Raisins is a box of preserved histories, living legends, and communal story telling. While we are kick-starting this journal with our stories, you too are invited to contribute your creative pieces inspired by wine passions.

This edition contains:

Saved by a Donkey – A WWII era tale of two brothers who planted a vineyard in spite of a hopeless time.

The Land of YES! – A story about the birth, the discovery, and the perseverance of a great Georgian winery.

It Was a Human Decision – What happens when you’re the 13th generation of an unbroken chain of winemakers; how families trust, risk, and create the future.


“It’s at the top of a hill, on the other side of the road connecting Torino and Alba. You couldn’t get to it. The road was controlled by the Germans.” —Paolo Demarie

It was 1939. Bartolomeo Demarie, a farmer and winemaker, lived in Vezza d’Alba. It was a time when you didn’t expect your children to make you happy. Nonetheless (or perhaps to that point) he had ten—seven daughters and three sons. Two sons became prisoners of war, one of which, Carlo, was presumed dead. Bartolo’s youngest son, Giovanni, was five, and therefore spared his brothers’ fate.

As history tells us, the tide of World War II did turn. However, for many families their stories had already been painfully and irreversibly altered.

Occasionally there were miracles.

Such a miracle was on a fall day in 1945. In the flesh, arrives at home, one Carlo Demarie. His auspicious homecoming marked the end of a three month voyage started in Prussia. “I have never seen my father so happy,” Carlo recounted years later.

In 1939 Carlo was captured by the Germans in the area of Trieste. He was packed into a cattle car and shipped to Prussia, modern day Poland. After weeks, he was unloaded with thousands of others into a field. Upon arrival, the field was almost idyllic—lush green grass, thick with life. Within days it would become a nightmare. Luckily for Carlo, there was a way out. Skilled laborers could be put to work in lieu of being put to death. Carlo knew how to farm. He was shipped off again to bear years of forced labor growing food for the axis powers. He was forbidden to write home.

He was forbidden to write home. When the war ended, he was freed. His former captors gave him a donkey.

When the war ended, he was freed. His former captors gave him a donkey. Carlo and his donkey set out on roads crowded by refugees and displaced peoples from across Europe trying to find their way home. On one particular day, the caravan was attacked by retreating German soldiers. Carlo hid behind the donkey who took fire, saving his life.

Arriving home, Carlo reacquainted himself with his youngest brother Giovanni. A boy he last saw when he was just five years old. As the youngest of ten, there was an entire generation between Giovanni and his father Bartolomeo—the generation of his brother Carlo. Twenty years apart, these two brothers developed a relationship more like that of a father and son. One of the first activities they undertook together was to replant the Torion vineyard.

Torion, an MGA (Menzione Geografica Aggiuntiva) or cru (to use the more common Gallicism), is the name of the aforementioned hilltop vineyard, across the road from the Demarie family home. When Carlo came back the vineyard was in ruins. Unworked and incredibly steep, Giovanni and Carlo took to the task of restoring and replanting the plot by hand.

When Bartolomeo Demarie died years later, his estate was split into ten. Giovanni and Carlo were bequeathed their beloved Torion. Thanks to their work in the vineyard, this holding became the cornerstone of their nascent business. A generation later, the vineyard occupies a sacred place in the hearts and minds of the current winemakers—brothers Aldo and Paolo Demarie. As the vines are now nearly 80 years old, they are again due to be replanted. Each year for several years now Paolo says to his brother Aldo, “We need to replant Torion.”

“Go ahead,” Aldo always replies, relieving himself of the burden of replacing his ancestors’ roots. The replanting will eventually happen, as it must. The productivity of these old vines is painfully low. In the meantime, this old vineyard is raising outstanding fruit. Paolo and Aldo put Torion’s produce inside their bottling of Roero Riserva. We, like Paolo and Aldo, are happy they cannot bring themselves to replant quite yet. We treasure this incredible piece of family history they share with all of us.

Your chances to meet Paolo and taste for yourself:
Feb 2nd – APB, Trade Only | Greensboro, NC
Feb 5th – Prime Wine & Spirits, Trade Only | Savannah, GA
Feb 6th – Curated Wine Group, Trade Only | Hilton Head, SC
Feb 7th – NeueHouse | New York City, NY
Feb 8th – Uva Imports, Trade Only | New York City, NY


People don’t forget the day they meet Anna Addison. The more you know Anna, the more you realize she’s a woman who makes her own luck.

Anna was born in Soviet Moscow to a single mother. By the time she was nine, she was taking the metro to school and navigating breadlines. She and her mother had a good life. They made frequent trips to Georgia to see friends. These friends became family. “Georgia was the land of YES!” she explains. The place they vacationed, the place that created childhood memories that flash before eyes on deathbeds. Citrus leaves. Fruit off the trees. Laughter. Love.

Starring in these memories are Mamuka Khurtsidze and Tamar Bakuradze– classmates who became lovers and eventually husband and wife. They started a company together doing geo-mapping. Their analysis helped companies and governments find land based on the geology and geography a given project might require. Geo-mapping led Mamuka to a vacant, perfect plot in the wine region of Kakheti. In 2011, with his wide calloused hands, he planted a vineyard.

Meanwhile, Anna was living in Amsterdam. She was and is one of the premier package designers in Europe—an incredible artist. In Georgia she would sit for hours at the table with Mamuka. Their passions for wine and art created a vision to grow, to elaborate, to bottle, and to design the wines they call their birthright. “I always wanted something that was mine. Inside and out,” Anna said.

In 2016 Georgian wine in the US was rare. Known mostly to those in the wine industry, it was intriguing. On an otherwise uneventful winter afternoon, I walked into VinoTeca on Highland Avenue in Atlanta. A charming woman was at the table speaking with a hint of an accent. “They are made in quevri, vinified the traditional way.” Everything spoken with a convincing conviction. Here was someone trying to do an end-run around the system; trying to sell her wines to a retailer—no importer, no distributor, no nothing. Except passion and hustle.

Here was someone trying to do an end-run around the system. She was out there making her own luck.

She was out there making her own luck. A year later, enamored by what we would eventually taste, we became the proud importers of Nine Oaks.

In the years since, Nine Oaks has become one of the most acclaimed brands of Georgian wine in the US. As they grew with us, so did they in Kakheti. They built a marani (winery) suitable to welcome the public and began exporting across the globe.

On a beautiful spring morning in 2023, Mamuka drove his truck out to the limits of his domaine to work on a gate. There, in the field with a vast beauty before him, he suffered a heart attack and died. The mourning was conducted in traditional Georgian fashion. It included feasts, toasts, grief, but also hope. Mamuka and Anna had given birth to something that would endure. “Winemaking in Georgia is local knowledge. It is generational,” Anna said. The entire community was involved from the outset, specifically Mamuka’s nephew Shota. Shota took the lead in the 2023 harvest with the same team of family and friends that has always been at the foundation.

Today, thanks to the long cellaring practices of the domaine, we are still drinking Mamuka’s wine. Perhaps more so, we are drinking the wine of his community and his culture. It’s a wine that flawlessly expresses the land, the citrus leaves, the fruit on their trees, their laughter and love. Gaumarjos, cheers to Mamuka and cheers to you.

Your chances to meet Anna and taste for yourself:
Feb 6th – Third Space w/ Element | Atlanta, GA
Feb 7th – 13 Celsius | Houston, TX
Feb 8th – High Street | San Antonio, TX
Feb 9th – Ruffian | New York City, NY


Winemaker is nebulous terminology. Is it she/he who fills the vats with grapes and operates the press? Is it a person with a vision of how a wine should taste? Or how the earth should be worked? Can a wealthy woman/man buy a winery and call themselves a winemaker? A winemaker could mean any of these things.

If you love wine—and if you are lucky—you will eventually meet someone who so perfectly embodies what it means to be a winemaker that the question of what a winemaker is, is answered. Julien Thomas is such a winemaker.

Julien was born in Sancerre to a mother and father who took their domaine to the next level. While it’s true that Jean and Ginette (Julien’s mother and father) had eleven generations of vignerons before them, let’s be honest about what that means. Eleven generations of farming. Farmers who made a regional wine. A wine bought and sold in France at a modest price. No export market. No high demand. Un boulot they say in France—a job.

Perhaps it was the inherent drive inside of them or perhaps it was the increasing opportunity thanks to global trade, Jean and Ginette Thomas saw an opportunity to do better. They invested in their winery. They bought good tractors and state-of-the-art tanks. They kept the place clean—spotless in fact. Their hard work earned them the attention of one particularly astute US importer, Mr. Robert Kacher. Their business began to change.

Their son Julien, born in 1984, would say he was lucky. Lucky to be born to hardworking parents. More so to have his own fire inside of him. “Julien always wanted to be a winemaker,” explains his partner Justine. He didn’t think about the fact that there were 12 generations before him. He did not feel a sense of obligation. “History was on his mind, but he wasn’t focused on it.”

Julien’s passion led him to be the first in his family to go oenology school—he did so in Beaune. He returned with a clear vision, and it upset the applecart. If his parents’ contribution to the future had been good equipment, Julien’s contribution would be good agricultural practices. Having seen biodynamics at work first hand, Julien was confident in its results. He could not make the wine of his parents. He had seen a new, better way.

For any living thing, breaking a chemical dependence is ugly. Grape vines are no exception.

For any living thing, breaking a chemical dependence is ugly. Grape vines are no exception. Such a change in trajectory would put the financial health of the domaine at risk. There would be less fruit (for a time), more work (lots of it), and in Jean’s eyes, no clear reward. It was 2005. No one was paying more for organic wine. They already sold every drop of wine they made. Could they really do any better?

Julien was sure they could.

Formula 501, chamomile, valerian, oakbark, dandelion—and more. Biodynamic treatments to keep the vines healthy. More work. More expenses. More argument. “Julien and his father aren’t twins,” riffs Justine. “But well….” trailing off as she describes two men who may disagree, but ultimately both care passionately about their domaine and their future. “People have to understand that winegrowers’ children don’t come back because the weight is too heavy. This job can’t be done without passion. There is such an involvement. It’s physical, it’s spiritual, it’s hard on you mentally. If you aren’t sure this is what you want, it’s not for you.” Julien continued to execute his vision in the vines. Increasingly he gained his father’s trust. The earth was healthier, and the wines were better than ever.

2019 would bring another reckoning of the domaine’s direction. A shell of its former self, Robert Kacher Selections had been sold and sold again. It was failing. The Thomas family was owed significant amounts of money. Nearly half their wine was sold to the US market and they needed new partners.

“Hi. My name is Adam Fox. I worked for your previous importer. Don’t hang up. I think I can help you.”

What ensued was a confluence of decisions that changed the trajectory of two businesses and countless individuals.

Adam Richard, founder and owner of Uva Imports, was awake at night often in these days. He weighed a decision to step outside the bounds he had created for himself and his company. 100% Italian until that time, pivoting Uva could harm the trust he had cultivated with his customers for a decade. Adam was an expert and passionate about all things Italian. French was quite literally an entirely new language. As Fox cultivated a relationship with Justine, hoping to bring them into a business that was still a nascent idea, everything was up in the air.

Across the Atlantic the situation was the same. The older generation worked their contacts. Justine and Julien worked theirs. They spoke at the dinner table. They debated. They wrung hands. They contemplated money lost. The family decided to leave the decision to Julien and Justine. After years of seeing out his vision in the vineyard, Julien would now see out his vision for business affairs. “We are going to go with Uva,” they decided. “It was a human decision,” explained Justine. “They are like us.” They prepared the paperwork and sent it to Adam Richard.

Until the paperwork arrived, Adam Richard was not sold. Everything he had worked for could be at risk with a bad decision. At the bottom of the paperwork was a name he knew—Jean Thomas. Why was his aunt’s name on here? Why was the woman who seeded his passion for Italy, inspired his company, his closest family member, showing up on a document from a producer in Sancerre? Suddenly the dots connected. It’s the father’s name. He still owns the company. It was a hell of a coincidence. It was the sign Adam needed. It was a presage, an omen.

It was a hell of a coincidence. It was a presage, an omen.

This spring will mark the fifth year in business with the Thomas family. Later this month Julien and Justine, with their two children, will make their first ever trip to the US. This is no small thing. When you meet Julien you will notice his steady demeanor, his passion for his wines and his hands—hands that work. You may also notice he is a man of his terroir. We look forward to seeing how America suits him.

What you will taste is what we consider to be the finest Sancerre made today.

Your chances to meet Julien and taste for yourself:
Feb 19th – Corkbuzz | New York City, NY
Feb 20th – Uva Imports, Trade Only | New York City, NY
Feb 21st – Ruby Wines, Trade Only | Boston, MA
Feb 26th – Graft | Charleston, SC
Feb 28th – Perrine’s Wine Shop | Atlanta, GA