We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Gina Montalbano. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Gina below.
Gina, appreciate you joining us today. To kick things off, we’d love to hear about things you or your brand do that diverge from the industry standard
Something that isn’t commonly known about winemaking is the large amount of waste that it can produce. As the daughter of immigrants and married to a retired Army Major, my husband and I saw and hated how much of the local produce we use wasn’t making it into the final product. In an effort to cut out as much of that waste as possible, our smaller company “Bella Vino” (Italian for “beautiful wine”) was born. By repurposing the sediment from our wines, we have been able to create a line of sustainable self-care products such as lip balm, body scrubs, and soap. Not only that but we have also been able to repurpose our sediment into various flavors of wine jelly and syrup! Although they are called wine jellies and syrups, rest assured, they don’t have any alcohol in them, making them the perfect sweet treat for the whole family.
Gina, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
The story of Z&M Twisted Vines Wines and Winery is, above all, a love story. The seed was planted when US Army Major Bryan Zesiger met Dr. Gina Montalbano, and they recognized in each other a shared love of wine, life, community, and the planet. As their relationship grew, so did the idea that would become Z&M Twisted Vines Wines and Winery. Z&M is not just a product, but the fruit of the marriage between two people, working alongside each other to create a product they believe in, here in America’s heartland. When it comes to their wines, Bryan’s military background pairs nicely with Gina’s Italian heritage. Sicily, where her family hails from, has been making wine for nearly 3,000 years. Z&M takes traditional wine production methods and uses them to make something fun, accessible, and most importantly, delicious. From their Blackhawk Blackberry wine, to their Hellfire jalapeño wine, all the way to their Blacked Out Coffee Wines, Z&M specialty wines draw from the best of Old World wine-making to provide something new and exciting, while honoring the surrounding military, local, and farming communities.
Like any great marriage, Bryan and Gina complement each other, putting their combined talents to work to give life to their community. Z&M wines are locally grown, sourced, and bottled on location. They believe wine should be fun, giving people an excuse to get together or to enhance a gathering. That is why Z&M regularly holds events at its store on 620 Cherokee Street in downtown Leavenworth for the people who live, work, and study there, often donating a portion of proceeds to local charities. It’s why Z&M is a fixture at community events in and around Leavenworth, and on and off post at Fort Leavenworth. It’s why they take pride in hiring military spouses, veterans, and local folks.
In 2020, Z&M expanded when they opened their vineyard in Lawrence, KS to the public. Featuring a Tasting Room, large Event Space, scenic lake, beach volleyball court, fire pits, outdoor pavilion, and historic barn, it’s a beautiful location for memorable get-togethers of all sizes! Z&M Twisted Vines Wines and Winery is more than unique, handcrafted, boundary-pushing wine. Z&M believes it has a part to play in the wellbeing of the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – living in community with friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family.
We’d really appreciate if you could talk to us about how you figured out the manufacturing process.
All of Z&M’s products are made in house by Twisted staff members. When Bryan and I first got together, we took a winemaking class. From there it blossomed into what we know today as Z&M. The process of growing our small, homebased business into the large farm operation we have now wasn’t easy. We started as amateur home winemakers with a manual, hand cranked grape crusher in our first year to now using more automated and electric machines. Scaling up from 300 6 1/2-gallon glass carboys to the larger 250-gallon tanks takes a lot of recipe edits and coordination of resources. It’s been challenging to scale up especially during the pandemic when it comes to resources. Space also became an issue so building our larger processing facility, Big Vino, was a must to have a successful harvest for the amount of grapes and other fruits we utilize to make enough wine. Handcrafted specialty wines are truly a labor of love for us!
Any stories or insights that might help us understand how you’ve built such a strong reputation?
When it comes to the wines, Bryan’s military background pairs nicely with my Italian heritage. Sicily, where my family hails from, has been making wine for nearly 3,000 years. Z&M takes traditional wine production methods and uses them to make something fun, accessible, and most importantly, delicious. From our Blackhawk Blackberry wine to the Hellfire jalapeño wine, all the way to our Blacked Out Coffee Wines, Z&M specialty wines draw from the best of Old-World winemaking to provide something new and exciting, while honoring the surrounding military, local, and farming communities. Z&M’s ability to combine new, exciting ideas with long-established crafting methods has garnered many loyal fans not only in the Lawrence and Leavenworth communities but all over Kansas and the United States. Not only that but Z&M’s ever-growing social media presence helps maintain a dynamic relationship with loyal clientele as well as ensures that the products, events, and stories that Z&M is built on reach as many people as possible.
- Website: zmtwistedwines.com
- Instagram: @zmtwistedvineyard @zmtwistedwinery
- Facebook: facebook.com/zmtwistedvineyard ; facebook.com/zmtwistedvines
- Yelp: yelp.com/biz/z-and-m-twisted-vines-vineyard-lawrence ; yelp.com/biz/z-and-m-twisted-vines-wine-and-winery-leavenworth
- Other: email@example.com