Blue Crane Imports is a Chicago-based importer and distributor with an exclusive focus on South African wines which capture the beauty, style, and passion of the country and its winemakers.
Who We Are
James Clark – Founder/Chief Executive Officer
I love wine, as well as the relationships and atmosphere that it creates. That’s the simple reason why I set up an import and distribution company, although a business leadership career in aerospace and defense was definitely an unconventional path to get there. Many years spent living in Europe sparked for me a lasting connection with wine, and an unforseen opportunity launched me toward the building of a new venture devoted to it. I was inspired by the chance to work with and learn from an exceptional group of people in South Africa that deserve exposure here, and motivated by a respect for the intersection of artistry, agriculture and science required to make a great wine. I consider myself fortunate to have been able to work with a great team to take this creative experience and turn it into a business reality. We have the desire, commitment and capability to make Blue Crane Imports a very enjoyable, long term success.
Jon Clark – Chief Operating Officer
A twenty-year career in global sales, operations, and business leadership, including five years living overseas, created the opportunity for me to experience different cultures, food, and wine from around the world. Those influences have remained a passion of mine, and I was excited by the challenge to pursue a meaningful place in this industry by focusing on the quality, value and diversity that South Africa has to offer. The wines that we are importing are still a relatively new experience for both the casual and professional buyer in the United States; our objective is to help narrow that gap by creating awareness, building relationships, developing a path to market, and by doing what we say we can do. We greatly appreciate the support our of producers and the customers that have given us a shot to make this happen.
Ryan Baldwin – Director of Education and Business Development
Wine is my passion, and sharing this passion with others is what inspires me; I trace it back to living in France on a bootstrap budget, where I had the opportunity to learn about excellent, affordable wine while discovering gems that stood out for their depth, complexity and approachability. It was an experience that propelled me to pursue an education in wine after returning to the U.S., and into a career in which I strive to take a diverse, nuanced subject and present it in a fashion that is informative, engaging, and enjoyable for everyone. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to work as a Sommelier in one of the nation’s best restaurants, drawing upon the lessons I learned abroad to find wine of both quality and value. This led me to connect with Jim and Jon Clark, who introduced me to the wines of South Africa and shattered everything I thought I knew about the wine being produced there. I am excited for the opportunity to share these wines with you as I believe they are some of the most enthralling wines on the planet that haven’t, until now, received the recognition here that they deserve.
Christine Clark – Vice President
My love of all things culinary began at a young age, watching and helping my mother in the kitchen. As I got older my appreciation for good food and wine grew from our family experiences sharing meals to celebrate life events. It’s a joy to create or experience a great meal with others particularly when paired with delicious wine and spirits. This was especially apparent to me while attending culinary school where I began studying wine and the art of winemaking. I feel privileged to work in a city and industry which appreciates quality products, fosters relationships with growers and winemakers and shows concern for how the land and grapes are farmed. I have much to learn and am excited to expand my knowledge and help Blue Crane build on the wonderful partnerships already established.
David Perri – Partner
Having the opportunity to participate in the evolution of a company like Blue Crane Imports has truly been one of the most inspiring experiences of my life. From the outset of the idea created by the Clark brothers, to the engagement with the first customers, every step has been part of a rewarding adventure and I feel honored to be a part of it. As a long time corporate executive from outside the industry, my wife and I felt that involvement in the wine community was a dream for the future rather than a real opportunity for the present. We did, however, always know that we wanted to be connected to the business of wine from our very first trip to the Napa Valley; the passion of the people we met, the expertly produced wines, and the personal success stories instilled a desire to be a part of it. Eventually being introduced to the quality and diversity of South African wine was a revelation, and the chance to play an important role in developing a market for our producers here in the US is both exciting and gratifying.
Mike Cacciabondo – Marketing
Like you, I love wine. But not as much as marketing and advertising. Being an expert in both, I drive brand awareness through strategic marketing, marketing communications, advertising and creative, digital marketing, and other consumer initiatives. Working with the Clark family has been more fun than I could’ve imagined and seeing them succeed is my one and only goal. Leading all marketing capabilities for Blue Crane Imports is both an honor and joy. Cheers!