Marisa Sergi wanted to continue her families legacy through the thing they were most passionate about: wine. The company, which was started by her father Frank in the late ’90s, ties together their Italian roots and their love for sharing. The company, which strives to create an inclusive experience for wine lovers, uses some surprising ingredients in their affordable but delicious product, Purple Rain wine. We sat down to talk with Sergi about L’uva Bella Winery, as well as what inspires her to continue to share her family’s legacy in her own career.
Grit Daily: You had your own adventures before L’uva Bella Winery. Share those.
Marisa Sergi: I almost feel like I am the Kevin O’Leary of my family. I have dabbled in many interests and have had experiences while figuring out what I ultimately wanted to do with my life. For example, I played women’s rugby in college, although I had zero experience — or created and designed an ice cream flavor that my university declared to win their annual make-your-own-ice cream contest. Or being the first wine major to design a unique piece for Cornell Fashion collective’s annual fashion show.
Reflecting back on many instances such as these, it shows I have always had a passion for creating something from nothing and pushing the boundaries of what I thought I could do or be. As a winemaking major at Cornell University, I had to turn in a capstone project to graduate.
This scared me. The upperclassmen made it appear that it was the only thing standing between them and graduation And I did not want to do traditional vineyard or lab research so I proposed that instead I would create a wine label and design a wine for it and document the process of trying to sell it into one store. Thankfully, my advisors approved and I got to work two years before my capstone was due!
In 2013, I launched my first wine brand, RedHead Wine, and only started selling it in approximately 20 stores. Fast forward to 2020, L’uva Bella, the umbrella company to our brands RedHead, Purple Rain and Passion Wines are sold in five states in over 5,000 stores! This experience ultimately led me to wanting to acquire L’uva Bella Winery, so I could turn a regional winery into a CPG company. That dream was realized in May 2020!
Grit Daily: What’s behind the L’uva Bella Winery name?
MS: My family immigrated to America in the 50s and brought over the Italian tradition of winemaking. My father, Frank Sergi, started L’uva Bella Winery by selling wine out of his basement in the late ’90s. After realizing the demand for his wines, he decided to buy property and establish a winery to bring production to the next level. He stumbled upon the name — L’uva Bella — which means “the beautiful grape” in Italian to emulate our family heritage into the name while making the brand simple – yet elegant.
Grit Daily: For the uninitiated, what’s special about Purple Rain Wine?
MS: Purple Rain Wine is made using 100% premium Welch’s grape juice. That’s right, Welch’s grape juice. Now: Don’t think you can go to the store, grab a bottle of Welch’s off the shelf, take it home and make wine with it. The juice we bring in by the truck load is as fresh as if it were pressed in the vineyard. The raw juice comes in at 65 degrees, and from there, our team starts the magic process of turning the Welch’s juice into Purple Rain Wine.
We pride ourselves on creating approachable, modern brands for the everyday consumer. Purple Rain is just that, at $7.99 per bottle truly anyone can enjoy an introduction to wine or reminisce about the adult version of their favorite childhood drink.
Grit Daily: What’s your relationship to Bru beer?
MS: I met founder, Connor Blakley, back in 2016 through a networking group for Gen Z and millennial entrepreneurs. He approached me this summer to help him launch his beer brand, BRU. After seeing the killer marketing plan and tasting the product, I was in! I have over six years of retail and distribution experience in the beverage industry and am the COO of BRU to help build the company to grow from one 24 pack to a one-day global conglomerate.
Grit Daily: What’s one conventional wisdom about wine making that’s just plain wrong?
MS: For many decades, wine has been presented to be pretentious. This is just completely untrue! There is almost an inherent pressure to know exactly what you’re doing when looking at a 30-page wine list at a steakhouse or know exactly the right bottle to pick at the grocery store.
One of the biggest goals I have in my career is to make wine approachable and fun for anyone. The brands that we have at L’uva Bella are fun, modern, light-hearted and have flavorful taste profiles for those who are just starting to consume or an individual who has been enjoying wine for many years. Price points, branding and flavor profile come down to this at the end of the day….“if you like it, that is what matters!”