A mere fifteen years ago, we never would have thought we would be selling multiple containers of direct-imported wines from Italy, France and Spain in Vermont, a seasonal market with the second lowest population in the nation.
Calmont Beverage Company was founded and started in 1941 to slack the thirst of Vermont’s unique community of Italian granite quarry workers. The Semprebon brothers brought barreled California wine to Vermont, via rail, and bottled it here under the Calmont brand name (a contraction of California / Vermont). With the birth and growth of the ski industry after the World War II, Calmont shifted to distribution of fine wines from Europe, New York and California.
Early suppliers included: S.S. Pierce, Julius Wile, Cucamonga, Hans Kornell, The Taylor Wine Company, H. Sichel Sons, and Louis Latour who traveled to Barre by train in 1946 to present his portfolio which, at the time, included Domaine de la Romanée Conti and other now legendary Burgundy estates.
Italian wine has always held fascination for us, and it was our founder, who was among the first to import Riunite to this country. Swayed by pleas from friends in the community, and wise to an important business opportunity, Silvio Semprebon began importing Italian wine in 1945.
Calmont’s Spanish renaissance was one of the first in the country as one of the only distributorships to represent Jorge Ordonez, Fine Estates from Spain; Eric Solomon’s European Cellars (both named Robert Parker’s “Wine Personalities of the Year” multiple times from Wine Advocate); and Dan Kravitz, Hand-Picked Selections, named as “one of the most important importers (in the U.S.) for wines under $10”. This incredible line-up of talent in one house is unequalled not only in Vermont, but New England. To paraphrase Robert Parker: “due to the success of these pioneers, and the resulting flood of innocuous, copycat Spanish wines on the market, turn over the back of the bottle and look for these importers, their seal is a virtual guarantee of quality.” These superstars have quality standards that were previously unheard of in the industry.
As the pre-eminent Spanish distributor in the Vermont, Calmont has been representing and direct-importing quality wines from Spain prior to 2000. These stalwart visionaries remain the reference point specialty importers of Spanish gems today that garner the highest accolades in their field, and in Eric and Dan’s case, have also branched out into other regions like France, South America and more.
Calmont was one of the first to recognize the potential for fine wine production in the Pacific Northwest. In 1980 there were a dozen wineries in Washington and a similar number in Oregon. We bought the 1979 vintage from Elk Cove (we’ve bought every subsequent vintage), the 1980 vintage from Ponzi and Eyrie and the 1981 vintage from David Lake MW of Associated Vintners in Washington soon renamed Columbia Winery
Back in Oregon, Elk Cove had hired its first non-family employees—Irish immigrant, David O’Reilly, to handle their national sales and cellar rat, Peter Rosback to help Dr. Joe with the winemaking duties. In 1994 those two teamed up with vineyard management guru, Jerry Owen and Sineann and Owen Roe were formed. Both are very dynamic components of our Northwest portfolio. Our success with those brands opened many more winery doors for us in Oregon. Ken Wright, King Estate, Patricia Green, Cristom, Lemelson, Shea Wine Cellars, Raptor Ridge, A to Z, Willamette Valley Vineyards, Holloran and Belle Pente all soon joined the fold.
We could fill our book many times over with every IGT, Do or DOCG that is offered to us, but we are a patient company, waiting for only the best wineries to represent. For us, a wine has to be truly special to be represented by Calmont Beverage.