When father-and-son team Steve and Dennis Kreps founded Quintessential Wines in 2002, they intentionally built their business around what was then a mold-breaking concept: Their vision was to represent wineries all over world, not just from one or two countries, as was common for many successful importers at the time. Many contemporaries were skeptical of their business model, but the Krepses persisted.
“When we saw the wine business becoming more and more corporate, we identified a need to help family-owned wineries compete, grow and flourish in the U.S. market,” says Dennis.
Eighteen years later, the family-owned and -operated business, headquartered in Napa, has grown to more than 70 employees, including Steve Jr., who joined the family business in 2005. But one thing that hasn’t changed is its commitment to supporting like-minded family-owned businesses.
“Our main goal is to be a steward for family-owned wineries,” says Dennis. “We look for good people with a long term, multigenerational approach to their business.”
Quintessential Wines currently represents more than 45 producers in 12 different countries, spanning a wide range of price, geography and style. The company’s portfolio includes the highly rated wines from Attilio Ghisolfi in Piedmont, Quinta do Vallado in the Douro Valley, Pascual Toso in Argentina, Simonsig in South Africa, as well as the iconic wines of Georges Duboeuf in Beaujolais, just to name a few. All are family-owned and family-operated wineries.
Even during a year that has presented challenges for many businesses in the wine industry, Quintessential has continued to invest in its team—both the employees and the family of wineries they import and distribute.
“Our portfolio was missing two major categories: New Zealand and a stronger balance of domestic versus imported wines,” says Dennis. “Accolade provided an answer to both opportunities.”
Plans are in place to reinvigorate the brands.
“We plan to reestablish each as market leaders in their respective categories,” says Kreps, noting that he is especially enthusiastic about Atlas Peak and Geyser Peak, one of California’s historic wineries founded in 1880. “They are both brands that over-deliver on quality to price in market.”
The acquisition has enabled Quintessential to add at least eight new positions during a time of high unemployment nationwide.
“The challenges of 2020 motivated us to grow. It has been a very tough year but it encouraged us to take an aggressive and proactive approach,” says Dennis. “The key to our success has always been driven by investing in self-motivated, honest, hardworking team members who believe in our portfolio and the unique niche we have carved out in the wine industry.”
That dedication to hard work, following convictions and growth is why Wine Enthusiast is proud to name Quintessential Wines its Importer of the Year. —Shelby Vittek