With a wine career spanning more than 75 years at his family-owned Opici Wine Group, the vivacious, 96-year-old chairman, Hubert Opici, is a legend of the United States wine industry.
Opici’s start came after he graduated high school in 1934, when he began work as a delivery boy at his father’s wholesale wine business.
The roots of Opici’s family’s business extend back to 1913, when his father and mother, Joseph and Esther, began to import wines to New Jersey from Italy, Joseph’s native land.
While the couple’s business flourished for several years, the Great Depression and Prohibition hindered its ability to maintain shop.
With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Joseph was resolute on re-establishing the family business. He managed to scrape together $1,500 to purchase one railroad car full of wine, just enough to open the American Beverage Distribution Company of New Jersey in 1934.
When Hubert volunteered for the Armed Forces in 1942, his professional wine pursuits were stalled. But upon completing his service term, Hubert returned to the family company. He wedded Rose Deregibus, who became a partner in the business, and remained married to her for 65 years until she passed away in 2010.
The American Beverage Distribution Company continued to develop and expand, and in 1945, the Opicis forayed into new markets. The family purchased the Cazanove Wine Company in New York, which came to be renamed the Cazanove-Opici Wine Corporation.
As demand for the family’s imported selections increased into the 1960s, the Opicis relocated to larger facilities in Hawthorne, New Jersey, where the business was ultimately shaped into the Opici Import Company.
Over the decades, Hubert has seen his family’s business evolve, progressively impacting the industry by providing consumers with high-quality selections of notable value.
“Hubert Opici is an iconic, innovative, committed and passionate person in our industry, a true inspiration to fellow wine producers and wine consumers around the world,” says Fred Franzia, CEO of the Bronco Wine Co. “Hubert’s drive and determination sets the bar on innovation, compassion and sales.”
Today, the Opici Wine Group is an umbrella company comprised of Opici Wines, which boasts a portfolio containing more than 50 international brands, as well as Opici Distribution, which services restaurants and retailers in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Florida and, most recently, Washington, D.C.
Although the fourth-generation Opicis have now taken over most of the company’s reins, Hubert continues to be an icon, a wellspring of knowledge and an inspiration for the trade. Wine Enthusiast is honored to select Hubert as our 2012 Wine Legend of the Year.