Born in Zerbina (today, Valmozzola) Italy in 1884, my great-grandfather Pietro Rivi, came to the United States in 1905 when the promise of living in a small Italian village fell short of his aspirations. He settled just outside of Pittsburgh on the Allegheny River, where he went to work in the coal mines and married Maria. At that point in time, I’m sure life here looked better than it had back in Italy.
Maria died due to complications with their 6th child at the age of 26, and Pietro was left to raise his family alone. Life turned out to be very difficult for Pietro, but his gift to his children and subsequent generations was the opportunity that America offered.
My passion, and the primary motivation for founding Zerbina Imports 100 years later was to complete the circle that Pietro started. Through a process that required several years , I have reconnected with my family in Italy, obtained my Italian citizenship, and started Zerbina Imports here in America.
I’m in awe of the fortitude that was required to move to a foreign land and start anew. Today, Zerbina stands as my tribute to the man who, in my opinion, took the bigger risk. That gamble has paid off for his progeny, and I am thrilled to bring a piece of Italy back to America to share with our friends and family.
I began my “wine journey” as the result of a bit of research into my Italian ancestry. To my surprise, I found that I still had family in northern Italy in the small village of Zerbina.
My great grandfather had immigrated from Zerbina to the United States in 1905 after the tragic loss of his first wife. Working as a coal miner he built a new life in America. Generations later as I walked around the small village, I found that the family he left behind was still rooted in tradition on that same mountain.
The journey of discovery led me to a family history of wine making that spanned over 200 years. In fact, they are still producing wine in the same vineyard that my great-grandfather worked until his departure to America.
This family history, and this place, inspired me to change career course and establish relationships with a number of Italian wineries who produce some of the best wines I had ever tasted. I formed Zerbina Imports and worked to develop a distinguished portfolio of hand selected wines. Today, our curated collection includes wines from Italy, France, Argentina, and California.
-Bryan Rivi Howell