News

Amherst man aims to bring more wine options

Friday, July 5, 2013

BY IRENE LABOMBARDE

Staff Writer

Amherst-based Vitone Family Wines has launched a crowdfunding campaign with Indiegogo in an effort to bring new wines to market and to broaden its distribution throughout New England.

“I’ve always been a guy who does things in an unconventional approach,” said company founder Christian Vitone. “This is new, exciting and technology-oriented.”

Vitone serves as a negociant, or wine merchant, after the French style. He owns no vineyards, and has nothing to do with the process of planting, harvesting or fermentation. Instead, he selects finished wines and blends them, and then sells them under his own label.

He prefers California wines because the climate allows for a more consistent quality than trying to grow grapes in his native New England. Since opening in 2010, he has partnered with Sierra Foothills winemaker Marco Cappelli.

“I purchase exactly what I want and need,” Vitone explained. “I’m probably one of the only guys in New England doing this, but it’s very common in California.”

Until recently, Vitone has served as his own distributor, with his Verde Sole label sold at New Hampshire state liquor stores and select restaurants.

He has minimal overhead since he has no retail facility, no tasting room and no employees. As his business has expanded, he has turned distribution over to Vinilandia, a small, focused wine broker based in Portsmouth.

“I became a distributor because no one knew who I was,” he said. “Having a new distributor is great news. It validates that we have done well and now I can focus on being just a producer.”

Vitone currently offers two wines, a pinot grigio (white), and a zinfandel (red), which is actually a blend of 70 percent zinfandel, 22 percent petite sirah and 3 percent white viognier grapes.

He is in the process of producing three more wines, a sauvignon blanc, a cabernet sauvignon and a red Rhone blend. He hopes to use the money he raises for production of additional varietals.

“I make approachable, easy-to-drink wines that are food-friendly without spending a lot of money,” Vitone said. “We are about to introduce world-class wines for under $20.”

His website, www.
vitonefamilywines.com
, describes his growing up with a grandfather who made his own wine, and features a video on the what he is attempting to do to expand his business. There is also a list of the premiums offered at various donation levels.

“Crowdfunding is very interesting, especially for start-up companies who don’t have the kind of credit or business experience for big loans,” Vitone said.

“It’s a more readily acceptable avenue than looking at conventional funding,” he said.

“People can watch the video and see what our story is. It gets them involved on a granular level. They can jump in at different levels and be part of our success. Getting them excited is one thing, but the challenge is getting them to open their wallets, but I think we will end up doing quite well.”

The goal of the campaign, which ends on July 17, is to raise at least $18,500, which would allow Vitone to add one new wine and expand distribution to two more states.

Reaching $26,000 would allow for the production of enough wine to distribute to the entire New England region and to add online ordering capability.

In addition to the chance to enjoy more wines, donors will receive premiums, ranging from an art-deco style Verde Sole T-shirt to a trip for two to the Sierra Foothills to enjoy a special tour and dinner with Vitone and Cappelli.

For additional information on the crowdfunding campaign, including premiums and how to donate, visit www.indie
gogo.com/projects/412818/emal/3327278.

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