Testa Wines was purchased in 1962, as a family owned business. It continues to this day as such, under second and third generation management.
When Bill Rouhana purchased the company in 1962, it was actually a winery. The wine was purchased in bulk from California producers like Mondavi and bottled here under our own labels. Bill bought the company without any money and sold the entire inventory and the winery equipment to pay the Testa family for the business. Bill decided to focus the business on importing and distributing wines. With a reputation and relationships from his years as an accountant at Transamerica, Bill was able to build his business on a very limited budget. He started as a distributor for Bolla, Ruffino and Moet.
Over the course of many years, Testa Wines and other small distributors worked to introduce and develop many of the well-known brands in today’s market.
Bolla, Moet, Antinori, Ruffino, Perrier Jouet, Mouton Cadet, Vueve Clicquot and Korbel, all unknown at the time, started in the Testa Portfolio.
Testa was a distributor for the Trapiche wines, one of the first from Argentina, as well as Navarro Correas, Humberto Canale and Andean vineyards when they were introduced to the United States.
In 1968 Testa exclusively introduced the FIRST Australian wine to the Eastern United States. Testa was selling to 10 states and growing, when another wine company in the U.S. approached the winery and made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. The fast nickel won out over the slow dime…. This resulted in our loss of the product line (and the eventual demise of the brand!) however; another door opened to us that more than made up for it.
In 1973, Bill got a call from Ab Simon of the Seagram’s Company, asking him to meet him for an early breakfast up town, Bill said no because he didn’t want to wake up too early, but Ab insisted he be there. It was then that Ab asked Bill to help form a fine wines division for the Seagram’s Company. In response to their request, Testa Wines organized the formation, and ran the day-to-day operations, of what was known as Seagram’s Chateau & Estate Wines, and later became Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines.
This relationship opened the doors for business with all of the finest restaurants, liquor stores and hotels, where we developed a reputation for integrity and personal service. Those relationships continue to this day.
In 1983 having accomplished our goals of a successful large wine company, we decided to return to a smaller niche business. We relinquished our commitment to the Seagram’s company, while choosing to continue selling a few select brands that we had introduced together.
Around that time we were approached by Julius Wile & sons, who, having seen our success with Chateau & Estates, asked us to be the agents for their portfolio. We decided to take it on since it did not involve becoming a large operation again…. and had some very prestigious wines. Testa handled all the ‘futures’ from Bordeaux and we introduced the first Super Tuscans from Antinori. (Tignanello and Sassacaia soon became very ‘hot’). Testa continued on with them until they sold to Whitbread.
With consolidation on the horizon and a significant percentage of our portfolio involving major brands (Brown Forman products) we realized that a new direction was in order. In the blink of an eye and after 32 years of loyalty, Brown Forman distributors pulled the product line (with 2 months notice) in order to give the products exclusively to one company. Not having the same protections afforded the wine companies in other states (franchise laws) we had no way to fight it.
We were at a low point and many thought it would be the end of Testa Wines.
Hard work, good relationships, great wines and a ‘little help from our friends’ has not only helped us to survive, but has enabled us to take the company in a whole new direction. We became more focused on finding “hidden gems”, and getting back to our roots of Building Brands. We love working with small family wineries that put their passion, pride and heritage into the bottle.
THE COMPANY TODAY
With the markets ever changing and the enormous number of different wines available, the direction that I have taken is to seek out unknown fine wines at great values, introduce them, by hand selling them and developing the products fine points.
I do much of the sales myself. My many relationships allow me to get the products to market in the best possible places.
Slow growth based on quality and value as opposed to “the cheapest” prices, I have found to be the best course of action. As a small company, I have the advantage of keeping cost low so I can offer such value.
Deborah Rouhana Lane- Owner
At the age of 14 I began to work summers in the Testa Wines office. We had our own warehouse in those days and every family member and many of our friends, who today are doctors, lawyers and other professionals, helped out when containers arrived. We all lined up to unload the containers and organize the wines. Our pay- LUNCH- from some of the best Italian delis in the Bronx!
Those were the days when there were a handful of small wine companies, all selling the same products, and all like family. Rex Wine, Salerno, Vinvino, Danielle, Opici, Transamerica, Testa….to name a few.
There were trips to wineries because you worked really hard, not because you sold more than the other guy. There was loyalty, honor and most of all good people!
In order to gain first hand knowledge of the workings of the company I worked my way up from the bottom. Over the course of 42 years, I have loaded and unloaded trucks, taken and prepared the orders, made deliveries, typed the invoices, handled compliance issues, import documentation, price schedules, done the ordering, the selling and the accounting and everything in between.
(Thank goodness for the computer age! Everything was done by hand until 2000 when at my husband’s insistence and instruction, I became computer literate.)
In 1981, I took over running all day-to-day operations of Testa Wines. In 2000, I purchased Testa Wines and renamed the company Testa Wines of the World.
In 2006 my daughter, Brianne, came to work with me full time. She is an artist by trade and has helped move Testa Wines to the next level. We are now able to offer customized, handmade case cards and shelf talkers, table tents and more. In addition to her responsibilities as the Creative Director of Testa Wines, Brianne is also my right hand man. She is like my pocket book, I take her everywhere and wouldn’t be where I am today without her hard work, sacrifice and encouragement.
After having grown up under my desk, both children vowed never to work for Testa Wines. Fortunately for me, they both decided that I needed help when I started trying to grow the company again and they reluctantly came on board.
Craig took over the duties of Compliance Director, Sales Manager, Office Manager, Therapist and Comedian. He provides the office with comic relief that keeps us all sane.
He like his sister has become a master multi tasker. I could not ask for two more dedicated, hard working and talented employees.
There are no words to describe the feelings I have when I look up and see my family all around me, working side by side, keeping our family’s legacy alive.
-Debbie Lane (owner)