When most think of wine, relaxation comes to mind. Sitting down with a glass after a long day brings many a sense of enjoyment that is hard to come by. Although, many do not consider that every taste and sip is carefully curated by producers from all around the world, highlighting their deep and meaningful history. Volio Imports is one company that is extremely passionate about delicious wine and bringing it to places and people everywhere. Lucky enough for us, Volio’s forever home sits in the middle of Denver and its story is far from boring.
Charles Lazzara was a sophomore in college when he found himself living abroad in Italy. Originally, he went to discover more about his roots and potentially learn a new language. Studying abroad is all about general education requirements, so Lazzara naturally decided to take a wine tasting course. As he was learning how to drink wine properly and the various sensations created through this practice, his professor said something that he remembers to this day. “I don’t know why, but he happened to look at me. He said ‘It’s not magic. It’s just wine and this is our culture’ and all I could think was ‘This is so cool,’” Lazzara said.
Interest deepened even further when Lazzara and his father stumbled upon a small winery titled Poggerino. He met the owner and winemaker Piero Lanza and had a tour with some tastings. “He tells me the story about their family history. We taste these wines and that’s where I had this eureka moment. I had this chill run down my spine and I said to myself, ‘If all wines are this good, this would be a really cool thing to do for the rest of my life,’” Lazzara said. After graduating and taking a consulting job, he still felt the urge to return to Italy. He took a leave and traveled back to Poggerino with a printed business plan and cash in hand. He proposed to be Lanza’s importer and left with the first pallet of wine en route to Denver.
In 2007, Volio Vino Imports and Volio Wino Wine Distribution were founded. Lazzara’s first customer was Marczyk, located on 17th Avenue. After that, his reach only expanded. His second winery was titled Rivetto and based in the northwest part of Italy. He proposed in the same way he did at Poggerino and started small with one pallet of wine. After returning to Colorado, Lazzara started to build his territory as a one-man team. “I was driving to Telluride once every three weeks and I would take my 2004 4Runner and put 60 cases of wine in the back. I would drive at five in the morning, get there at 12 and deliver wine, have a pizza and drive home,” Lazzara said. This hard work allowed him to grow and meet people from all over while growing his business. “I wouldn’t do it any differently and I wouldn’t know how. And it was amazing for a couple of reasons. Number one, the culture that was created was incredible. Number two, the Colorado market was building as I was building out,” he said.
After experiencing a large growth rate and hiring team members, Volio grew to great heights. Five of its producers have now been featured in the top 100 list from Wine Spectator, including Barolo Serralunga 2006 from Rivetto and Chianti Classico 2010 from Poggerino — Lazzara’s first two wineries. After selling the distribution side to Empire Distributors of Colorado, he was able to allot more time to growing Volio Imports and tracking down the best wine in the business. He expanded from working with 15 states to all 50. Lazzara also visits every winery he supports. “You need to go visit these places out of respect for them, to show the partnership, and to understand their culture. Every winery has a different story to tell and it’s important to go there and experience it,” Lazzara said. “The wine business is really built off storytelling and emotion — creating a connection between the vineyards and enjoying wine with friends at a table. That’s what creates that emotional bridge.”
Today, Volio Imports is only growing and Lazzara still visits Europe whenever the chance presents itself. The team is still housed in Denver and their office is full of wine 24/7. Its mission is to connect the consumer experience to the vineyard experience, while giving us all a little taste of Italy in the most natural and blissful way possible. Next time you sit down to indulge, picture the journey behind the taste and the humble winery across the world from which it came from.
Volio Imports is located at 1801 Wewatta St., Denver.