Why Are We Here?
To create a wholesale business that is a true partner to both our suppliers and customers, and is recognized as the State’s leader in selection, education and service.
What Are We Collectively Trying to Achieve?
To be a positive influence on the Minnesota wine and spirit trade, and to have fun while doing it.
MAT GARRETSON – Owner/General Manager
Over the course of his 37-year career, Mat has served in a senior management and/or ownership position in every tier of the wine and spirit industry. He has owned/managed retail stores, wine bars, wineries, import companies and distilleries. Mat has made a career out of building new businesses and brands, or reviving established ones, but is perhaps best known as the Owner/Winemaker of Garretson Wine Company, and Founder of Hospice du Rhône. His efforts in these capacities earned him international recognition, including a cover story in Wine Spectator.
In 2008 Mat closed his winery, and moved to Minnesota where he was a senior manager at a large, full-book wholesaler. His original plan was to work at there for a few years and then launch his own wholesale operation. Mat was well on his way to doing just that when he was approached by his friend, David Perkins of High West Distillery. David offered Mat an opportunity too good to pass up: taking on all sales and marketing aspects of his fledgling distillery. Over the course of his time at High West, Mat built a distribution network, a national sales and marketing team, and was instrumental in the development of new products. The success enjoyed by High West is well-documented, and in October of 2016 the company was acquired by Constellation Brands.
Having concluded his time at High West, Mat was ready to focus his efforts on his original plan of creating Minnesota’s leading mid-sized wholesaler. His experience, knowledge and reputation within the industry makes him uniquely qualified to do so.
CHRIS GRIESE – Partner/Sales Manager
If you’ve been in the Minnesota wine and spirits trade for any length of time, then you no doubt know Chris Griese. Like Mat, Chris has logged over 37 years in the wine and spirit trade. A Wisconsin native, Chris frequently travelled the wine world with his wife, Vicki. It was their love of wine that lead them to opening a gourmet wine and food shop in Greenville, NC. In 1985 the couple relocated to Minnesota, where Chris took on the duties of on-premise manager for one of the State’s larger wholesalers. Ten years later, Chris joined World Class Wines, one of Minnesota’s leading fine wine wholesalers. During his tenure there, Chris served in a multitude of senior management roles, eventually becoming a partner in the business.
In 2010, World Class Wines was acquired by Southern Wine & Spirits. Chris was part of the management team, overseeing the transition. In 2014, Chris accepted a position with Joto Sake, where he was able to focus on his passions for Sake and Japanese culture. After a few years of life on the road educating people on Sake, Chris longed to return to a life that would allow more opportunities to sleep in his own bed, and he accepted a management position with an independent MN wholesaler.
In 2016, Chris was approached by Mat, who thought that their combined experience and skills could result in a formidable team. Chris quickly realized that Mat’s experience on a national/international level and his own intimate understanding of the Minnesota market, combined with the duo’s passion for the industry would result in a management team that would be truly unique to our State.
JEFF ROGERS – Spirits Specialist
Jeff Rogers has spent his 23-year career dedicated to the bar industry. With a strong focus on the guest experience, Jeff has applied his knowledge of cocktail technique, recipes, spirits and liqueurs, bar efficiency, and entertainment to over 86 bar and restaurant openings. He has been involved with cocktail bars, lounges, flair bars, casual dining restaurants, nightclubs, sports bars, and everything in between. These experiences have taken Jeff on a colorful journey, not only around the US, but around the world. From Europe to the Caribbean and Mexico, he has visited countless distilleries to learn from the producers themselves. With this all-encompassing background in bars and spirits, he is able to apply his experience and expertise to any bar or restaurant environment. Taking a step out from behind the bar four years ago, Jeff stepped into the distribution world as an educator, which led him to his current position of Spirits Specialist with Négoce of Minnesota.
During his career, Jeff has competed in over 80 cocktail and flair competitions with much success all over the world. As a founding member of the North Star Bartender’s Guild of Minnesota and active Vice President of the Minneapolis/St. Paul, United States Bartender’s Guild, he taps into his passion for education to “raise the bar” of the cocktail landscape in the Midwest. Recently became chairman of the National USBG Master Accreditation Committee, received his B.A.R. Ready Certificate from Beverage Alcohol Resource, Certified Spirits Specialist through Society of Wine Educators, and Spirits Professional and Advanced Bartender from the U.S.B.G. He has been featured in multiple publications and various TV programs, including The Star Tribune, Vitamin, City Pages, Perk at Play, Fox Morning, Twin Cities Live, www.flairbar.com, www.eater.com, Mike’s Mix, and The Discovery Channel. Jeff was born and raised in the Midwest and currently resides in South Minneapolis.
PETER PLAEHN – Wine Specialist
Peter Plaehn is a 20+ year veteran of the hospitality industry with experience in restaurant operations, corporate training & development, education and wholesale distribution. He has opened nearly a dozen restaurants across the West Coast for concepts such as California Pizza Kitchen, Starbucks Coffee Company and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro. Upon returning to the Midwest, he focused on wine and beverage and has held positions as Operations Manager and Sommelier for the award-winning Nicollet Island Inn, Luxury/Craft Specialist for Wirtz Beverage Group and Beverage Director for the JW Marriott Minneapolis, Minnesota’s top luxury hotel.
He is a Certified Specialist of Wine with the Society of Wine Educators and in 2016 became the first sommelier in Minnesota to achieve the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Advanced Sommelier certificate. After attending the exclusive Rudd Foundation Masters Roundtable in Napa Valley, he is preparing to sit the Master Sommelier diploma exam in 2018.
KOLIN KNUDSON – Sales Representative
Kolin started in the industry in 1996 as a Merchandiser for Budweiser. For the last 15 years he has been a fixture in the Minnesota industry, selling wines and spirits. Kolin says his favorite wine is whatever’s being poured, but prefers hearty reds. When it comes to cocktails, he favors a Gin and tonic with a splash of orange juice. “I have made a lot of lifelong friends in the industry,” Kolin states, “I enjoy tasting events and meeting new people.”
When he’s not working, much of Kolin’s time is spent with his two kids, Hazel and Carter, and their multiple activities. Together the family enjoys exploring the outdoors, travelling, board games and movies. Kolin also enjoys fishing, golfing, or watching sports with friends.
MOLLY WESTRUM – Sales Representative
Molly has been working in the service industry since high school, a career that spans from dive bars to fine dining, retail liquor sales to wholesale wine and spirits sales. “love working in an industry that is so dynamic, creative and full of passionate people,” Molly states.
Away from work, she is happiest enjoying music, food, long dog walks, yoga and any opportunity to play outside with her friends. A nice glass of wine is always welcome, too. Says Molly, “My wine preferences are constantly evolving, but have strong roots in France. I am always thrilled to learn about new favorites from my colleagues, peers and customers.”
STEPHEN BRAUN – Sales Representative / North Shore
Stephen spent nearly a decade working on the fine dining side of the food and beverage industry in the Duluth area. During some of that time he also worked at a small wine and spirits distributor before making the transition to Négoce. Having spent so many years working with wine and food, Stephen feels like all his best moments with wine have always occurred when it’s accompanied by food. When Stephen was in France, he had great meals in Burgundy, and drank some tear-producing Meursault. However, one of the wine experiences he remembers so vividly was eating pizza at a little sidewalk café in Paris and drinking Bardolino. It was as unpretentious as it gets, which is why it was perfect. While not drinking wine or reading about it, Stephen can be found in his yard digging in the garden, up a ladder renovating his house, or hiking through the woods all around Duluth.
TARESA SAWH – Sales Representative
Taresa’s interest in wine started 14 years ago on a beautiful, sunny day in the Santa Ynez Valley. She and her then boyfriend (now husband) were just leaving their first winery tasting for the day, and as she clutched the winery map she grinned widely, exclaiming, “we should drink wine everyday!” This is the moment, time and place that wine first struck her heart. As both Taresa’s wine travel and knowledge expanded, her interest naturally evolved into a passion. After 10 years of work in the non-profit sector, and then starting her own business, Taresa took the plunge into the wine and spirits industry. Taresa arrives to Négoce after having worked four years as an on-premise sales rep with a local wholesale distributor.
When not peddling wine, Taresa’s favorite pastimes include anything that involves being in the wilderness or outdoors. Biking, running, hiking, camping, and simply chilling out on the deck are a few of her favorite pleasures. Taresa continues, “I also very much enjoy traveling, music (fun fact: I’m an unabashed bluegrass fan and wish to learn to play the banjo one day) going out to eat and spending time with my loved ones. Currently I reside in Minneapolis with my husband and two cats…and very soon our first dog.”
BRADY COTTON – Sales Representative
Brady Cotton comes to Négoce with extensive experience in the beverage industry, most of it in Minneapolis. His background includes both experience in retail and restaurant environments, marketing, management and distribution. What he enjoys most about the beverage industry is that it allows him to express his versatility across this ever-changing market.
Brady has spent the last 12 years living in Minneapolis, watching the food and beverage talent grow and inspire one another. He is grateful to be a part of a community that is built upon relationships and a culture that challenges him to be better than the day before.