Spanish wine importer Ray Vigil has gone far, but his local roots run deep
You can’t help but notice Ray Vigil’s intense energy. His mind and body are always in motion, but his most noticeable characteristic is his positive outlook and contagious sense of possibility. When discussing his two favorite topics—cooking and wine—the Vin Iberian Wines founder becomes almost childlike in his enthusiasm. Speaking with him, you realize it’s his passion for these two hobbies, and not profit, that led him to his career as an importer of Spanish wines.
Five years ago, Vigil was working as a partner and general manager of Scarpas restaurants. Bored and tired from two years without a day off, Vigil hopped on a plane to the village of Lagos, on Portugal’s gorgeous southern coast. He lived on fresh bass and sardines cooked on the beach, washing them down with Portuguese wines. He also rented a car and took a trip through the back roads of Spain, unknowingly headed for a meeting with destiny. The adventurous New Mexican ended up in Pamplona. It was there, while browsing bottles in a wine shop, that he had an epiphany: Why not import wine to the U.S.?
“Immediately after this realization, I boarded a plane for home and scheduled an appointment with a lawyer for incorporation. I sold my house and, with the equity and some savings, I went back to Spain for six months to realize my dream,” Vigil tells the Alibi. “I drove throughout Spain, since I wanted to represent wines from all the major regions. I turned in one rental car with 28,000 kilometers. I tasted over 3,000 wines and ended up with 25, which make up the portfolio of my company, Vin Iberian Wines.”
Today, Vigil’s company is thriving. The key to his success has been an incredible shift in the market toward less expensive wines. With the downturn in the economy, the market for pricey, high-end bottles crashed. People began looking for quality values. Suddenly, Spanish wines were hot and, almost overnight, they became the fastest growing segment in the wine industry.