This Importer Highlight focuses on Alabama based Vineyard Brands, which was founded in 1971 by Robert Haas. Haas began his career working at his father’s wine shop in New York City, which would later become Sherry Lehmann. He opted to leave the world of retail in 1955, and along with his father, created Leeds Imports Corporation. Sixteen years later, Haas left New York and moved to Vermont where he founded Vineyard Brands.
While Haas’s portfolio was grounded in the top estates of Burgundy early on, he quickly branched out to the Rhône Valley followed by other regions of France. Today Vineyard Brands represents reference point producers in just about every top wine region in the world.
The company was moved to Birmingham Alabama in 1997, with most of the employees moving with the company. Three of the original employees are still with the company today, which has grown to include over 60 employees. I’ve no doubt the culture of the company, driven by Haas who implemented an employee stock ownership plan, goes a long way towards explaining Vineyard Brands’ ability to retain top talent as well as their continuing success in the market today.
In addition, Haas’s collaboration with the Perrin Family of Château Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape in 1989 to create Tablas Creek in Paso Robles was instrumental in the development of Rhône varieties in California and across the United States.
In 1990, Haas put in a place a succession plan by creating a majority employee owned structure that still exists, and since 2015 Greg Doody has been the CEO and President of Vineyard Brands.
Robert Haas passed away peacefully on Monday, March 18th 2018, at the age of 90, leaving behind an incredible legacy as one of America’s pioneer wine importers and one of the founding fathers of the fine wine business in the United States.
This report takes a broad look across most of the regions represented by Vineyard Brands including current releases from Champagne, Burgundy, the Rhône, the Loire Valley, Alsace, Southern France, Cahors, Argentina, Spain, Portugal, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Germany and Italy. There are 55 producer represented and 150 new reviews. The wines were all tasted at my office in Colorado, early in 2018.
This was an eye opening tasting and both the breadth and quality of the portfolio is incredible. If you haven’t heard of Vineyard Brands, now’s a good time.