Edward Lauber, a leading wine importer in the United States, passed away February 20th at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City after a long illness.
Mr. Lauber’s company, Lauber Imports, carried fine wines from Europe, California, South America, and Lebanon since its inception over 25 years ago. Born in New Jersey in 1931 to a non-wine-drinking family, a stint in the army, being stationed and traveling through Europe did not make him a wine lover. Lauber only caught the “wine bug” when he returned stateside and was offered a job with a wine and spirits distributor selling cordials. Despite little knowledge of the business, his perseverance, personality, and patience quickly led him to success and recognition within the industry. In his next position, he personally built the presence and reach of Finlandia Vodka and Mouton Cadet brands in the US.
The more Mr. Lauber learned about wine, the more enthusiastic he became, and it was clear he had found his career path and passion. In 1979, with virtually no money, he started his own company, Lauber Imports, as a one-man organization with Mr. Lauber as president, salesman, and delivery man, loading cases of wine in his second-hand pink Cadillac to bring to wine shops and restaurants. Natural warmth and business acumen quickly turned a one-man organization into one of the major US importers of fine wines, including those of Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Bordeaux. The two men developed a close, personal friendship that lasted until the Baron’s death in 1988. Shortly after Baron Philippe joined Lauber Imports, the négociant firm of Labouré-Roi of Burgundy also became a client, and its owner, Armand Cottin, a life-long friend. As Mr. Lauber’s reputation spread, other fine wineries in France, Italy, Lebanon, California, and other wine regions signed on to his portfolio. In 2004, Wine & Food magazine named Lauber Imports as the industry’s Best Wine-Importer-Distributor. The following year, Lauber Imports was sold to Southern Wine & Spirits.
When asked how he measured success, Mr. Lauber never mentioned money or power as his yardstick. “What I do is not just a job, not just a way of earning a living. It’s part of my life, it’s a joy.” Industry friends and colleagues remembered Mr. Lauber as exemplifying this spirit.
Mel Dick, President, Wine Division and Senior Vice President of Southern Glazer’s Wines & Spirits, said, “Ed made a fantastic contribution to the wine industry. He was so very special.”
Mary Ewing Mulligan, MW, and Director of the U.S. Programs for Wine and Spirits Education Trust, said, ‘Ed Lauber was a visionary in his wine-only company. And he loved his work more than anyone I have known.”
Wine was more than a business for Mr. Lauber, it was also a main source of leisure and inspiration. Along with his wife, Marsha Palanci, he embarked on cycling trips in wine regions across the globe, enjoying visits and meals with winemakers along the way. Ed and Marsha were renowned for their hospitality, and often welcomed guests with home-cooked dinners, and of course, magnificent wines.
Mr. Lauber leaves Marsha Palanci, his wife of 41 years, two sons from a previous marriage, and six grandchildren.