Ronnie has loved Italian wine ever since an evening in the late 1990s, when he went to a Philly restaurant with a great bottle of 1982 Bordeaux, only for the bottle to be broken before his arrival. The sommelier went to replace it but didn’t have anything on the list of equal style or region; however, he did have a bottle from a producer unknown to Ronnie which would change the course of his life, a 1982 Gaja Barbaresco. He had never before tasted serious Nebbiolo and was at first almost disgusted by the substitution, but was very thankful and went into it with an open mind.
That experience brought to Ronnie the joy of benchmark Italian wines, along with their tannins, bit of rusticity, mouthwatering acidity and touch of VA, and really excited his palate. A decade later, in late 2007, he was on a trip to Italy with Colin McBryde of Some Young Punks, and they had a happenstance encounter with a group of Italian men at a small restaurant on the evening of Loire Valley icon Didier Daganeau’s passing. Ronnie commented on the magnum of Silex the Italians were drinking, and a lively wine conversation began that continued through email for a few weeks. This ultimately led Ronnie to agree to import one of Montalcino’s most important estates of recent history.
The following year Ronnie went back to Italy, this time without the tattoo-covered Kiwi winemaker, and met up with a grower who had some organically farmed Sangiovese available just outside of Siena in the Chianti Colli Senesi region. That important meeting would spawn the most successful brand in Vine Street’s 20-year history, Poggio Anima.
By making annual pilgrimages to Italy and always being open to new relationships, we have assembled what is now a tight and focused selection of Italian producers. They span from a small organic estate in La Morra (Ellena Giuseppe) to a biodynamic, natural project in Montepulciano (The Juice Asylum). In early 2021 we seized the opportunity to work with iconic natural wine winegrower Valentina Passalacqua in Puglia.
There will be future trips to Italy to continue to learn more about the land, people and wines. Being open-minded has been the key to our success here and will always remain our mantra.