Founder of Winegardner’s Wines. Winegardner’s Wines began in 1997 with a white van and rented warehouse. It was truly a labor of love and he was able to fulfill his dream of building a wine company focused on great wine and great customers. Kurt became ill in 2013, and passed away in February 2015. We at Winegardner’s continue to carry on his legacy and are grateful for the foundation he built and passed on to us.
Kurt’s passion for wine first developed in 1975 while living in Burgundy, France as a student. He picked grapes in the grand cru vineyards during the worst vintage of the century; it rained every day for three weeks. He lived next door to Domaine Faiveley in the home of the chief accountant for the Confrerie du Chevaliers de Tastevin. This Bugundian wine promotion society owned the Chateau Clos Vougeout which is where he and his French father would go on cold Saturday mornings to check up on their wine cellar. Graduating with a liberal arts degree, he naturally worked in restaurants, eventually finding a sales job with a Billings wine wholesaler.
Kurt once heard someone say that in your lifetime you may drink a lot of great wines and they will all be Bordeaux; but you will only drink one life changing wine, and that will be Burgundy. His was a ‘69 Musigny Compte Georges de Vogue tasted out of crystal water glasses in the kitchen of an old French farm house. The madame added a small amount of water “parce-que le vin rouge est fort.”
Co-founder of Winegardner’s Wines. Before she married Kurt and got interested in the wine business, Melinda spent her days as a potter. She quickly realized that the wine business was a better fit for middle age, and has devoted her days to the business ever since. Old world wines, particularly French wines, are her favorite. Melinda still has a true passion for the arts, and today she is painter whose work can be found at local shows from time to time. Additionally, she loves to hike, cook and spend time with her grandchildren, Carter and Adella.
After eleven years in apparel and textiles importing, Briana made a change to the wine industry. Already a wine lover, for her, the opportunity to move back to Montana to join Winegardner’s and become part of the wine world was an exciting new venture. She’s found that her experiences from the importing world are very similar to the ever-changing dynamics in the wine business, so it’s been a natural transition. As someone who loves to learn (and with wine there is always something to learn), her passion for wine grows daily.
Briana’s favorite wine (of the moment) is Henri Perrusset Mâcon-Villages. And, of course, she always enjoys a glass of something bubbly.
Outside of work, she loves spending time with her children Carter & Adella, husband Jake and two dogs, traveling, being active, yoga, hiking, golf, cooking, reading & music.
sales Belgrade, office wizard
Lisa, a 3rd generation Bozemanite, has a 16 year background in the service industry. She started out serving and bartending, and later moved into management roles. She has managed a nightclub, a sports bar, and restaurants. Working that side of the business, she believes, has given her a greater understanding of what accounts need.
Lisa’s love of wine has been developing for about the past 5 years. She enjoys trying all kinds of wines, but in particular, has always enjoyed a good malbec. As of late, she is also starting to have more interest in white wines.
In her spare time, Lisa enjoys doing things that keep her active. She spends a lot of time with friends and family, hiking, camping, and going to the lake. She also loves cooking with friends, backyard bbqs, and watching great baseball & football games (Yankees and Chargers). She is also learning to golf, and said “maybe one day I will be good!”
sales Helena, Great Falls, Butte
Born in Helena, Sye was raised in Northwest Ohio, and a few years ago came back to his roots!
His love of wine comes from the unfathomable amount of variables that create the equation of a delicious wine. How that wine can become intertwined with some of your favorite memories. The savory moment you have, as you are joined at a round table with a beautiful wine, a delicious meal, and an onslaught of laughter and good times.
Sye was introduced to the wine business while working at The Hawthorn in Helena, Montana, giving him one of the best opportunities to try new, exciting, and fun wines on an extremely regular basis. He has been in the service industry for almost 9 years, and along that path, has picked up various tidbits of information, techniques and values.
Sye has a difficult time saying no to a Loire style white wine, but his favorite is probably by an incredible female Austrian producer named Heidi Schrock. She makes a Vogelsang that just gets him!
In his spare time, Sye enjoys taking advantage of the incredible natural opportunities this beautiful state can provide, such as snowboarding. But he has been known to be quite the gamer from time to time!
sales Bozeman, Big Sky, Livingston
Grant was born in a small town in northwest Montana and moved to Bozeman as a child. His love for wine began in the kitchen, where he started creating recipes when he was six years old. By the time he was in high school, he was working in the restaurant industry. Grant worked in multiple catering businesses and restaurants. Along his journey through kitchens and restaurants, he also developed his love for wine. He realized how much wine could change the dining experience, and it gradually became the more important part for him.
Grant is always excited to try new wines: new regions, new producers, and new styles. Personally though, he leans strongly toward Old World wines and is a sucker for Alsatian or Piedmont wines.
Today he enjoys entertaining and actually having time to cook what he wants for other people. He loves to read and enjoys outdoor activities. After working for Winegardner’s in Billings, he transferred to Bozeman to be back in his hometown.
sales Billings, Red Lodge
Born in Las Vegas, Nevada, Jeff and his family relocated to Billings just before he started high school.
Jeff went to college for computer science, and worked in a restaurant during the evenings. His love of wine began to grow at the first restaurant he worked in with a serious wine menu, and it was during this time that he decided to pursue restaurants fully. He was immediately fascinated by the complex flavors and aromas of wine, and the factors that create them. He loved hearing stories about passionate people in all corners of the world working toward the same goal, creating uniquely delicious and memorable wines for everyone to appreciate. He climbed through the ranks at several restaurants before finding one that best fit his style. He spent five years working to build an exquisite wine list, hire and train staff, organize wine dinners and tastings. During this time, he passed my Court of Master Sommeliers Level 1 Exam. Jeff loves white Burgundy and reds from southern Rhone, and his spare time, he enjoys reading, hiking, camping, and hanging out with his poodle, Harbour.
sales Missoula / Bitterroot
A Montana native, Aidan grew up in Billings, and graduated with a Marketing degree from the University of Montana in Missoula.
Her love for wine stemmed from working in the food and beverage industry. She started serving and bartending in college, and later became the Marketing Director for the restaurant where she was working. She also worked in fine dining restaurants where pairing food and wine together was emphasized. While taking wine, beer and liquor classes, it was always the wine classes she found fascinating because there was always something new to learn, and she’s excited to continue to learn more about the industry. (Also, her favorite documentary is Somm!)
Aidan has always loved a full bodied red, but as of late she’s been branching out and trying lighter reds and whites. Her favorite wine at the moment is Ambyth Rosé. (Which is so fun and unique!) In her spare time, she likes to hang out with her wiener dog, Bert, travel, cook, ski, and attend football games. Go Griz!
After graduating from Eastern Washington University, Mike migrated east to Whitefish, Montana.
He spent the next 10 years in and around the bar and restaurant industry, starting in kitchens and eventually bartending, which is where he found his confidence. While working at the Iron Horse Golf Club under several sommeliers, Mike learned he had a knack for wine. He says, “I love talking with people about wine. It’s always an interesting conversation and I enjoys helping customers find a wine that suits them.”
Since then, he has worked for several establishments by setting up or restructuring wine lists, tirelessly training staff and has assisted with multiple restaurant and bar grand openings and relaunches.
There isn’t any wine, red or white, that Mike prefers over another, but his loves are California Zinfandels and interesting red blends from all over the world.
Mike’s number one hobby is fly fishing and fly tying. He floats and fishes the rivers of Montana frequently and looks forward to teaching his daughter all he knows. He’ll teach her about wine when she’s old enough.
Justin is known for adding a bit of fun to wine inventory management, and with his diverse taste in music; you never know what you’re going to hear when you walk in the warehouse. His favorite wines are reds, and since he enjoys trying new wines, it’s hard to pick just one favorite.
In his spare time, Justin loves to ski, hike and be outdoors while spending as much time as possible with family and children Harrison and Hazel.
Lon was born and raised in Billings, MT, the oldest of four boys. Prior to working for Winegardner’s, he’s been a warehouse distribution manager and a delivery driver for publications in Oklahoma City.
Lon’s favorite wine so far is Far Niente Chardonnay.
In his spare time, Lon enjoys camping, fishing and hunting, mountain biking, tele and cross-country skiing and touring on his M4 BMW R1150RT. He loves the mountains of Montana and gets out to recreate in them as much as he can.
Jake was born & raised in Southern Illinois, just north of St. Louis. He moved to Montana after working a season in Yellowstone National park. He went on to study English Literature in graduate school. Jake taught for 2 years at the University of Montana before working at a wilderness school in Idaho for a season. He also spent some time traveling and working various restaurant jobs, where he developed an appreciation for food and wine. His favorite wine to date is a Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc.
In his spare time, Jake enjoys reading and listening to podcasts. He also likes spending time in the backcountry–climbing, running, camping, etc., and loves fly fishing in the summer.