DELMARVA–In light of Women’s History Month, WRDE is highlighting four outstanding women on the Delmarva peninsula throughout the month of March. One of those women is Karen Sposato, the co-founder of the popular local wine brand ‘Sposato’ based in Milton, Delaware.
“Everyone asks: ‘how do you get from Milton to Mendoza, Argentina?’” said Karen Sposato.
Sposato of Irish descent and her business partner, Tony Sposato with an Italian background, said they met at Salisbury University during the 1980s and quickly realized they both shared a love of wine. Once they graduated in the early 90s, Karen’s teaching career took off, and while Tony was also pursuing a job in the same field, he took the initiative to mow lawns for extra income and shortly thereafter, founded ‘Sposato Landscape Co.’
After more than 20 years in the landscaping business, they had enough cash flow to invest elsewhere and by 2008 they began looking at vineyards abroad.
“It was part of both of our cultures growing up and bringing people together around the table,” she said. “Which is, I think, such an important thing that needs to happen for families now, whatever your family looks like, just coming together and feeling the presence of something that was made from the Earth.”
After years of researching, studying and visiting mostly South America, they concluded the soil and climate in Argentina was perfect for growing grapes.
“Our Cab, you know it’s a good Cabernet Sauvignon grape, it’s going to taste a little different from a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon a French Cabernet Sauvignon, an Australian Cabernet Sauvignon, due to the soils, the Talwar, and the altitude,” expressed Tony Sposato.
Soon, it became more than just an idea. Tony Sposato took on the role managing the operations aspect of the business, while Karen took on the sales and marketing portion, distributing their products to local restaurants and liquor stores–a ‘divide and conquer’ duo dynamic that Karen Sposato says works.
“We sleep it, we eat it, we breathe it, I mean, it is constantly 24/7 we’re thinking about this, my wheels are always turning, I know Tony’s wheels are always turning but I’m always thinking about how to market it, who can, who’s going to want this product, how do we want to get it out there, we want people to taste it,” she said.
They now manage a staff of about 40 people on Delmarva and abroad, and they communicate with workers in Mendoza (the land of the Malbec) on a daily basis, to ensure the 250-acre property at the base of the Andes mountains and its precious grapes are properly maintained.
Karen Sposato said she soon learned how incredibly male-dominated the liquor industry is.
“It is a male-dominated world when you go out there in the wine world, in the liquor world, and when you go into the liquor stores, but honestly I feel as though it’s taken me a long time to gain the confidence, but putting myself out there and allowing myself to fall and finding my way up, ‘up and coming,’ I guess you can say, to where I am today,” she said.
Over time, Sposato says you learn to become a leader within yourself.
“As you go along the process of doing what you love and getting to where you are, you have to educate yourself, you have to stay abreast, you have to talk to people and you have to not be afraid to put yourself out there…and once you do that, you’ll find that ‘hey’ you can do anything,” Sposato said.
More than a dozen Sussex County restaurants now feature Sposato bottles on their wine list. Karen Sposato says it’s all thanks to the energy instilled in her that fuels her drive to find her passion–something she doesn’t bother to hide.
“I have a passion for life, for living, for learning and for sharing my passion with others,” she said.