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

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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

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Partnership with Precept Wine’s ownership group

In October of 2019 Charles partnered with Andrew Browne, Dan Baty and Alex Evans who collectively own Precept Wine, based in Seattle, WA. This move has allowed Volio to more rapidly scale their brands and grow their network. Precept Wine is the largest privately-owned wine company in the Northwest.

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

CEO & Founder

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), two young boys (Lorenzo and Tommaso), and daughter (Sofia).

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 five 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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Kelsey Peterson

Content Marketing Manager

Kelsey is a content guru and multimedia storyteller with a knack for innovative information sharing, remote filming, and cross-cultural communication. With an extensive background in travel journalism, her vigor for human connectedness and global perspectives has led her to over 30 countries around the world. She received her M.A. in broadcast production at the National Film School in Dublin, Ireland, and her B.A. in journalism and media communication with a triple minor in music; political science; and music, stage and sports production at Colorado State University. Hauling a backpack of experience in marketing and communications roles from companies like Semester at Sea, INTO CSU, and Grit Digital Health, Kelsey leverages her digital media and content creation expertise by amplifying the stories woven within a wine’s journey from soil to shelf. As a singer-songwriter with a robust musical spirit, she can also be found on Spotify.

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Maura Sullivan

Order Processing Coordinator

Maura grew up in East Bay, California, a little town 30 minutes from San Francisco. She started in the beverage industry in 2013, brewing at home and assisting microbreweries with testing equipment. She moved to Calistoga to start her journey in food and beverage in 2015, where her fascination for wine began. She was first introduced to high end wine and viticulture working as a brand ambassador for Newton Vineyards. Eventually, her love of wine took her to South Island New Zealand where she lived for two years, first as a cellar hand and then working in wine making and label/bottle production. Returning to the US and landing right back in Napa Valley, she began working for an importer and assisting in operations, where she fell in love with knowing the ins and outs of the wine industry. Wanting to stay in the wine industry, she moved to Colorado in 2021 to join Volio as their Order Processing Coordinator.

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Giovanna Mazzotta

Product Portfolio Coordinator

Giovanna yet again grew Volio’s contingent of brilliant Italians when she joined the team as a marketing and operations intern in June, 2021. Giovanna is a native of Vicenza, Italy and moved to the United States in 2017. Like many Italians, she grew up surrounded by history, art, and, of course, wine. Before moving to the US, Giovanna worked in event planning and tourism. Driven by her passion for the wine world, she earned a WSET Level 3 Award in Wines while living in Washington, D.C. and has been working in the wine industry since. From working as a sales consultant to planning corporate staff trainings and wine dinners, Giovanna has always taken pleasure in sharing the rich culture and traditions behind every bottle. And she continues to grow her toolbox of skills as she pursues a degree in business and marketing…so she basically embodies the word “multifaceted.” When she’s not working or studying, Giovanna loves traveling with her husband, lifting weights, baking, and taking too many pictures of her cat.

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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.

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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 / Cecchi BA

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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Chuck Speed

National Sales Director, Sun Goddess Wines

Chuck Speed is the National Sales Director for Sun Goddess Wines by Mary J. Blige. Before joining the Volio team, Chuck led the McBride Sisters Collection commercial strategy at both national and regional levels and catapulted the company to become the largest Black, woman-owned wine company in the United States. Previous to his work at McBride Sisters Collection, Chuck held a number of sales leadership roles at Edrington Americas, Pernod Ricard USA, and Coors Brewing Company. He earned an MBA from Middlesex University in London, England and a Bachelors of Business Management at Florida Institute of Technology. Chuck is passionate about advocating for diversity and inclusion in the US wine industry and is focused on recruiting multicultural consumers into the global wine culture.

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Paolo Dal Gallo

Regional Sales Director

Paolo, born in Asolo, Italy, grew up in the Prosecco district, approaching the world of wine from an early age and falling in love with the infinite variety of indigenous vines that Italy has to offer. After a University degree in Marketing and Communication, followed by two master’s in Marketing and Fashion Design, he embarked on a diversified career path, moving from the worlds of ice cream and beer to passing through liqueurs to cosmetics! After reaching the age of 30, he decided to undertake a new professional experience in the world of wine, transitioning from the old world to the US and from marketing to sales. He fell in love with this new world and the American dream materialized into a reality of life. After spending 5 years in New York, Paolo moved with his family to Miami, Florida, where he still live today surrounded by palm trees, sunny beaches, and a very interesting and constantly growing reality in the restaurant world, where wine has become a real star in the best restaurants in the peninsula! For nine years, he worked as an account manager at Zonin in South Florida, bringing excellent relationships and a wealth of experience into his role as Volio’s Regional Sales Director for the Florida market. Paolo is a dedicated and committed professional with a natural talent for building interpersonal relationships, and he is ready to hit the ground running.

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Dino Marone

CA Sales Director

Born in Florence, Italy in 1968 (a very happening time to enter the world!) he started in restaurant and hospitality at 18 with a deep passion for food and wine, inherited from his grandparents and parents. After 13 years of numerous hotel, restaurant, cruise ship, and private residence positions, he opened both a restaurant in the Chianti area of Tuscany and a wine bar in Florence’s historic district. In 2005, Dino made his move to the US, landing in California to discover the very-different American food and wine business. Through it all, he achieved his Silver Pin Sommelier Certification with NASA/WSA with the distinction of finishing first in his class. He quickly followed that with a Certified Sommelier certification in the Court of Master Sommeliers and was hired as wine director at Nerano in Beverly Hills in 2018. The following year, Dino started a new wine journey with Strategic Group in the role of Wine Specialist. In a perfect continuation of this Italy-US fusion wine career, Dino joined Volio as their Regional Sales Director in California in June, 2021.

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Dominique Conn-Giolito

Sales Representative, Florida

Hailing from the Midwest, Dominique’s passion for wine developed while working in the hospitality industry, including the management and co-ownership of restaurants. This path led her to working with two of the top distributors in the state of Florida. She began as a sales representative, moving quickly to handling key accounts, then to field sales management with her own team. As a natural progression, Dominique dove into the supplier world where she focused on wines from South America and California, successfully opening up distribution throughout Florida. Dominique believes that working with wine is more of a lifestyle than a job, and that the most exciting part of the wine business is the wonderful people you meet along the way. Some of her most treasured experiences include making wine in Italy and blending wines in Argentina and California. In 2014, she opened what would become one of the top 10 Wine Bars in the Tampa Bay Area, Traveling Corks. There she focused on wines from family-owned/operated wineries. The business flourished and evolved into a training and tasting company, also offering corporate sales and event planning. Dominique is extremely excited to bring her wealth of industry knowledge and extensive customer relationships to Volio Imports in Florida.

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Jack Schwinn

Order Processing Intern

Jack is originally from Wray, Colorado, but left in 2012 to join the Navy as an Air Rescue Swimmer. He served for six years, spending most of his time flying about the San Diego area in the back of a helicopter; however, he deployed for six months on an aircraft carrier to the Arabian Gulf. After his service ended in November 2018, he moved to Fort Collins, CO, and started his education at Front Range Community College where he worked as an Operations Manager at Noble Painting. He then moved to Denver to attend DU and is completing his BSBA in Management with a focus in Supply Chain. His hobbies include cooking, exercising, gaming, being outside, and spending quality time with friends and family. Jack’s easy-going, friendly, and overwhelmingly positive attitude brings the perfect addition to the team as Volio’s Order Processing Intern.