A European Influence in East Memphis

At Home with Wine Importer Billy Weiss

Article by Christian Owen

Photography by Sarah Bell, Sélavie Photography

Originally published in River City Lifestyle

Billy Weiss’ window to the world is an engaging view influenced by European lifestyles and landscapes he well knows after 26 years in the wine industry. His company, North Berkeley Imports, specializes in French and Italian wines and has been recognized as “Importer of the Year” twice by Wine & Spirits magazine. Billy’s vibrant career, devotion to family and mastery of entertaining visibly influenced the design of a Memphis home that he and his wife, Jean, have thoughtfully renovated.

Jean and Billy selected this home for its classic charm. Custom millwork and traditional features add remarkable character. European details reflect Billy’s thrice-yearly business trips to France and Italy. In 2017, the couple moved in and made a plan to further develop the property with their large family in mind. When everyone is home, it is a joyful family of eight.

The first room addressed was the kitchen, where practicality and durability are paramount. Both Jean and Billy enjoy entertaining. Jean prefers cooking for smaller groups. Billy, because his career takes him to entertainment venues worldwide, can skillfully manage the menu for a larger crowd. He routinely interacts with restauranteurs in the states and abroad. Billy recollects, “Lots of times when I’m in Europe, I’ll say, ‘Hey, that’s really cool. How do you do that?’ And then, I come back home and try it.”

One of the couple’s favorite objects is a range made by Lacanache, a French brand. Billy loves that the range is not unduly modern. “We wanted something different,” he explains, adding that this stove was less expensive but has more BTUs than other high-end brands. “What we really like about it is there are no computers, there are no timers, it’s just valves and gas. Therefore, it’s not going to break … and it looks good.”

Soapstone counters in the kitchen are aesthetically functional. Wooden floors with decorative tile inserts, another European addition to their kitchen area, are similar to floors commonly seen in countries Billy visits.

Phase two, a screened porch, preserves the theme of hospitality. With vaulted ceilings and stately furnishings, it is an outdoor living space that reflects the color and texture of their main home. The centerpiece of the room is a massive cooking fireplace, ordered through Bishop Hearth & Home from an Icelandic company, Isokern. The fireplace was uniquely made using volcanic pumice. Here, Billy loves to cook steak, chicken and his signature leg of lamb marinated in a rosemary vinaigrette.

Above the fireplace, a wooden sign bears the name of Billy’s first store in Jackson, Wyoming, where his wine journey began. While Billy was on a work trip, Jean found and repaired the sign to hang above the fireplace - a surprise for Billy when he returned.

Another focal point of this room is a wooden coffee table made from an antique riddling rack. The table was crafted by Billy’s brother-in-law, Brandon Ryan, a building contractor in Jackson. Riddling racks were once used during a process that encouraged yeast in champagne to rise to the neck of the bottle so it could be removed before corking. Adding to the gracious feel of the porch is an oversized swing perfect for an afternoon nap or relaxed seating.

Jean and Billy often share daily conversations on the porch. Paired with a glass of wine alongside family dogs Millie and Claire it is a scene that is pleasantly familiar now that renovations are complete. In keeping with the personalities of its unassuming and invariably polite owners, this home now allows Jean and Billy to entertain comfortably and easily in a place where everyone feels welcome, whether they live here or are visiting for the first time.

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