The Bonfort’s Wine & Spirits Journal Power 100 is a ranking of the 100 most powerful, influential and transformative individuals and trends that are making an impact on the U.S. wine industry.
Power within the wine industry is evolving rapidly with new frontiers emerging that are offsetting and changing the historic power structure that the industry has known since the end of Prohibition.
With distributor consolidation and the emergence of the internet, “power” is rapidly changing the landscape of how we do business, allowing innovative new pathways to be created for brands of all sizes to compete and market their products across all three tiers of the industry.
Powerful trends—from legal marijuana, DTC sales, craft brands and crowdsourcing review apps, to the massive yet confusing Millennial consumer—include all major influences shaping the industry in dramatic and unknown ways for the foreseeable future.
Power is also, sometimes, good, old-fashioned cash. Huge amounts of currency is flowing into the industry from billionaires, private equity funds, rappers and actors—all looking for major exits.
How the wine industry reacts and evolves, from consolidation and acquisition, to legal action, will be fascinating to watch.
Cornelius Geary – Executive Editor, Publisher
100 Steve Melchiskey
USA Wine West
Situated on both the East and West Coasts, importing nearly 10 million cases annually, USA Wine West is quickly growing into a significant player. As more and more international groups look for an easy path to clear wine and spirits, Melchiskey has tremendous growth potential.
99 Agustin F. Huneeus
Lead by Quintessa and a stable of superb brands as such Flowers, Benton-Lane and Faust, Huneeus has the potential for acquisition by a deep pocketed brand group or private equity.
98 Dennis Kreps
An ever expanding and eclectic portfolio of premium wines from around the world, including Georges Duboeuf, Kreps and his team have a solid portfolio to work with.
97 Karl Wente
COO and Chief Winemaker
Growing family winery with lineage and name recognition making solid wines at affordable prices. Wente has the hustle to take the brand to the next level.
95 Rob McMillian
Silicon Valley Bank
EVP and Founder Wine Divison
Rob takes the industry’s pulse each year with his widely regarded State of the Wine Industry report. He’s also the industry’s go-to partner for lending and financing needs.
94 Marc D. Taub
Palm Bay International
President and CEO
A solid portfolio of brands with some hidden gems and an emerging craft spirits portfolio give Taub and family some growing strength in the marketplace.
93 Harry Kohlmann
Park Street Imports
Park Street is a clearing importer of brands from around the world, making it easy for small-to-midsize companies to more easily clear the importation challenges they might face on their own.
92 John Caruso
Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.
President and CEO
An impressive line-up that leads with Joseph Drouhin, Drappier, and Dusted Valley, Caruso has an exceptional portfolio to work with.
90 Christian Navarro
Wally’s Wine & Spirits
President and COO
Legendary retailer based in Los Angeles, Wally’s will need to continue to grow and innovate to fend off the aggressive Total Wine and More now starting to dominate the area.
89 Jeff Zacharia
Zachys Wine and Liquor
Historic shop that has smartly focused on internet and auction sales. The go-to place for collectors looking for that special bottle.
88 Frédéric Levy
Coravin has done more in the last five years to open up the wine vaults of collectors throughout the world. Their system makes it easy for collectors to take a glass from a bottle without having to pull the cork, helping deplete the nearly never consumed stashes around the world.
87 Derek Benham
Purple Wine + Spirits
Leading with Avalon and Four Vines, Benham’s expansion into spirits with Graton Distilling was the right move, producing one of the best gins we’ve tried in a long time. Forward thinking and aggressive—look for more big moves from PWS.
85 Rhonda Carano
Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery
Senior Execuitive Officer and Manager
Sonoma’s leading winery by production numbers, Carano continues to provide high-quality wines that have become internationally respected.
83 Brett Berish
With a flair unrivaled in the industry and the success of his Luc Belaire brand, Berish has the creative juices to build more brands giving some life to U.S. wine sales.
82 Bill Terlato
Terlato Wine Group
A solid lineup of premium and ultra-premium wine and an expanding craft spirits portfolio give Terlato a leg-up on similar sized competitors.
81 Corey Beck
The Family Coppola
Sitting at the top of one of the industry’s most recognized names, Beck has a deep-pocketed owner with the star power to keep the group growing. A quality lineup of labels including the prestigious Ingelnook make for a great working environment.
80 Gregory Balogh
Maisons Marques & Domaines
President and CEO
An impressive portfolio of international and domestic ultra-premium wines, lead by Louis Roederer, Petrus, Dominus Estate, Scharffenberger, Ramos Pintos, Pio Cesare and many more iconic names. Balogh has one of the finest brand groups at his disposal.
79 Jo-Anna Partridge
Pernod Ricard USA
Sitting just under one million cases, Pernod’s wine portfolio may be a candidate for sale to focus on the higher margin spirits portfolio.
78 Alex Ryan
Look for Duckhorn to move up the list, owned by TSG Consumer Partners with over $5 billion in private equity funding and an eye for luxury acquisitions, their newest buy, Kosta Browne, has the start of a potentially deep luxury portfolio.
77 Carmen Castaldi
Rodney Strong Wine Estates
Sitting just under one million cases, offering a lineup of ultra-premium to premium wines, Rodney Strong continues to innovate and offer exceptionally great wines at each price point.
76 Donny Sebastiani
Don Sebastiani & Sons
A solid lineup of retail wine brands and a move to spirits and water, Sebastiani offers a premium product from a majorly well respected name in the business.
73 Joe Waechter
President and CEO
The leader in winery DTC ecommerce and fulfilment, Waechter sits at the center of a huge and growing direct-sales opportunity nearing $3 billion annually.
72 Rocco Lombardo
An enviable portfolio of luxury producers led by Romanée-Conti, Lombardo is a longtime leader in the ultra-premium market who helps luxury brands thrive.
70 Andy Beckstoffer
As a farmer with an eye for quality, Beckstoffer has built the preeminent vineyard portfolio lead by world acclaimed To Kalon, Georges III, and Dr. Crane Vineyards. Luxury winemakers flock to buy his award-winning grapes.
69 Pat Roney
Vintage Wine Estates
President and CEO
A growing portfolio of estate brands has elevated VWE to new heights. With the acquisition of the popular Cameron Hughes Wines, look for more acquisitions to come.
68 Jordan Kivelsedat
Free Flow Wines
Co-Founder and CEO
Kivelstadt invented the modern keg wine. Nobody has done more to move wine in volume on-premise than Jordan. Free Flow is the dominant platform for wine kegging and is just getting started.
67 Aaron Sherman
Co-Founder and CEO
The innovative distribution platform gives retailers and small brands the ability to connect on the internet, allowing the small guy to gain visibility and potential sales with major retail.
66 Andrew Browne
Founder & CEO
Just shy of two million cases, Precept has massive potential for growth producing high quality wines from Washington, Oregon and emerging regions like New Mexico with Gruet. Lower costing-land and world-class grapes, make them a group to watch.
65 Ryan Bogle
Vice President CFO
With 2.5 million cases and a brand known for quality, Bogle has growth potential, but most likely will be an acquisition target down the road.
64 Brian Rosen
No player has built a better platform for outsourced sales than Rosen and BevStrat. The former CEO of Sam’s Wine & Spirits in Chicago works as a national sales force for big and small brand groups alike, helping to grow depletions for overlooked or newly launched products that are either too small or just not getting the attention they deserve at the distributor level. Rosen has some of the most experienced and talented sales and brand builders on his team and is leading the charge in an emerging and very important category of outsourced sales teams.
63 John Rydman
Spec’s Wine & Spirits
President and Owner
With more than 125 stores and still growing in the world’s 10th largest economy, Specs is rolling like nobody else. Look for continued expansion and competition with Total Wine and More.
62 Tom Steffanci
Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits
With 11 million cases spread out over 30 brands and a robust spirits portfolio, Deutsche is showing other groups what it takes to grow.
61 Rich Bergsund
The perpetual internet startup, Wine.com took in $15 million as late as August 2017. With an outlook on continued growth, the company should be close to profitability.
60 Tom Wark
National Association of Wine Retailers
Representing dozens of independent wine retailers, Wark is leading the charge to open up states’ shipping rights for his members.
59 Charles Smith
Wines of Substance
Owner and Winemaker
Washington’s wildman creates wines that show the big bold wines of his Walla Walla roots, while his marketing and gothic branding have allowed him to create and sell several portfolios in record time.
58 Dave Phinney
Owner and Winemaker
Creative, and with a knack for knowing what the consumer wants, Phinney has Gallo for a development partner. Look for his pivot to spirits with the recent launch of his new San Franciso-based distillery, Savage & Cooke.
57 Joe Wagner
Copper Cane Wine & Provisions
Cashed up with the proceeds from the sale of Meiomi to Constellation for $315 million, his newest venture has quality distribution and talent to continue the success.
56 Mark Giordano
Pacific Highway Wine and Spirits
Founded by billionaire wine families, Robert Oatley and Giesen, (Alejandro Bulgeroni has an option to invest) Pacific Highway Wines continues to expand at a rapid pace. Giordano has the talent, drive and ample resources to grow this import and sales business to compete with the biggest players.
55 Heidi Barrett
Best known for making Screaming Eagle, Barrett has an array of prestige clients and continues to make some of the highest priced and best tasting wines around.
54 Gary Vaynerchuk
With more moxie than anybody in the wine business, GaryVee pivoted to Venture Capital and High Tech, then back to wine reviews. His early seed round investment in Drizly may pay off big. We expect more investments in wine and wine tech soon.
Armand de Brignac
With his toe in the water already with Champagne and Cognac, Jay-Z has the potential to “George Clooney” a brand into the billion-dollar stratosphere. Napa could use some of Jay-Z’s bling.
51 Wine Competitions
One of the most important ways for a brand to garner third-party accolades, the Wine Competition offers brands big and small an affordable path to marketing success. Overloaded consumers gravitate to competition awards and medals for assurance of quality and taste.
50 Rob Mondavi Jr.
Folio Fine Wine Partners
Founder, President of Winemaking
Young, talented and with a tremendous lineage, Mondavi Jr. has the potential to take over as one of California’s preeminent winemakers and marketers.
49 Philippe Melka
Melka is the billionaires preferred winemaker for luxury projects producing a deep portfolio of acclaimed wines that continues to grow each year.
48 Max Riedel
Max, who is of the 11th generation to run the company, has brought a new-found energy, elegance and innovative focus to the brand and its sister brands, Spiegelau and Nachtmann.
46 Legal and Courts
Since Granholm v. Heald opened the door for Direct to Consumer shipping ten years ago, the courts have been a last resort for challenging the archaic U.S. alcohol laws of all 50 states and at the Federal level. Look for future skirmishes centered on Amazon, 3-tier ownership rights and legal marijuana.
45 The Mondavi Families
Both sides of the Mondavi’s are Napa royalty. With deep pockets and a focus on great wines, they are quietly building another empire with the next generation of the famous wine family.
43 Dimitri Haloulos
Nearing 150 stores all on the West Coast BevMo is the default location for shoppers looking for something interesting. Total Wine and More is in hot pursuit.
42 Joel Gott, Roger Scommegna, Charles Bieler
Three Thieves within Trinchero
Thief 1, 2 and 3
Accounting for roughly 2.5 million cases in and out of Trinchero, the Three Thieves, Joel Gott, Roger Scommegna and Charles Bieler are a brand-building juggernaut bursting at the seams with creative energy and top-level distribution.
41 Chris Tsakalakis
Helping millions of consumers identify and buy their favorite wines. Vivino is the default app for consumers and industry around the world. Converting its loyal audience into sales is the challenge.
40 Five Million Cases
The cutoff point where “Big Wine” has influence with “Big Distribution”. Anyone smaller needs to find a partner, a hedge fund or a chair before their music stops.
37 Carmine Martignetti
The Martignetti Companies
Positioned well in New England, TMC offers an innovative approach to marketing and brand building that is hard to find.
35 Jim Myerson
Chairman and CEO
Innovative with an experienced team, Myerson has transformed Wine Warehouse in a few short years into a well-respected and admired distributor.
33 Bill Foley
Foley Family Wines
Billionaire insurance mogul with more cash than just about anyone, Bill Foley has assembled a huge portfolio of international wineries and brands.
32 Barbara Banke
Jackson Family Wines
Chairman and Proprieter
A focus on estate wineries and vineyards, KJ is unrivaled in quality and prestige for a company of this size.
31 Jean-Charles Boisett
With 6.7 million global cases and more brand-building energy than just about anyone, JCB is an innovator and force with which to be reckoned.
30 Ted Baseler
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
President and CEO
No longer just a ‘Washington” winery, Ste. Michelle has become an international player with exceptional brands such as Antinori, Nicolas Feuillatte, Torres, Villa Maria and several more in the portfolio. Look for big things in quality down the road as they continue to add international and domestic brands
29 Jim Clerkin
Moët Hennessy USA
President and CEO
On meeting Clerkin, you are immediately taken with his Irish native charm. You’d almost forget that he is tasked with continuing the growth of the finest luxury portfolio in the market.
27 Fred Franzia
Bronco Wine Company
With a huge assortment of brands, and a focus on quality and price expansions into sake, craft spirits, RTDs, and keg wine, Fred and Co. are innovative, aggressive and willing to take risks.
25 Robert Foye
Treasury Wine Estates
With an impressive array of prestigious brands including Penfold’s, BV, Beringer and Stag’s Leap, Foye is tasked with growing the U.S, and China. He has the tools to continue the rebuild from the Foster’s days.
24 Tom Cole
The newly consolidated creation of first Charmer Sunbelt and Wirtz Beverage to form Breakthru Beverage Group, and now a second merger between Breakthru and Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC), forms the 2nd largest distributor in the U.S.
23 Bob Torkelson
Trinchero Family Estates
President and COO
With blockbuster brands like Ménage à Trois, Sutter Home, Joel Gott and the creative influences of The Three Thieves, Trinchero is positioned for continued success.
21 Chris Condit
Category Leader – Wine, Beer, Spirits
No major retailer has done more to sell premium wines from around the world at affordable prices than Trader Joe’s. With a cult-like following and an ever-growing foot print, they are positioned for continued growth.
20 Bill Newlands
EVP and COO
Constellation is looking to offload its wine portfolio to focus on beer, spirits and cannabis. This shows the finicky side of the industry as bigger players divest, chasing better margins and new categories.
19 Patrick Maulfair
Wine Category Manager
With more than 1,200 stores, Publix continues to improve its wine program. Long term it will be a bigger player for better quality wine.
17 Chris Underwood
Young’s Market Company
Showing other distributors how to grow but keeping a family feel, Underwood and his team have built one of the most reputable distributors in the U.S. Craft spirits and an emphasis on premium brands and quality make Young’s the U.S.’s most admired wine and spirits distributor.
16 The Private Equity Fund
Major funds like TSG Consumer Partners are acquiring wine and spirits brands and flipping them for huge returns, changing the landscape for winery and brand acquisitions
15 Alejandro Bulgheroni
Alejandro P. Bulgheroni Portfolio
Vintner and Entrepreneur
An Argentinian-Italian international vintner and a successful entrepreneur in the agriculture and energy sectors, and a marketing and sales team in the U.S. via Pacific Highway Imports, APB thinks big and has the capital to build long term. His 205,000-square foot Bodega Garzon winery in Uruguay showcases estate-grown premium wines crafted by influential winemaker Alberto Antonini and offers visitors an experience that highlights the best in South American hospitality.
14 Allen Cook
The Kroger Co.
Manager of Adult Beverages
Much like Albertsons’ and Safeway’s transformation, Kroger has the potential to bring in higher quality and higher priced wines.
12 Wayne Chaplin
Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits
As the biggest distributor in the U.S. and newly merged with Glazer’s, Chaplin sits at the head of a juggernaut focusing on the biggest brands and portfolios in the U.S.
11 Jacob Applesmith
California Alcohol Beverage Control
Since his appointment, Applesmith has reached out to the licensed community on all levels and has implemented, revised and improved ABC processes and procedures, giving producers, retailers and distributors clearer guidelines for marketing and selling in California.
10 Barkley Stuart
Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America
As distributor consolidation continues, so too does their power. Building the biggest brands for the biggest companies is where the money is, and smaller players, those under five million cases, need to get big fast in order to win the attention of the major distribution players or be left far behind. To quote a complaint of a Power 100 CEO with one+ million cases, “I can’t keep our distributors’ attention, we’re not big enough”.
5 Direct to Consumer (DTC)
The number one focus for most independent wineries is to grow DTC, increased margins, more control and personal relationships with their respective end-consumers.
4 Legal Marijuana Industry
Huge cash flow is elbowing out wine, beer and spirits. Branded marijuana is creationg an entirely new legal category, disrupting all levels of the alcohol business.
3 Ernest J. Gallo
E. & J. Gallo Winery
COO and Future CEO in 2020
Young, innovative and well prepared, Ernest J. Gallo is getting ready to take Gallo to new levels of brand-building in wine and spirits. Look for major news in the brandy category.
2 Annette Alverez-Peters
General Merchandise Manager, Wine and Spirits
The largest current retail buyer of wine globally, but Amazon’s potential casts a huge shadow. The competition is just starting to heat up.
1 Doug Bell and Devon Broglie
Global Co-Wine Buyers
Amazon’s Power is its future potential to disrupt the wine and spirits industry. With Whole Foods, AmazonFresh, hundreds of millions of credit cards on file and a near $1 Trillion Dollar Market Cap, it’s only a matter of time before Amazon figures out the legal pathway to become the largest wine and spirits retailer in the world. It is only getting started.