Blog Gourmet Behind the scenes at LoDuca Bros. Wines
Behind the scenes at LoDuca Bros. Wines
By Bobby Tanzilo
Published Aug. 14, 2008 3:28 p.m.
The tasting room is where Jim LoDuca appears most comfortable
I've known about LoDuca Bros. since my earliest days in Milwaukee when, curious, I would pop in occasionally to check out their Third Ward building with its floors full of accordions, cheap Italian guitars and other musical instruments and related products.
In more recent years, I've crossed paths with Jim LoDuca, who heads up the long-standing family business's national wine import and distribution arm. In addition to bringing in wines like the sweet white Mamertino -- very popular here in Milwaukee -- LoDuca also sells a number of wines imported from Italy under its own name (Jim's brother Andy designs the labels). A gourmet division sells olive oils, vinegars and grapeseed oil. These days, music is still the main business for LoDuca Bros., but the wine side has grown and it's clearly Jim's passion. He travels to Italy a few times each year to cultivate new relationships with vintners and grape growers and to continue decades-old ones begun by his father.
Recently, LoDuca sat down to tell me about his business and his experiences in Italy and he gave me a tour of the company headquarters in a New Berlin business park. The place is in no way distinctive. Outside, it looks like countless other places just like it. Inside, it looks like, well, an office.
"That's on purpose," LoDuca told me. "On Broadway, it was embarrassing, we had the wine stuff sitting on the floor all over the place, next to guitars. People were practically tripping over it. Here, you can't tell what we sell. It works for us."
But ask Jim and he'll open a few doors. The first is to the tasting room (see the photo above), where clients and customers come to sample LoDuca's Selections wines and the imported wines bearing other labels. Behind it, there's a kitchen where a culinarily talented employee cooks treats that accompany the wine at important events. Here, Jim popped open a bottle of Belpoggio's Brunello di Montalcino -- one of the gems of the Italian wine world -- and we savored its deep red color and raspberry notes.
Down the hall is a small showroom for the musical instrument side that has a few drum sets, instruction books packaged with plastic recorders, student-size and full-size guitars, music stands and the like. Next to that is the door that leads to the warehouse. Step inside and your eyes marvel at the cases of wine -- from floor to ceiling.
Off to the side is a small room where the company makes wine coolers for festivals and other events. Here, in the warehouse, is where the Mamertino, the Barolos, the Astis and all the rest await shipment around the country (LoDuca is licensed to sell in 38 states).
You can immediately see the pride in LoDuca's face here, as he talks about the building -- which LoDuca Bros. moved to after selling the Broadway building in the Third Ward -- about the many wines he carries and about the relationships he's forged on both side of the Atlantic.