It all started with the lawn-mowing company that Tony began after graduating from Salisbury State University. He needed to make extra cash while looking for a full-time job. But the physical education and health teacher soon found his calling outside the gym.
His Milton-based business snowballed so fast that he left teaching and expanded services to include irrigation, landscape and design. By 2008, the entrepreneur was restless.
“He’d always talked about owning a piece of property or a farm,” Karen recalls. “We could start a nursery and build greenhouses.”
Or, he said, “We could grow grapes.”
It was not a stretch. An Italian American, Tony had grown up with wine on the dinner table. And from a professional point of view, he was well-versed in agriculture.
Given the Sposatos’ landscaping background, they knew that soil and climate influence grapes. They began looking for the perfect property. In 2012, they narrowed their choice to Mendoza Argentina, where 250 acres – and water rights – were still available. The land was “virgin ground,” so they installed a new irrigation system, electric and other improvements.
The property, managed by their Argentine employees, rests in the arid foothills of the Andes Mountains, about 3,000 feet above sea level. “We can almost grow any grape successfully,” Tony says.
Current varietals include malbec, bonarda, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, pinot noir, rosé, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and the Fresh Blend (chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and torrontés). Their wines fall into three categories: Classic, Reserve, Grand Reserve and Sabia Savia, an icon wine, which is the highest tier.
Making wine is one thing. Selling it is another. When the wine was ready for release, the Sposatos initially promoted it at the beach.
“People know our name here because of the landscaping company – and we have 5,000 clients,” Karen notes. “They’ve seen the name, the trucks, and they know we do incredible work. We know soil. People understand the story of why we started a winery and how we did it.”
The original business offers another advantage: Sposato Landscaping is a regular attendee at industry conferences and tradeshows that offer networking opportunities.
The beach area was an excellent starting point due to its reputation. There are so many acclaimed restaurants in the resorts that the Delaware beaches are known as the “Culinary Coast.” Since so many are relocating here, the dining scene is year-round.
The owners spent hours at wine dinners. If Karen wasn’t doing tastings along the Delaware beaches, she was in her hometown in Harford County, Maryland, which is heavily populated with her family members.
Sposato Family Vineyards experienced steady growth from 2015 to 2020, Tony says, and the winery has become a tourist attraction as well as a direct sales site. In the United States, the wines are available in Delaware, Maryland, D.C., Florida and upstate New York, where the company has contacts with distributors. The wines also are available in Argentina and Peru and soon will be in Brazil and Columbia.
Karen returned from Argentina last year shortly before businesses shut down to stop the spread of COVID-19. “Thank goodness we had the Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia, which is the harvest celebration,” she says.
Back home, organizers canceled wine dinners. But that didn’t stop Karen’s marketing efforts. The avid runner and former elementary school teacher radiates optimism and a can-do attitude that attracts prospective customers. Behind the broad smile is a steely determination to succeed. So she increased her social media presence, urging consumers to support local restaurants.
“We all needed to come together,” she explains. “We needed to continue to talk about food and wine and how it can keep your spirits high.”
With wine and cocktails available for carryout, she patronized restaurants that carry Sposato and posed for photos. She also become adept at using Zoom for virtual events and organized outdoor wine tastings.
No matter where or when she is marketing Sposato wines, Karen relishes uniting Delaware and Argentina.
“I think it’s fantastic to be able to celebrate two cultures,” she says. “Mendoza and Milton are both tourist destinations.”
When the Sposatos brought their Argentine team to participate in the 2019 Taste of Sposato 5K Run, which benefits Delaware Technical Community College, the visitors also participated in special wine events. One of these introduced Sposato’s rosé, and all of them allowed Karen to show off her hometown.
“You can’t beat the life here – a beautiful state park, amazing wildlife, the sunsets,” she says. “It’s a place where you want to raise your kids. It’s a centrally located, glorious place with a wealth of treasures.”
One of which, of course, is wine by Sposato Family Vineyards.