EXPAND YOUR WORLD THROUGH GREAT WINE, SAKE & SPIRITS.

For over 20 years, we have consistently delivered incredible wine, sake, and spirits from inspiring families from Argentina, Chile, and Japan. These authentic beverages, and the cultures and people who produce them, will enrich and broaden your view of the world.

pre-1999

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.

1999

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.

2000

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.

 

2013

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.

 

2015

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 Lehrman
Ed Lehrman Managing Partner
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Ed Lehrman
Managing Partner

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 Ramkowsky
Nick Ramkowsky Partner
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Nick Ramkowsky
Partner

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.

Aisha Risinger
Aisha Risinger Design & Marketing Manager
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Aisha Risinger
Design & Marketing Manager

As the Design & Marketing Manager at Vine Connections, Aisha works closely with the Marketing and Sales teams to design materials ranging from sales materials 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 and sake with friends, and can often be found with a bottle of Graffito Malbec or Bushido cans.

Darryl Vennard
Darryl Vennard Midwest Regional Sales Manager
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Darryl Vennard
Midwest Regional Sales Manager

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.   

Emily Allen
Emily Allen Operations Manager
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Emily Allen
Operations Manager

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.

Janiz Frago
Janiz Frago Field Sales Manager | TX / OK / LA
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Janiz Frago
Field Sales Manager | TX / OK / LA

Janiz has been a long-time champion for Vine Connections and joined the team in January 2020. She was awarded top sales rep at Prestige Wine Cellars before moving to Pioneer Wine Company where she received her Professional Sake Certification with John Gauntner at TexSom 2014. In 2015, she became the District Manager, and later Southwest Regional Manager with Terroir Selections. Southern Glazers stole her away as a Regional Sales Specialist due to her long-term & tight relationships with key account on-premise buyers in Houston, and now we are lucky to have this powerhouse on the Vine Connections team! A native Texan, Janiz graduated from the University of Houston.

Jen Keating
Jen Keating Marketing & Innovation Manager
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Jen Keating
Marketing & Innovation Manager

Jen is the Marketing & Innovation Manager at Vine Connections. Originally from central California, she grew up on a Pluot (plum/apricot hybrid) orchard, and was constantly surrounded by the agriculture industry, which she attributes to sparking her interest in viticulture. She started her career in brand marketing for JUSTIN and Landmark Vineyards after graduating from UCLA. A move to Annapolis, MD took her on a professional detour away from the wine and spirits industry, allowing her to explore a career in both non-profit marketing and account services for a government-focused marketing agency. Jen was eager to rejoin the wine industry and came aboard the Vine Connections team to help support their national marketing efforts. When she is not travelling between coasts, she enjoys all that Maryland has to offer, including paddle boarding in the summer and hosting her annual crab feast for friends!

Jesse Brawner
Jesse Brawner Sake Specialist
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Jesse Brawner
Sake Specialist

Jesse Brawner is the Sake & Spirits Specialist for the Vine Connections portfolio. Jesse is based in Los Angeles and oversees the sales of the Vine Connections sake & spirits portfolio throughout Southern California and represents the full wine and sake offerings in the state of Hawaii. 

He excels in creating dynamic account offerings including virtual and in-person events, as well as original digital content that has translated into increased sales. He has a knack for tailoring placements that consumers seek.

Jesse has over 20 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, including working as a sommelier in some of California’s most critically acclaimed restaurants (Bestia, Nomad LA), as well as helping to develop the growing sake culture in LA’s more sake-dedicated establishments (Shibumi, Tsubaki). Having a father with a long history as a wine rep, it is a bit fortuitous that his career trajectory has brought him back to his roots. Jesse also credits his uncle, who spent years living in Japan, for cultivating his initial passion for Japanese sake and food culture. He has a wide range of experience in many sides of our industry, from helping niche brands get established in the US market to curating unique pop up events to expose neophytes to sake through their other common interests. 

Jessica Leirer
Jessica Leirer Florida Field Sales Manager
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Jessica Leirer
Florida Field Sales Manager

Jess is originally from Colorado and worked within the on-premise side for years managing restaurants and bars. While working in a seasonal industry, Jess spent time travelling with an education oriented non-profit – developing her intrigue and infatuation for other cultures. She equates these experiences to her optimistic and energetic outlook today. In 2017 she decided to mix things up and packed her car to move across the country, just a girl and her dog. It could not have been any more kismet.

Shortly after making Florida her new home, Jess began her career in the distribution industry as a Sales Representative in the Hotel and Restaurant Division. The first placement she made was Tikal Patriota and her love for the Vine Connections portfolio began. When she isn’t pouring everyone’s glass a little too full you can find Jess paddle boarding, traveling, playing music or relaxing with her dog & a glass of Boya Rose watching the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.

Jonas Carlson
Jonas Carlson Director of Operations & Finance
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Jonas Carlson
Director of Operations & Finance

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.

Julie Kinnaird
Julie Kinnaird Coordinatrix of Global Events
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Julie Kinnaird
Coordinatrix of Global Events

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!

Kelley Rochna
Kelley Rochna VP of Marketing & Innovation
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Kelley Rochna
VP of Marketing & Innovation

Kelley is the VP of Marketing & Innovation at Vine Connections. Originally from Texas, she is a graduate of TCU, and spent the first half of her career working for award-winning advertising agencies that brought great creative to life before moving to California. She worked for Vine Connections for several years before leaving to work at Instagram, where she led the global business marketing brand strategy. Her heart couldn’t stay away from the wine and sake world, and she rejoined Vine Connections in 2017. She marries her knowledge of alcohol and technology together by overseeing the company’s national marketing efforts across digital, insights, PR, partnerships, and events; as well as leading new business strategies and activation of major sales initiatives. In her spare time she can be found planning her next trip abroad and enjoying the California lifestyle – hiking, camping, enjoying good wine and sake, and Instagramming, of course!

Kristin Breshears
Kristin Breshears South Central Regional Manager
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Kristin Breshears
South Central Regional Manager

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 in 2016 and has thrived as a champion of the New Chile, Argentine wine & Boutique sake categories in the South Central region and has earned her WSET Level 3 Award in Sake with distinction.

Lei Wang
Lei Wang Senior Accountant
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Lei Wang
Senior Accountant

Lei Wang is the Senior 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 Butler
Lizzy Butler Director of Wine
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Lizzy Butler
Director of Wine

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.

Mary Failing
Mary Failing Data & Insights Analyst
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Mary Failing
Data & Insights Analyst

Mary is the Data & Insights Analyst at Vine Connections and a recent MBA graduate from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She was first introduced to the wine industry through her mother's love of Makgeolli, a Korean rice wine. Though she was exposed to wine at an early age, her passion truly began to form after spending time in Paso Robles wine country during college. When she's not creating data-driven narratives, you can find her exploring the bay area food scene, at a spin class or painting portraits.

Monica Samuels
Monica Samuels Director of Sake & Spirits
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Monica Samuels
Director of Sake & Spirits

Monica Samuels is the Director of Sake & Spirits 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.  

Richard Paleski
Richard Paleski Regional Sales Manager
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Richard Paleski
Regional Sales Manager

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 Howell
Ryan Howell Senior Accountant
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Ryan Howell
Senior Accountant

Born and raised in Northern California, Ryan has a degree in Accounting from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and an MBA from CSU, Chico. Before Vine Connections, Ryan was working in Silicon Valley, consulting with early-stage startups on all matters accounting and finance. Outside the office, you’ll find Ryan out on a hiking trail, in a record store sifting through dusty old vinyls, at the ballpark cheering on the Giants, or reading a book at his favorite coffee shop.

Terena Robbins
Terena Robbins Office Manager
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Terena Robbins
Office Manager

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 Guarnieri
Valeria Guarnieri Designer & Label Specialist
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Valeria Guarnieri
Designer & Label Specialist

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.

Values: What Drives Us

INNOVATION

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.

ACCOUNTABILITY

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 & Services
  • Connection to Regions & Culture
  • Expertise & Education
  • Category Leadership
  • Innovation in Ideas & Execution