2013 Pacesetter – Emerging winner – Dreadnought Wines

Debra Mortillaro and her company, Dreadnought Wines, have been setting the pace for small independent wine distributors by focusing on retail customers and innovations that would make buying wine a better experience for the customer.

Dreadnought Wines was the first to use credit cards for the sale of alcohol in Pennsylvania, have a wine-of-the-month club and sell wine accessories and glassware before the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board did, which are just a few examples of the pacesetting ideas that have been the mission of the alcohol distributor.

Mortillaro, who is co-owner along with Mike Gonze, also started a trucking division that focuses on moving alcohol within the state of Pennsylvania, aligning it with Dreadnought Wines’ current business contacts while also looking into other avenues, knowing that this class of license could also be legislated out of existence. This business has seen a growth of more than 25 percent a year since purchasing one of its competitors two years ago.

In addition to the trucking company expansion, the education portion of the business, with the goal of having several outlets within and beyond the Pittsburgh arena, is a top priority. Dreadnought Wines is working with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust certification program out of London to expand its offerings beyond the consumer to restaurant and beverage professionals. With Mortillaro’s background as a chef, food classes are being looked at as a future offering as well.

Continuing to find ways to protect her 34-year-old business from legislature that is determined to change the face of their industry has also been a focus for Mortillaro. Working with local politicians has refined her ability to clearly demonstrate her side of a complex issue. She has worked with other wine distributors on this issue to help protect their class of license during the proposed legislative changes.

In addition, she has worked to help the public understand the consequences of the proposed laws for the liquor system in Pennsylvania.

Mortillaro has kept her company on pace with the changing wine scene in Pittsburgh by these expansions and employing people with worldwide experience in the areas of wine sales, education and logistics. Always looking for the next trend in the beverage industry has kept Dreadnought on the forefront of its business.

Mortillaro has worked to keep her company viable by expanding into the Philadelphia market, starting with wine sales to on-premise locations and hiring a person to work with the Harrisburg office of the PLCB to expand the offerings via the luxury system. This expansion has increased the sales of wine to on-premise accounts by 110 percent and created a whole new stream of sales that have grown by 10 percent a year for the past three years.


How to reach: Dreadnought Wines, (412) 391-1709 or www.dreadnoughtwines.com


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