Mid State Wine & Liquor Houston Team
Leon Sierra – Owner and CEO
Graduated in 1990 as an Electrical Engineer from the University of New Orleans (UNO-LSU). He worked for the oil and Gas industry in New Orleans and eventually transitioned to Houston, Texas. Twelve years later he left the world of engineering just after touring vineyards in Italy. The trip left him with a great love and passion for the world of wine.
Shortly after his return from Italy he began representing several Italian wineries as a broker while still maintaining his day job as an Engineer. With much enthusiasm and dedication he studied the wine industry. As a next step he began shipping containers of Italian wines to the United States and selling them to distributors in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. He was so fascinated by the wine industry that he decided to leave Engineering to start an import and wholesale operation in Houston. Hence Mid-State Wine & Liquors was born. He called it Mid-State because of its strategic location, in the middle of the state of Texas, located very close to one of the most important ports in the United States making it, accessible to major markets such as Dallas, Austin, Corpus Christi and San Antonio.
In 2010 after many sleepless nights and long days Mid-state celebrates its 10-year anniversary. Mid-State expanded to open offices in Dallas, Austin, Tyler and San Antonio with the headquarters in Houston. Leon’s plan is to grow further venturing into territories such as El Paso, Lubbock, McAllen, Corpus Christy and as well as crossing over into other states such as Louisiana and Missouri. The growth is meant to happen while still keeping the same philosophy of offering great service, great wines and great value.
Leon’s goal is make sure that his customers get the best of the best. In order to assure this he has assembled a panel, composed of staff members, who hand select the wines and only introduced them into the market place after they have approved them for distribution.
Looking for his next challenge, Leon has taken his fascination and thirst for wine to a new level by introducing his own private label “Sierra Estate Private Selection”. The private label currently features a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley, Oregon. His vision for the future is to grow the private label to include other countries like Chile, Spain, Italy and other appellations in the United States like California.
Leon’s objective for the company is to continue carrying, importing and wholesaling innovative, exciting and exclusive wines. Changing careers mid stream was very risky but reflecting back he is elated and satisfied with the changes and decisions he made. His life has truly been enlightened. He continues to seek new adventures and challenges.
Justin Gasper - Houston Sales Manager
Has been working with food and wine for almost twenty years. His passion with wine started in his grandfather’s cellar. During his summer trips to California he helped put the wines “Papa” made the year before into barrels, as well as bottle and cellar the wine. “I remember thinking wine sure took a long time to make.” says Justin. “It was during that time that he learned how important wine was, especially when shared with family and friends at dinner time.” His mother and grandfather further enhanced his passion for wine and food passing down many recipes and cooking techniques he now uses.
In 1991 he moved to Austin working in many locally well known restaurants: Mother’s, a vegan vegetarian food restaurant, Magnolia Café which served healthy café food and Baby Louis a fine dining spot. During this time, he attended Le Chef College of Hospitality Careers. The wine and food industry always fascinated him; he paid close attention to their evolution and progress in the market.
In 1997 he moved to Houston and served as a cook in many restaurants around town such as La Strada, The Brownstone and Ruggles Bistro Latino downtown. In 1999 he worked his way up to front house manager at the The Daily Review Café after being highly recommended by Jeb Stewart (Currently of Zelko Bistro in the Heights). Among several other duties Justin was in charge of the wine list. In 2001 Justin created My Table Top Ten Wine List. It was also during this time his path crossed with Leon Sierra. Mid-State had just been conceived and Justin was impressed with the boutique nature of the company Leon was building. He eventually transitioned to wine sales joining Mid-State in late 2001.
Justin has never stopped learning about wine, food and how they evolve together in the Culinary and Oenophile worlds. He continues to work with some of the best artesian winemakers, wineries and vineyards in the world and never forgets to stop and smell the aromas.
Justin is now the Houston market manager for Mid-State. He is in charge of communication and supervision of the sales force and working with Mr. Sierra overseeing wine sales as well as assisting operations with ordering and depletions.
Hubert Edmondson – On Premise Sales Manager
Who would have known after starting his career as a newscaster that wine would be the ultimate carrier for Hubert to follow? After a short television début Hubert took his good looks and charm and applied it to the wine industry. His journey in wine industry initiated with The American Wine and importing company in May of 1974, where he got the bug for wine that has stayed with him ever since. Hubert has been loyal to the small distributors in Houston, working the rounds of meeting, greeting and tasting local wine buyers in town. Hubert has seen many buyers come and go, restaurants, wine shops and bars come and go. The one thing that has remained constant is his passion for the industry. He is a wealth of knowledge, with a palate that is seasoned, tried and proven.
Hubert’s work at Mid-State has been an asset to Leon Sierra the owner. Hubert has been instrumental in brining in new vintages and wineries that have turned out to be the jewel of the portfolio. After over 37 years in the wine industry Hubert still finds it a challenging job, every day is different and after all these years he still continues to learn. He loves to share his knowledge of wine and life it’s what keeps him young.
Dallas Kirkpatrick – Houston Off Premise Manager
With over 16 years of experience in wine and liquor sales Dallas brings a wealth of knowledge and information that he loves to share with all. Dallas is a 2nd generation wine and liquor sales man. His father has had great success in the business and he has followed in his footsteps.
Dallas has a background that is very diverse his expertise comes from trying his hand in all aspects of the wine and liquor industry. He has been responsible for opening new routes and increasing sales from $150,000 to $4,000,000 at companies such as Grand Cru. He owned his own company where he consulted companies regarding their production, efficiency, and profitability. He joined Mid-State in June of 2008, where he is the on premise sales manager. His main duties include sales management of the Spec’s liquor stores, as well as headquarter presentation and constantly educating the industry on the Mid-State portfolio.
Dallas lives in the Woodlands, Texas where he is growing that market for Mid-State.
Bud Dumesnil – Houston Off Premise Assistant Manager
Bud brings with him 36 years of experience in the wine & spirits industry. He houses a plethora of information. He has worked for some of the top wine & spirits distributors in many roles starting from a sales representative to upper management.
Bud's wittiness and good looks along with his extensive knowledge has helped him open doors. He has been calling on Specs since 1980 and has seen the industry just boom not only here in Texas but particularly in Houston.
Bud is a top notch negotiator always looking to give everyone a fair deal he is a great asset to Mid-State servicing the off premise accounts and growing new markets.
Junico Velarde – On Premise Sales
Junico's journey in the wine industry began with the Vallone family. For 10 years he worked as the general manager at La Grigilia and then Grotto and eventually became the wine buyer aside Jeff Vallone.
Junico is a visionary and he saw the need for a wine bar in Houston. He wanted a place where he could share his passion and educate Houstonian's on good wines. In 2001 at the mere age of 35, Junico and his wife Tracy opened the Wine Bucket. For 10 years they managed and operated one of the best wine bars in Houston. Customers became good friends and strong relationships were build making the wine bucket a second home. After 10 successful years with the business Junico and Tracy decided to retire that dream and move on to the next.
Raising a wonderful family consisting of 3 boys, they wanted to be able to spend more time at home, while planning their next venture, but wine is in Junico's veins and he could not see himself leaving the industry. He decided to take his love of teaching and wine and joined Leon Sierra's team at Mid-state. Meeting during his 10 year term at Vallone's, Leon and Junico became instant friends. Leon welcomed Junico to his team and is excited to bring in such great knowledge and experience.