2012 Importer of the Year: Kobrand
This historic business has handled wine and spirits with equal aplomb for nearly 70 years.
Kobrand has thrived because of its long-term relationships with family-owned businesses. In fact, many of its current partnerships date back to the 1940s.
Founder Rudy Kopf established the wine and spirits department at Macy’s in 1933, just after the repeal of Prohibition. At the time, it was among the finest wine and spirits retailers in the country.
In 1944, Kopf opened Kobrand and hired his first salesperson. His goal was to establish on-premise distribution and to build brand recognition.
The first several years saw incredible growth, with Burgundy’s Maison Louis Jadot joining the portfolio in 1945 (the Kopf family has owned Jadot since 1985). In 1946, Kobrand began importing Beefeater Gin and Champagne Taittinger.
The partnership with Taittinger blossomed into a joint venture in California in 1986 with the inception of Domaine Carneros. The prior year, Napa Valley’s Sequoia Grove entered Kobrand’s portfolio as its first American winery.
The ’80s and ’90s were exciting years at the import house. Alizé came aboard in 1985, followed by brands such as Cakebread and St. Francis from California, Tenuta San Guido from Italy, and Taylor Fladgate and Fonseca from Portugal, all in the late ’80s.
Expansion continued with the entry of Delamain in 1990 and Benziger in 1994. The appointment of Chuck Palombini as president in 1995 set off another round of growth, starting with Bolgheri’s Tenuta Sette Ponti in 2000.
The following year was even busier, with the purchase of Sequoia Grove, the reintroduction of Folonari and the debuts of Foley and the Folonari offshoots Cabreo and Calvano.
In 2003, Kobrand branched out to include Southern Hemisphere wines, bringing in New Zealand’s Craggy Range. The company then expanded into Spain in 2006 with the introduction of Rioja’s Roda, Rías Baixas’Don Olegario, and Penedés’s Poema Cava.
In 2007, the importer purchased Alizé in its entirety and added Caposaldo to its Italian portfolio. In 2008, the company brought Appleton Estate Rum on board, and in 2010, New Zealand’s Infamous Goose entered the fold.
Following Palombini’s retirement in 2010, Robert DeRoose became president and CEO.
Under DeRoose’s leadership, the company’s momentum continues full steam ahead. The past year saw the introduction of Vikingfjord Vodka, the global wine brand The Seeker and Argentina’s Alta Vista.
Today, the company imports 56 brands from 11 countries and is owned by Kopf’s daughters. This legacy of family ownership and attention to personal relationships has no doubt contributed mightily to Kobrand’s success.
It’s because of this impressive performance, growth and overall excellence that Wine Enthusiast names Kobrand our 2012 Importer of the Year.