Raphael Knapp, Owner
Born in 1978 from an Italian mother and French-Austrian father, Raphael Knapp grew up in Paris, sharing time between his parents’ home in Vincennes and his grandparents’ home in the Latin Quarter where he spent many afternoons and weekends. Many years later, after completing internships in Ohio (yes, Ohio!) and San Francisco, Raphael made the leap and decided to move back to San Francisco permanently after his college graduation in 2002.
After representing domains from all over the world for two years, he partnered with a friend in 2004 to create their own importing company, International Vineyards. Five years later, Raphael created Return to Terroir, finally realizing his dream of sourcing the best young winemaking talents of France, as well as having a convenient excuse to visit his home country as much as possible! Having spent his summers in Italy as a child, he had a natural affinity toward his mother’s homeland and in 2012, he began importing Italian producers who share his winemaking philosophy.
In addition to importing wine, Raphael is a wine educator. He teaches classes for the trade and consumers alike, with a focus on French wines, terroir and history.
In his free time, Raphael drinks wine from all over the world with a preference for the minerality and terroir of Old World, as well as its history and fascinating native grapes. He also loves travelling, a passion passed on by his parents, through their family trips to a different European country every summer.
1. To import sustainably produced wines that are the precise expression of their terroir.
2. To help preserve the history of native grapes and traditional winemaking regions and methods.
3. To educate the trade and consumers by sharing our wines and the stories of our winemakers.
Raphael visits France and Italy every 3 months in search of wines that are the precise expression of their terroir. Some are organic and/or biodynamic but all are 100% estate produced by family-owned wineries. They tend to share similar characteristics: minimal use of oak, a restrained style, and focus on minerality and acidity. We feel lucky to work with all of our producers and to be able to share their hard work, history and traditions with you.