her as not just a good communicator, but together with her creative talent and knowledge of the graphic arts has made of her a dependable and visionary designer.
Zach processes all stateside orders for VC, ensuring our products are spread far and wide across the land. He became interested in wine while working in high end restaurants, and pursued that passion after moving to San Francisco from Minnesota. In his free time, he enjoys reading, writing, and being active. Of all the wonderful wines in the VC catalog, his current favorite might be Mendel Cabernet.
Values: What Drives Us
We are passionate about improving our product portfolio & business practices. We will accept short-term failures in the pursuit of innovations that help us outperform our competition.
We hold ourselves, our suppliers, and our distributors accountable to over-deliver in every aspect of business. We perform our jobs professionally without being “corporate” or impersonal.
- Highest-Quality Products
- Inspire Enthusiasm
- Profit Partnership