The Story of Volio

2003

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Intrigue Sparked

Charles Lazzara’s first wine revelation came during his junior year of college while studying abroad in Florence, Italy. His mom and dad came to visit him, they rented a car on his 21st birthday, and decided to drive through the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany. They somehow found themselves in a small town called Radda in Chianti, where Charles and his father happened upon a winery named Poggerino. He tasted the wines, toured the small farm, and began developing his curiosity for the wine business.

2006

First winery on board

At 25, Charles took a leave from his straight-laced financial consulting job and grabbed a flight back to Tuscany, business plan in hand, to propose himself as Poggerino’s importer. He promised cash for the first pallet destined for Colorado, the owner and winemaker Piero Lanza agreed, and Volio was off to the races.

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2007

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Volio founded

Charles started both Volio Vino Imports and Volio Vino Distribution, based in Denver, CO.

2007-2017

Up up and away

Over the ten years that followed, Imports and Distribution excelled. Charles’ network and relationships expanded, he met many brilliant, thoughtful winemakers, he drank too many wines to count, and built Volio to showcase the best of what he had experienced. Between 2010-2017, three wines from Volio’s producers made the Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines in the World–a gratifying reflection of the high standards of the Volio portfolio and the hard work of our producers.

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June, 2017

About Us_Story_Volio Vino Distribution Sold

Volio Vino Distribution sold

With significant changes to independent wine retail on the horizon in Colorado, Charles sold Volio Vino Distribution to a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway called Empire Distributors. Charles welcomed the increased time and energy he now had to dedicate himself to the growth of Volio Imports—and, by then, his two small children.

2018

Volio Imports 2.0

Since January, 2018, Volio Imports has seen dramatic growth, including the addition of eight new team members, a revamped brand, and a bright new office and events space in the Cherry Creek neighborhood of Denver, CO. Volio now works with 30+ family-run Italian estates, 10+ wineries in France and Spain.

About Us_Story_And beyond

2019

Volio goes carbon neutral

Volio worked with Carbonfund.org to offset the company’s carbon emissions from 2019 onward. This quote from Charles explains the drive behind the project:

The wine industry is so deeply rooted in the environment that we feel it is our obligation to engage thoughtfully and impactfully in sustainability. As a wine importer, a lot of Volio’s business involves shipping large quantities of heavy wine across the world, which produces a significant volume of CO2. Partnering with Carbonfund.org will allow us to be carbon neutral as a business and to offset every bottle of wine that we bring across the Atlantic.” 

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Volio Today

Mission

Volio’s mission is to bring the consumer experience closer to the vineyard experience.  As an importer of European fine wine we do this by empowering our carefully selected network of distributors, retailers, and restaurateurs with meaningful communication, a relentless commitment to wine education, and unparalleled customer service.

Vision

For every customer to know the journey behind each bottle of wine.

Cornerstones

Quality

The natural byproduct of caring genuinely about the product as well as the people who create it.

Education

A source of information for consumers and an outlet for creators. Helping form opinions on wine; building a benchmark. Providing more than just a bottle of wine, providing an experience.

Honesty

Straightforward and to the point. Providing truth and information in a clear and concise method.

Approachability

Using positive experiences and attitudes to guide anyone looking to learn about wine. A source of information. Building a community of like minded individuals—built around wine.

Connectivity

Building relationships and connecting consumers to creators. Using honest education to foster a community of people hoping to grow and learn from their own experiences.

The Team

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Charles Lazzara

Founder and President

Charles Lazzara started Volio Imports over ten years ago, at the age of 25, with modest intentions of promoting undiscovered, high quality wine producers from Italy back in Colorado. As the owner and President of Volio, Charles can often be found sitting in the cheap seat on economy flights around the US, Italy, France, or Spain. He is always trying to connect with customers and our network of relationships around the globe. He has led seminars on Italian wine around the US and been invited to participate at internationally renowned wine events like Aspen Food & Wine, Telluride Wine Festival, and Vinitaly.

The sale of Volio Distribution in 2017 allowed Charles to dedicate his time and energy to Volio Imports’ strategic growth, as well as spend more time with his amazing wife (Angela) and two young boys (Lorenzo and Tommaso).

Whether in Colorado, Europe, or in between, Charles is always surrounded by the people and places who inspired it all.

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Elisa Ballard

Director of Operations

Elisa is no stranger to global engagement. After spending her childhood visiting family in Italy, studying abroad for a semester in Bologna, and working for the European Union at Milan’s World Fair, Expo 2015, it seemed only natural to pursue a career in Italian wine. And it doesn’t hurt that she has dual citizenship, speaks fluent Italian, and spends as much time as possible at her house just north of Rome. Prior to Volio, Elisa worked for MISA Imports, an importer and distributor in Dallas, TX as their Marketing and Sales Support Director. This role built on her background in international marketing and media consulting while exposing her to the world of international wine sourcing and bespoke programming. At Volio, Elisa works across departments and across borders, investing heavily in producer relationships, leading product innovation, and managing strategic national sales opportunities. Joining Volio also allowed Elisa to realize her dream of returning to the beautiful state of CO, where she received an MBA in Marketing and Finance and BA in Management and Economics from the University of Denver. She is the perfect addition to our Denver-based Volio clan: mountain-lover, Italian connoisseur, and proud dog mama of a German Shepherd Husky mix pup, Dakota.

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Blake Eve

Director of Marketing

If Volio were a rock band, Blake would be the badass, über-cool, poker-faced bassist keeping everyone grooving steady. As Director of Marketing, Blake’s job is highly strategic. She steers Volio straight and true through all manner of growth, branding, and operational challenges, which, of course, she does with great tact and grace. Blake was Volio Imports’ first full-time hire in September 2017 and has both directly fueled and witnessed the remarkable growth the company has experienced over the last two years. She’ll be the one taking litigious notes on every call, following up with impressive detail, and always available to problem solve. She’s a “boulder” in a “rock” band (ba-dum-tsshh).

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Ellen Taylor

Sales and Marketing Coordinator

Ellen found herself tumbling into a vinous adventure when she went to the south of France to work at a winery during the 2017 grape harvest. Having recently graduated university, she was looking for some life direction and found it in wine. Though it may not be obvious how wine would give a film major career clarity, Ellen felt immediately at home chez Volio. As one of the fresh faces of Volio, she manages customer relationships and produces zippy content. Her past life experiences have predominantly been around music, making her highly qualified for her secondary position as Volio office DJ (until she plays The Cramps and her privileges are revoked). She can also ride a unicycle, which Charles insisted was not a required part of the interview process.

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Steve Smykal

Marketing and Operations Associate

Steve came to Volio, following a mix of retail and vineyard experience, including a harvest in the winery at Rippon in Wanaka, New Zealand and two at Domaine Lucien Jacob in Burgundy, France. He asserts that Rippon is one of his favorite places on Earth (but Burgundy is pretty special, too). Steve studied geology at university and can happily talk about rocks, soils, climate, and terroir for days…then things really get fun after a couple glasses of Franciacorta when he starts waxing eloquent about mineral compositions and calcium deposits. After completing an internship with Volio over the summer of 2019, Steve is now based in Bordeaux, France where he is earning an MBA in Wine Management and Marketing. He is continuing to work for Volio in the Marketing and Operations departments during this time. Steve aims to follow this advice from his trusted friend and former boss, Nick Mills, the head winemaker at Rippon: “…keep your head in the books, but your hands and heart in the dirt. That way you’ll be welcome wherever you go.”

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James Moll

Regional Sales Director

James Moll is Volio’s smooth-talking, glass-swirling salesperson. He has the Texas boots to match any Barolo or Brunello. A Dallas native with more than 20 years of experience in a broad range of management positions, James has worked with some of the world’s most successful wine companies. In his decades in the business, he has built a deep network of colleagues and industry contacts, including strong distributor relationships throughout the country. Most recently, James led operations and sales teams in six states for Esprit Du Vin (EDV), a fine wine division of Palm Bay International. James lives in Dallas, TX and manages six markets in the Southwest region of the US. His good humor and humility make him a great dinner date on supplier visits.

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Sarah Shomaker

Regional Sales Director

Sarah cut her teeth in the restaurant industry at age 15 and hasn’t slowed down since. After a stint in Philadelphia for college, she returned to her native CO and worked in management at St. Julien Hotel and Spa, Osteria Marco, and Bones from Bonanno Concepts. Sarah’s unflinching love for Volio and its producers was sparked in 2011 when she traveled to Italy with Charles as a buyer. Shortly thereafter, she joined the Volio Distribution sales team, where she stayed until the sale of the company in 2017. If you think she deserves her cape just for that (and she does), Sarah is also the co-creator of Natural Wine Week and the Women’s Wine Guild of Colorado as well as the fearless leader of her sons’ school’s PTA. Sarah loves living in sunny Denver with her husband, two boys–Oliver and Theodore–and four rescue animals. We are thrilled to welcome her back into the Volio Imports family in 2019 as Regional Sales Director, covering the Western states.

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Sarah Newman

Regional Sales Director

Over the past 12 years, Sarah Newman has beautifully segued her passion for art and art history into a career centered on Volio’s very favorite medium: wine. She has led teams at award-winning restaurants and event spaces in NY and NC to craft outstanding dining and wine education experiences. Deeply service oriented, Sarah has built a loyal network of wine and hospitality connections across the country–she joins Volio following a two-year position as a Regional Sales Manager at another well-respected Italian importer, based in Durham, NC. Sarah’s talents as an educator and student alike have led her to achieve a brag-worthy (though she doesn’t) number of wine certifications. She is currently a WSET Diploma candidate, and upon completion she plans to become a Master of Wine (MW) candidate. We are thrilled to have this salesperson-extraordinaire taking the Volio reins within the Southeast.

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Giulia Cecchi

Regional Sales Director

Hailing from Castellina in Chianti, in the Tuscany region of Italy, Giulia grew up with Sangiovese coursing through her veins (almost). Her father is the proprietor of the Famiglia Cecchi Estates and her mother owns the Castello di Monsanto winery. So we weren’t shocked to learn that Giulia has been working harvests since she was four! Growing up travelling to renowned wine regions, tasting food prepared by the best chefs in Italy, and observing her parents in their natural habitats of fine wine and hospitality, Giulia organically grew into a career focused on the remarkable cocktail of Italian culture. After university, she was compelled to expand her reach and knowledge, this time in the US–she landed in NYC in early 2016, determined to find her way into the world of fine dining. She found that link through Solex Fine Food as their Italian specialist, working intimately with high-end restaurants and expanding her knowledge of the universe of truffles and fine wine. Now as Volio’s Regional Sales Director in New England and the northern east coast, Giulia continues to spread the gospel of Italian culture, gleefully educating her customers on the rich patrimony of Italian wines.

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Jason Blanford

Regional Sales Director

While studying Classical Civilizations in Italy, Jason took his first sips of Brachetto and Brunello on the same day and instantly fell in love with the unique diversity the wine world provides. He didn’t know it at the time but recreating and sharing that experience would soon become his life’s mission. A few years later, Jason’s thirst for knowledge and education took him “down under” to Adelaide, South Australia, where he received his Master’s in Wine Marketing. In 2012, he joined the team at Pasternak Wine Imports, the U.S. sales and marketing company for Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), driving sales in the midwest region as well as the National Account On-Premise universe. Most recently, Jason led the Central Division team at Taub Family Selections, managing sales and operations across 13 states. At Volio, he will be heading up Volio sales in the Midwest, based in the broader Chicago market. When he isn’t crushing boxes and swirling glasses, Jason enjoys the futility of golf and exploring the outdoors with his family.