Business Profile

Harbor Wines – From Moldova to Marlboro Pike

By Lani Gering

Harbor Wines – From Moldova to Marlboro Pike


It was a pleasure to meet Cristina Tufts and her husband Brian at the Harbor Wines warehouse on Marlboro Pike on a hot afternoon in late August. I was greeted with a very refreshing glass of Italian Prosecco and they proceeded to me their story. It is a good one.

Harbor Wines isn’t exactly the typical business that we profile since they are an importer and distributor instead of a retail or service based entity but I was very taken with Cristina’s story after “texting” with her making arrangements to donate some cleaning materials for the warehouse. She and Brian live in the Harbor and I met her virtually through a mutual Facebook page. She is an amazing person.

Brian and Cristina
The Marlboro Pike Warehouse.

Cristina is from a small village in the equally small country of Moldova in Eastern Europe. While it is a relatively poor country, it is known for its fertile soil that is perfect for growing grapes. Thus, making wine is a large industry. In fact, Moldovans have been producing wine for literally 50 centuries. That is a longggg time. Cristina grew up drinking wine on a daily basis – a custom of most European countries. It was at a very young age when she grew to appreciate wines and the nuances they all have. You could say it was “in her blood”. She is a very well educated young woman with two Masters Degrees and she speaks 5 languages fluently. Her initial career path was in linguistics and she was headed for a job with the Federal government when it was discovered she couldn’t pass the top security clearance requirements because she had daily contact with a “foreign national”…her mother lived with them, even though they both had been through the rigors of immigrating from Moldova to the USA and jumped through all of the hoops. “In retrospect,” she tells me, “it was probably meant to be as it was a catalyst to changing my career path.”

Her husband and “partner in wine”, Brian, is a Lt. Colonel stationed at Fort Belvoir and is the one responsible for getting Cristina to make the a career out of importing and marketing the wines of Moldova. They told me a fun story that they refer to as “the popcorn story”. On one of Brian’s visits to Moldova to see Cristina, he took her on a date that ended up in noshing on popcorn and wine! See, I told you they like their wine in Moldova. Anyway, the bottle of wine that Cristina opened was a 1989 vintage. Brian, even though he didn’t consider himself as a wine connoisseur, thought it unusual to open such an old vintage thinking that since it was well aged, it would be expensive. Cristina looked at him and just laughed and asked “what’s the big deal?” It turns out that the local currency exchange rate to US dollars was about $2.89. The wine was very good and Brian saw some merit in what it could be marked up to and sold on U.S. soil. The plan was soon set in motion.

Brands Imported by Harbor Wines

After getting through all of the red tape required to import from a foreign country and opening a business in Maryland, Harbor Wines was operational in 2016. After finding the perfect sized warehouse on Marlboro Pike, the business was fully operational in 2019. They were on a roll when the pandemic hit but she has managed to maintain her clients and is looking forward to expanding the list.

Harbor Wines is classified as a “boutique” distributor and that lends to having unique product. While she concentrates on the wines of Moldova, she also handles vintages from several boutique wineries throughout Europe, Africa and New Zealand as well as here in the USA. I asked who her clientele was and was pleasantly surprised to hear that the MGM Grand in National Harbor is her main client. She also supplies wines to other outlets in Maryland and DC and is looking to tap into the Commonwealth soon.

Cristina is a one-woman show in every sense of the phrase. She is the CEO, CFO, COO, VP of Marketing and Distribution and head forklift driver. Brian told me that, “She came to the US with two suitcases and 13 years later she has a closet full of shoes!” With great pride and a beautiful smile she says, “I am living the American dream!”

As they say in Moldova “Noroc” – To Your Luck!

If you are in the market for an importer/distributor in the area and want to work with this wonderful company, log on to I am pretty sure you won’t be disappointed.

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