Ever wonder how all the amazing wine we enjoy ever reached Columbia in the first place? While we may take it for granted, our town’s vino variety would leave many cities envious.
As we celebrate Father’s Day, let’s highlight a couple of local father-daughter ventures that have given us access to some of the best wine the world has to offer.
The French Connection
Being from the South--of France, that is--may have given Jean-Pierre Chambas an advantage in wine knowledge and culture, but it didn’t make it any easier for him to start a new life in the United States. Like every entrepreneur, he had to struggle to survive and eventually create a successful enterprise in the American South.
From launching a small wine and cheese shop in 1972, to founding his highly-successful distribution company Aleph Wine Corporation, Jean-Pierre is credited with expanding the palate of our state’s wine drinkers. There was little access to the likes of Perrier-Jouet Champagne, the wines of French producer Guigal, or even basic Bordeaux or Burgundy before his enterprise. Notably, Aleph is also South Carolina’s only family-owned distributor in which all revenue remains within state borders.
After having built such a reputable brand, it is natural that Jean-Pierre’s daughter Ingrid would be working tenaciously to continue the legacy. She amassed her vast knowledge of wine and business since the inception of her father’s venture, and grasped early on that being committed to the local community and creating a reputation based on trust is critical to a successful enterprise. Having moved with the business to the U.S. Virgin Islands and back to South Carolina in the 90’s, also taught Ingrid that being agile and flexible in an everchanging marketplace is a necessary component.
Like Jean-Pierre, Ingrid is a pioneer in her own right, curating wine and beer selections for the emerging, and sometimes fickle next generation of drinkers. She’s credited with launching Aleph’s beer distribution and continues to expand wine portfolios. Ingrid is also in charge of marketing and works tirelessly to promote their accounts. Savvy, worldly, yet humble, it is clear that Ingrid is poised to continue meeting the demands of Columbia’s wine enthusiasts.
Columbia Roots, Global Wine
About a year after Jean-Pierre began his wine pursuits, South Carolina native John Morganelli founded Four Morganelli’s with his two brothers and mother Lillian. A Vietnam veteran draftee who graduated USC with a business accounting degree after serving, John eventually bought out his brothers and established wine and beer retailer Morganelli’s Party Store. Lillian, however, remained an integral piece of the operation and supported John through the next stage of the store’s expansion. Throughout this time, Morganelli’s developed a reputation for quality and trust, with a diverse and unique selection of wines from global and domestic suppliers.
As the family retailer had become the Columbia favorite for wine enthusiasts, John’s daughter Sherry began working alongside her father. She considered a profession in law after graduating USC in 1996, but took her cues from her grandmother who had been the matriarch of what had been a mostly male-dominated industry. Sherry accepted the opportunity as a way to learn the family business and it became clear that she had inherited the entrepreneurial spirit that both her father and grandmother channeled into a thriving venture.
What began as a career working the cash register and stocking shelves, has evolved into operating all aspects of the store alongside her father, whom she calls “John” and not “Dad” while on the clock. The distinction is important to Sherry--she wants respect for her own work ethic without a whiff of nepotism. She admits that she’s more familiar with the liquor aspects of the business, but employs staff with deep wine knowledge. As such, Morganelli’s continues to have a loyal—and expanding—community of customers. In an industry where margins are small and competition comes in both big-box and online forms, Sherry recognizes customer loyalty can only be secured through knowledge, service, and value.
So, whether we enjoy our wine from far flung regions or domestic suppliers, let’s acknowledge the parallel pursuits of these local patriarchs and their daughters who are poised to carry the glass…er, torch.
Want to learn more about our local wine selections? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.thevinicola.com, Instagram (@thevinicola), or Facebook (theViniCola).