Pinnacle Imports is proud to work with a wide range of wineries and distilleries from around the world. For almost a quarter-century, we've had the opportunity to work with small family estates, large importers, and everything in between. In this new series that we're calling "Pinnacle Partners," we are interviewing one producer in our portfolio. Through these conversations, we hope you learn more about the intricacies of vineyard management, importation logistics, and more.
Our second #PinnaclePartners post focuses on Jane Lopes, the co-founder of LEGEND Imports, which is redefining the American perception of Australian wine.
Jane passed the Master Sommelier exam in 2018 and was part of the wine team at Eleven Madison Park when the restaurant was named #1 on the San Pellegrino World's 50 Best List.
Jane co-founded LEGEND with her husband Jonathan Ross after they both spent years working in Australia. Their time running wine programs in both countries helped them understand the needs of Australian wineries as well as American sommeliers and consumers. Their portfolio features family-owned estates and embodies the very best of Australian terroir.
Pinnacle: Tell us about your recent trip to Missouri!
Jane Lopes: I always love visiting Missouri! The last time I was in KC, I participated in a wine fair run by a retailer. The number of interested and engaged guests was astounding! I think it’s easy for things like that to just turn into parties (which is fine!), but everyone there was so curious about wine, which is cool to see.
Pinnacle: What are some of the challenges unique to running an Australian wine importer?
JL: There’s no real built-in demand for Australian wine in the US. Except for the odd Shiraz, people aren’t really walking into their local retailers and restaurants and asking for Australian wine. So we view our work as building ambassadors around the country – at our distributors, at restaurants and retailers, and then amongst the consumers themselves. When we get people excited about these wines, our hope is the network of Australian wine drinkers and sellers will grow exponentially as time goes on.
Pinnacle: What’s a wine in your portfolio that epitomizes what you’re trying to do with Legend?
JL: Hmmm, good question. I think the Chalmers Montevecchio wines epitomize all that we’re trying to do. They’re made from Italian grape varieties (many of them quite obscure), but that have been imported to Australia by the Chalmers family and are finding new homes there. The wines are bright, juicy, moderate in alcohol, food friendly, and very affordable (yet still sustainably farmed, estate grown, hand-picked and fermented with native yeasts). Truly brilliant wines, that make you rethink what you thought you knew about Australia.
Pinnacle: Legend's website has some amazing educational tools. How are you trying to change the way we (trade/end-consumers) learn about Australian wine?
JL: People don’t talk about ‘French wine’ – they talk about Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Alsace, Rhône, Loire, etc. That’s where we want to get to with Australia. In 10 years, we hope that people walk into wine stores and ask for ‘Gippsland chardonnay’ or ‘Tasmanian sparkling’ or ‘Italian grapes from Heathcote’. Maybe an ambitious goal, but that is what we’re going for! In addition to our website, we also have an Australian wine book coming out this year, which will change the game for Australian wine education in the US. It’s called How to Drink Australian and we are pumped about it!
Pinnacle: You majored in Renaissance Literature. What’s your favorite literary reference to wine?
JL: Ha, I almost wrote a book about this! Falstaff’s love of the wines of Jerez (often referred to as ‘sack’) in Henry V, Part II is a good one.
chequed him for it, and the young lion repents;
marry, not in ashes and sackcloth, but in new silk
and old sack.
Pinnacle: What was the last bottle of wine (not your own!) that really wowed you?
JL: I recently had Muxagat’s Branco, a blend of Arinto, Rabigato, and Gouveio from the Douro in Portugal. It was super affordable and fantastic. Smoky and concentrated, but with great acid and texture. I always love trying new stuff, and this was phenomenal.