Passion for wine, Italian friendships lead Prairie Village couple to start wine importing business

Luigino Molon (second from left) and his daughter Chiara (left) with the Vianello family, Michelle, Marc, Jennifier and Dan at the Molon winery in 2011.
Luigino Molon (second from left) and his daughter Chiara (left) with the Vianello family, Michelle, Marc, Jennifier and Dan at the Molon winery in 2011.

For 15 years, longtime Prairie Village residents Michelle and Marc Vianello have made periodic trips to Pellestrina, a narrow island in Italy’s Venitian lagoon where around 2,000 of the 4,000 residents share the Vianellos’ last name.

One of the Vinaello's wine labels with the "Prairie Village, KS" copy.
One of the Vinaello’s wine labels with the “Prairie Village, KS” copy.
The trips, recalls Michelle, were marked by the Italian Vianellos welcoming their American “cousins with open arms,” and plenty of local wine to punctuate the festive atmosphere. This fall, that same wine will be available to Michelle and Marc’s Kansas neighbors.

After extensive discussions with a well-known vintner they had befriended on Pellestrina, the Vianellos decided to open their own wine importing company. This September, that new company will begin offering four of Luigino Molon’s Pellestrinan wines as well as a handful of other Italian vintages at stores in the state. Until now, no Molon wines were available in the U.S.

“We officially decided to make the move last October, and then started sampling wines to decide which ones we wanted to import,” Michelle said. “You know, we’d tried them all before, but you have to make sure that the atmosphere — being on a beach in Italy — wasn’t skewing how you thought it tasted. We decided we still really liked them all in Kansas.”

When Molon’s Cabernet Franc and other bottles hits shelves, the label on the back will read “Imported by Vianello Imports LLC, Prairie Village, KS, USA.”

“It really makes me proud to have the words “Prairie Village, KS” on the back of the wine labels,” Michelle said. “Most “Imported by” wine cities on the back of wine bottles are in New York or New Jersey.  Prairie Village, KS on the back of a wine label is unique.”

Michelle has been a CPA for three decades, a background that helped ease her way into entering the regulation-heavy wine importing business. But, she says, perhaps most important to her decision to become an importer was her experience as a wine consumer.

“I actually think that’s an important part of it all — I’ve been drinking wine for 35 years, and have a pretty keen sense of what I think works and doesn’t,” she said. “I really like the $14.99 price point. And I really don’t like anything over $19.99.”

Vianello said she expects to have a list of the stores where her Italian wines will be available in Kansas in the coming months.