Riverside resident Russ Lorber launched his wine import company Wide Roots late-last year. Wide Roots, which has an office at Spaces in Stadium Square and has a warehouse in Upper Marlboro, has a small portfolio of boutique Italian wines it is selling to restaurants and liquor stores around Maryland.
Lorber said he came up with the idea while sipping Chartreuse at Idle Hour. He worked for 25 years in the chemical manufacturing industry in operations and finance, but has been thinking about doing something entrepreneurial in the wine space for many years. Lorber loves to travel and said his richest experiences were his wine tours in Europe.
He accepted a buyout from his company last summer, and decided it was the right time to start his businesses.
He initially thought about opening a wine shop in South Baltimore, but after a missed opportunity to lease a retail space he was eying, he thought more about getting into the business of importing. He liked the idea of brining quality wines to the United States in the $15/bottle range, but also traveling, meeting wine makers, and providing education to make wine more approachable.
Lorber initially planned on importing wines from many different countries in Europe, but decided to focus mostly on Italy after a trade war between the United States and some European countries added a 25% tariff on products from countries such as France, Germany, and Spain. Lorber said that while Belgium is the top country for beer, he sees Italy as the best country for wine based on the quality, its history, and diversity of styles.
He noted that Europe was hit especially hard by COVID-19 lockdowns, causing a lot of struggle for wine makers, so he takes pride in providing a windfall for some of these businesses.
Lorber had a trip planned to Italy last year to meet wine makers and learn more about wine, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a wrench into those plans. He was able to meet some Italian wine makers last year at a road show in New York to start his initial portfolio. As soon as he can travel to Italy, Lorber will spend a month there to taste more wine and make more connections. He has been taking Italian classes to improve his communication with Italian wine makers.
Wide Roots currently sells three Italian white wines, and four Italian red wines. Lorber said a rosé is coming soon as well as a cava from Spain.
Wide Roots’ wine labels are currently available at Idle Hour and on the shelves at The Wine Source in Hampden. Lorber and his Wine Consultant Staci Daniels are selling the wines throughout Maryland and they are currently available at some liquor stores in Carroll County, Frederick County, Howard County, and Montgomery County. Lorber noted that the current environment is stronger for liquor stores sales, but they are working the “long game” to get the wines into more restaurants. Lorber said the wines will likely sell between $8 and $14 a glass at restaurants.
Lorber said it’s a pretty great feeling to see his wine on the shelves at Idle Hour and to see his friend order a glass.
Wide Roots is currently only licensed to distribute in Maryland, but they are hoping to add Washington D.C., and Virginia in the near future. Lorber hopes to eventually distribute Wide Roots’s wine labels around the country.
Wide Roots next shipment of wine is arriving on a container to the Port of Baltimore.
Photos courtesy of Wide Roots
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About the Author: Kevin Lynch
Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O’s fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and “bar food” foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.