In one year, Ron Sweatman went from selling Swedish luxury cars to Moldovan wine.
"The opportunity found me," Ron Sweatman said.
Opportunity knocked at a cookout at Ron Sweatman’s Ashburn home. The car salesman invited his co-worker Dmetri Curpet to his family function. Dmetri Curpet arrived with a bottle of wine from his home country, Moldova, in hand.
"The taste was incredible," Sweatman said. "My wife and I love wine. This was something different. I knew I had to get in on this."
By the end of the night, Ron Sweatman and Dmetri Curpet came up with a business plan to import Moldovan wine to the United States.
RON SWEATMAN and Dmetri Curpet turned to their families to help start the business, Graystone Wine Imports Inc.
Ron Sweatman’s first step was to choose a Moldovan wine producer.
Dmetri Curpet asked his mother, Ludmila Curpet, a Moldovan wine specialist, for help.
To help overcome the language barrier between the Sweatman family and Ludmila Curpet, Dmetri Curpet invited his sister, Natalia Curpet, to be a part of the project.
Ron Sweatman’s next step was to design a label and create an office space. He turned to his wife, Kristen Sweatman, her parents and brother for help.
"I’m the secretary and the decorator," Kristen Sweatman laughed, as she situated wine bottles on a glass mantel.
Ron Sweatman’s mother-in-law, Pamela Cockrell, came up with the name Graystone Wine Imports Inc.
"My middle name is Gray. We added the word stone to it, to give it an American foundation," Ron Sweatman said.
With a wine producer and a name for the product secured, Ron Sweatman had to apply for an import and wholesale license from the Virginia Alcohol and Beverage Control (VA ABC), to sell it in state.
"It is a long process," Ron Sweatman said.
Once Ron Sweatman was approved for a license in Virginia, he posted it outside of his office and was ready for business.
THE FIRST MAJOR SHIPMENT of Graystone wines will be delivered to Sweatmans' Sterling office in two weeks.
"It’s on the boat from Moldova," Ron Sweatman said. "Then, the selling will begin."
In the meantime, the Sweatmans have been busy giving samples of their wine to local retailers, restaurants and wine enthusiasts.
On Sunday, the Sweatmans and the Cockrells were busy vacuuming the office, setting up a couch, the desk and brand new coffee pot.
"It’s a family business. Everyone’s involved," Pamela Cockrell said, while she vacuumed the welcome mat.
Ron Sweatman will introduce his Moldovan wine to the area at the Washington, D.C., Food and Wine Expo, June 24 and 25.
"We’ll be the only one from Moldova, competing against wines from South Africa, California," Ron Sweatman said.
ALTHOUGH MOLDOVA is one of the poorest nations in Europe, it is one of the top-10 grape and wine producing countries in the world, Ron Sweatman said. The eastern European country, located between Romania and the Ukraine, contains more than 270,000 acres of vineyards.
"The people rely on their wine," he said.
Ron Sweatman has never been to Moldova, but he plans on taking the family to the eastern European county in September.
"We can’t leave now," Ron Sweatman’s father-in-law Robert Cockrell