‘A project of passion’: La Jolla-based DOCG Imports brings Italian wines to California

La Jollan Marina Elettra Snow selects Italian wines to import to customers of her DOCG Imports.

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La Jollan Marina Elettra Snow is pouring her heart into every imported wine shipment, sharing with her customers at DOCG Imports a lifetime of homegrown wine expertise.

Snow, known to most as Nina, owns and runs DOCG, which imports Italian wines selected by Snow herself based on personal relationships cultivated with small winemakers in Italy.

Customers select from the available wines via the DOCG website, and then the wines are packed by Snow and her staff in her warehouse and delivered anywhere in San Diego County, typically within 24 to 48 hours (shipping is available outside the county for a fee).

Snow started DOCG Imports in 2013 toward the end of her 15-year residence in Italy, but her experience with wine began much earlier.

Born in San Diego to a mother who immigrated to California from Italy as a child, Snow worked in the technology industry out of Silicon Valley and was sent on assignment to Italy, where she lived close to family.

“Being Italian, as a child I was exposed to wine,” Snow said. “We spent our summers in Tuscany; wine was just always there.”

After furthering her curiosity for winemaking as an adult making visits to Napa Valley, she found herself ordering wine for visiting clients while living in Italy and growing her knowledge base.

“I became good at it,” she said, “and enjoyed the nuances of selecting a wine.”

Wanting a different pace for herself and her now-15-year-old-daughter, Snow established DOCG Imports from her home office in Venice and went to school to become a second-level sommelier.

She also spent time “driving around Italy and developing friendships, tasting amazing wine,” she said.

Snow moved to La Jolla with her daughter in 2016, with the first shipment of imported wines arriving shortly after.

She now normally makes three or four trips annually to Italy, continuing her selection of Italian wines to import for her customers.

The wines she chooses are mostly “natural, organic [and] biodynamic,” she said, with a range of varietals and regions represented.

The quality of the wines Snow imports inspired the company’s name. “DOCG is an acronym associated with the very strict controls in Italy for winemaking,” she said. Italy’s highest level translates to “denomination of origin controlled and guaranteed,” or DOCG, which to Snow implies quality and tradition.

Not all wines Snow works with are DOCG, however. She feels what makes her curated collection special are the relationships she’s cultivated over the years.

DOCG Imports' portfolio includes wines that are mostly “natural, organic and biodynamic.”
DOCG Imports’ portfolio includes wines that are mostly “natural, organic and biodynamic.”

“Without tasting the wines, without getting to know the winemakers personally, you really never know” the quality, she said. “I put my seal of approval on the wines I import and put in my portfolio because I have that level of confidence in the people who make them.”

“All my imported wines are exclusive to me,” Snow added, noting the bottles she selects are not found elsewhere.

She loves being able to expose her customers to new wines, she added. “It’s a project of passion.”

“One of the things that makes DOCG unique is our connection to the island of Sardegna [Sardinia],” Snow said. The second-largest Mediterranean island, after Sicily, is “so rich in history and culture,” she said. In 2003, she bought a home there where she and her daughter have spent every summer, aside from this year.

Sardinian winemaking is an “ancient tradition,” Snow said. “[Sardinian] wines are something I have a particular affinity for.”

Sardinian wines make up 30 percent of Snow’s portfolio, which she said “makes me very unique in Italian wine imports in general.”

Snow has grown DOCG Imports to provide wholesale wine to more than 50 restaurants and wine shops in San Diego, as well as an online retail portion for individuals.

DOCG Imports also offers imported Italian olive oil, along with private tastings and wine dinners, which currently are social-distanced in accord with health and safety guidelines.

“We are also hyper-present on social media,” answering questions about food pairings and wine definitions, along with showcasing some of the wines in the DOCG Imports portfolio, Snow said.

Snow also just launched the La Jolla Wine Club, which offers members monthly or quarterly shipments of imported wines, as well as first dibs on a Sardinian wine tour that Snow hopes to schedule for next summer.

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