Meet Marina! She is half of the duo that makes up wine importing agency, Wine Alliance. Wine importers, like Marina do the leg work around the world seeking out the best wines to bring to the liquor market in Alberta. Without them, we wouldn’t have products to bring to our customers! Marina shares how a trip to Italy blossomed into a fruitful career in wine, what she loves about being an entrepreneur and of course, which of our wine styles suits her best!

VS: Before you were in the wine business, what did you do?

MB: Like most of us in Calgary I found myself in the Oil & Gas industry.  Never finishing high school and being a runaway who joined the carnival, and then becoming a young mom, working in oil & gas was an easy way to build a career.  Starting as a receptionist in 1996 in a growing company I climbed the ladder over the years and in 2007 when I left I was the Executive Assistant to the CEO.

VS: What attracted you to becoming a wine agent?

MB: In 2006 my husband and I took a journey to discover my Italian heritage, it was here that I met my cousins in the small village of Forino, Avellino.  This was my first time to Italy and I did not speak the language, my aunt was warm and loving and opened her home to us and it was here where my life was about to change and I didn’t even know it.  It was the fastest 6 days of my life and so much to absorb, the family (which seemed to be everyone in the village) the culture (which was not like the Italian community in Canada) and my cousin, Ciro, who was also searching for something.

I can say at the end of the whirlwind trip we got on the plane and all I could think about was how can I keep this new connection with my cousin, what can I do to make sure I build a bridge from Calgary to Forino.  Well, it took one 10 hour flight and quite a reflection on what just happened.  When we landed I look at my husband Craig and said, “The wine! I’ll sell his wine in Alberta that’s how we can stay in touch.” Without missing a beat Craig’s response was, “I was wondering what was taking you so long”!

When we got home I called my aunt and told her the great news that I was going to sell the family wine in Alberta and everyone thought I was crazy, especially because at the time I was a beer drinker.  Ignorance is bliss.  The idea to bring the family together and see Ciro again consumed me.

First day back to work, my boss called me in his office to hear all about the trip, after sharing I stood up to leave when he said, “Marina, can you do one thing for me, when you leave us can we have 3 months to find a replacement?”  Exactly one week later I was back in his office handing in my resignation letter.

VS: So, you have deep roots in wine – no pun intended – how does family still play a role in your wine story?

MB: This journey started because I was looking for family and connection. From the beginning, family and friends supported my small business and my daughters have grown up learning about wine, where it comes from and the families that make it all happen.  I quickly gained the reputation of the ‘family woman’ in the industry and wore that like a badge of honor.  That also lead to how I started to grow my wine/spirits portfolio, others introducing me to small family owned and operated wineries.  In the beginning I was terrified to grow the portfolio, but over time the people I met like Jim Fetzer who taught me so much about family business and the world of wine. Jim was a gift, I was alone in this industry and was making it all up as I went along.  Jim was born into the industry and really took the time to teach me.

That is when I committed to only representing small families and to present their stories the best I understood them.

VS: What do you find most rewarding about being an entrepreneur?

MB: The satisfaction of the results.

Being an entrepreneur can be lonely, you have to be imaginative and trust yourself.  I have learned so much about what kind of person I am and what kind of woman I want to be because I have this opportunity to explore my city and province through wine and storytelling.

VS: Your office is in Kensington, what are your favourite places in the neighbourhood?

MB: Kensington Fitness is a great place for me to start the day, a place I can go where I don’t have to think about anyone’s needs but my own.  It is the one place I can go where it is all about me and as an entrepreneur that is rare and something I truly cherish.

VS: What has your business partner, Chris taught you?

MB: Working with Chris the past 8 months has been so exciting and I feel at times a weight lifted off my shoulders.  I truly admire Chris’s palate and how his mind translates flavors into ideas.  I had the privilege to see him in action when we were at Prowein in Germany in March, I learned more about wine in those three days with Chris, tasting wines all day and discussing them it was like a light bulb went off for me!

VS: What is your favourite wine memory?

MB: When Ciro hosted my birthday party in the Fiano family vineyard.  My dearest family and friends traveled with me to Forino and we harvested the Fiano (grapes) and collected the chestnuts for my uncle and then all feasted at the table for the evening!  It was like a dream.

VS: You work pretty odd hours, what do you enjoy doing when you’re away from it all?

MB: My husband and I renovate.  We have been renovating now for 8 years and I suspect we have another 5 to go.  I love spending time with him and it gives us something to do together. It’s also another place in my life where I don’t have to make the decisions, I get to be the apprentice and we enjoy the rewards of our hard work together.

VS: If you could cultivate one personal trait, what would it be, and why?

MB: Man you don’t make this easy do you.  Hum…Balance

I think everyone struggles with balance, but as an entrepreneur you are often on 100% of the time and learning when and how to focus on other aspects of your life can be tricky.  I’m currently teaching myself to schedule ‘personal time’ in my calendar. It helps me stop and think before I fill the blank slot for an event or meeting.

VS: You’ve had a pretty fantastic year of business travel in Europe, what’s next on the list?

MB: No business trips planned for the next 12 months, but rather a family adventure to Ireland.  My sister in law’s parents are celebrating 45 years married and they have put out the invitation to the whole family to join them in Ireland.

VS: If you trade places with anyone in the world for a day, who would it be and why?

MB: That’s easy, it would be my nephew Wolfgang, he is 2 ½   Every time I spend time with him I’m reminded of the simplicity of the world around him.  It’s not complicated in the eyes of a little person.

VS: What was the last book/Netflix series you finished, did you enjoy it?

MB: OMG we just finished House of Cards.  I loved it.  It’s twists and turns, it had so many story lines going and it often surprised you with the direction it took.

VS: Last but not least, which one of our styles represents you the best?

MB: Ask any of my family and friends and I know they would say I’m ‘Bold’ without hesitation, but when I reflect on myself I think I am ‘Elegant’!


Whites with snappy acidity and vibrant flavours that will awaken your senses

Our crisp whites offer lovely refreshing acidity and a nice citrus punch; these wines will revive you and make you feel like you’re enjoying fresh fruit in an orchard in the middle of July. Think about of the last time you were out somewhere in the heat of the summer; one of those days when the pavement was melting, the paint was peeling off buildings and all you could think about was how badly you wanted something to quench your thirst. When you stumbled onto a lemonade stand and took that first sip, you were cured.

We can’t say our wines will cure dehydration but they are a great option while you’re enjoying patio weather.



You’ll find varietals like Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Riesling and Vinho Verde and more!



Loved for their understated qualities these whites are beautiful and exotic

Talking about mellow wine is like talking about a classic film star. She’s a lady with international acclaim and classic appeal. Mellow wines don’t jump up and down screaming for attention; instead they prefer to lure you in with their quiet charm and feminine wiles. Swirling a nice Viognier or Pinot Gris is all about soft, intricate and attractive flavours that might make you think about your favourite perfume, stepping into a flower shop or leaving a patisserie where they’ve just taken almond pastries out of the oven. This is Sophia Loren in a glass.



If you enjoy varietals like Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer or Chenin Blanc you’ll love this style!



Whites that ask to be a muse. This is Claude Monet’s water lilies’ in a wine glass.

Lavish and luxurious wines with all the razzle-dazzle. Think about the things in life that make you feel like you’re living large. Imagine yourself wearing layers of pearl necklaces, leading a ticker tape parade, eating popcorn laced with truffle oil and lounging on the king bed of the Ritz Carlton penthouse all at the same time. Lush wines are what we drink when we’re feeling on top of the world and when we want to celebrate life. This is 4th of July fireworks and the clock striking midnight on New Year’s Eve all rolled into one beautiful gold package. Bottoms up!



Varietals like Chardonnay, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier are found here.



Ruby reds with a timeless style and appeal; wines that will never go out of fashion.

Elegant reds ask you to dig a bit deeper. Some people enjoy them for the romantic ideas they conjure while others enjoy the subtle nuances that each bottle possesses. We can’t think of a better way to describe elegant reds than talking about Coco Chanel. Think about No. 5, the little black dress or the most importantly the iconic Chanel suit, a true couture item that is well lined, carefully crafted and something that will always be in vogue. An elegant wine is like a nice stroll along the promenade in the seaside town of Biarritz or a day at the ballet in red maillot.



Here you’ll find Pinot Noirs, Gamays, Chiantis and more!



Reds that are pleasant from start to finish

Supple and velvety, smooth reds are a real crowd pleaser; something that everyone loves. Like a popular jazz standard, the best way to sum up these wines is to think about hearing Miles Davis on vinyl. Everyone has heard those tunes and when the horns come in on the track you can’t help but connect over the sheer universal joy in hearing something so incredibly smooth and pleasing to the senses. Miles Davis was one cool dude and that’s how we feel about the wines in this section. You’ll feel like you’re slipping on a new pair of driving gloves every time you pour yourself one.



Varietals such as Grenache, Merlot and mouth-watering blends can be found here.



Our deepest most complex reds; these wines make a statement

Full and flavourful with an intense fruit core, these reds are the talk of the town. Bold wines have an intensity about them that not only commands your presence but also asks you to stay a while. Pretend for a minute that Clint Eastwood has just walked into a bar, stared at you for a long hard second and proceeded to put out a cigar out on his forearm before challenging you to an arm wrestle. You’re heart might skip a beat but you’ll be happy that you tried it. That arm wrestle might be one of the best things you ever do in your life. That’s how we describe a bold wine.



Food friendly varietals like Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel are right at home here.



There’s nothing quite like hearing that cork pop!

Call us crazy but the sound of a cork being popped just makes everything better. Headaches dull, clouds seem to part and even the sound of crying children can be drowned out by the wonderful thought that you’ll soon have a stem in hand and an effervescent treat to tickle the end of your nose. A glass of bubbly just spells a plain good time. It might be a celebratory drink with friends, an excuse to get all gussied up for a fabulous night out or it might just be a date with the couch to watch Sex and the City re-runs solo.



Here you’ll find everything from Champagne to Cava, Prosecco, Lambrusco and everything in between!



Wines made with a little extra TLC

What are you going to find in this section? You’re going to find late harvest nectar, ice wines, delectably sweet Rieslings and 5 puttonyos worth of sweetness. And why are you going to love these wines? The grape juice that you’ll find in our Rich section took a lot of extra TLC to make the transition from vine to glass and can be used to make some of the most magnificent food and wine pairings known to man. We just have 3 words for you: Oysters and Sauternes.



This style houses dessert wines like Sauternes, Ice Wine and Tokaji.



Simple and Straightforward

When you think of simple and uncomplicated you can’t help but think of a guy in his college freshmen year. The beers that we’ve categorized as Clean are straightforward and unassuming with bright flavours and not too much complexity. You’ll enjoy these beers more than a keg stand and find them to be about as fresh as a 19 year-old guy at an all girl frat party. Big time!



Light and easy, simple Lagers, Pilsners & Blonde Ales.



Find your zen on our beer wall

Life Coaches and self-help books will tell you that balance is the key to a happy life. That may true but when we’re talking about a balanced style of beer we’re talking about the merits of a good pale ale with well integrated hop and malt flavours. Balanced beers won’t help you understand the deeper meaning of life but they’re still worth sampling for their easy-drinking quality. Take that Deepak Chopra!



Brews such as Brown Ales, Red Ales, Cream Ales, Black Lagers & Dunkels.



For your fun side, beers not meant to be taken too seriously

There is fruity like the Village People and there is fruity like wonderfully citrus kissed Hefeweizen, warm kirsch Belgians and bubbly orchard fruit ciders. While there is no denying the fun of disco and flamboyant cowboys, our Fruity section will give you options to keep you singing and dancing all year long. This is an amiable selection to accompany garden time, dinner parties and of course they pair wonderfully with dessert.



If you’re after a Cider, Radler or any fruit infused brew, you’ll find it here alongside Wheat beers.



The safe way to have an intense experience…

Here’s a short list of things that are truly intense: squirrel suit jumping, big wave surfing and the insane ramblings of Gary Busey. While our Intense selection of beers could be described as big and loud, they certainly won’t lead to death on impact, shark attacks or being verbally abused on Celebrity Apprentice. You’ll love the IPAs and scrumptious Trapist ales. Gary agrees.



Some like it hopped! Here you’ll find IPAs, DIPAs, Trappist brews, Sours & Barleywines.



Beer that leaves an impression

Powerful, sturdy and strapping are all great words to describe the Robust section. Everything you find here possesses strong brawny flavours that leave a lasting impression. Just think back to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s version of Conan the Barbarian; despite the horrifically bad acting that comes with those 80s classics we just can’t help but love the brute force and thick accent. Conan would call you an infidel for drinking anything else.



Home to heartier brews like Stouts and Porters & some Barrel Aged offerings.



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Effortless and exhilarating in any season

It’s undeniable, Rosé is in vogue. It’s enjoying a renaissance following the White Zinfandel craze that swept North America in the 70’s. Today, Rosé is the queen bee. Rosé is your ever fashionable friend. It’s the timeless accessory you can turn to in any season. In the spring it’s like wearing peeptoe shoes on a warm day. In the summer, a breezy dress. In the fall it’s the perfect boots and in the winter, a cozy knit scarf.



Rosés are the product of a myriad of varietals, some of the most common are: Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Cinsault.