Kysela Père et Fils, based in Winchester, Virginia, is owned by Fran Kysela, MS, one of the few master sommeliers to own an importing company. Established in 1994, it now covers all 50 states and sells almost 470,000 cases of wine, beer, spirits and saké annually, grossing more than $32 million. With more than 200 suppliers in 13 countries, Kysela’s operation is truly international in scope.
In recent years, Kysela has selected small lots of wines to bottle under his own Rubus brand. These are sourced globally, making wines from areas as far afield as New Zealand, Argentina, France, Spain and California under the same label.
How did you get into the wine business?
I started collecting wine when I was 15 years old, with my father and grandfather. In my college days, I used to attend numerous wine tastings with a group called Les Amis du Vin, “The Friends of Wine,” run by Ron Fonte nationally, and my father locally. After college, I was in graduate school at Cleveland State University studying pig parasites and active transport. I needed money and found jobs as a wine salesman for Goodman Beverage during the day, and a sommelier at Calhoun’s Restaurant at night.
What’s your most memorable wine?
A 1975 Steinberger Riesling Kabinett from the Staatsweingüter in Eltville (Rheingau, Germany). That was the first incredible wine experience for me. That wine was like an epiphany. It was the first time I thought that wine could be something special.
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
Discovering great new wines, meeting the people behind the wines, food, culture, history and travel. What could be better
What are your thoughts on the current craze for dry rosé? Can you put it in historical context and prognosticate on its future?
Dry rosé is delicious and makes a great apéritif. I’ve been selling dry rosés since 1987. I think the category will continue to grow for two [or] three more years.
What are the most important factors for you when deciding to represent a winery? Is it always about quality and price?
Quality, quality, quality, then pricing…. As I’ve said before, nothing else matters but the quality of the juice in the bottle. I look for wines that are true to type and classic in their flavors. I prefer wines that are fresh and bright and show good fruit-acid balance. I’m not a new oak person, feeling that too much wood obscures true regional character.
What do you like to drink at home?
I like to cook, and I like drinking Sancerre, Chablis, crisp whites—in particular, French whites. I also enjoy Rioja.
Are there any wine styles/regions/varietals not represented in your portfolio that you wish were?
Grand Cru Burgundy.
What advice do you have for people who are interested in learning more about wine?
Read, travel and taste. If you’re going to find the good wines, you’ve got to root them out. You’re not going to find them by staying home.