Photo credit: Wild Roots

Sometimes, naivete pays off! When Chris Joseph was first “marketing” his natural infused vodkas and seeking startup funds, he made some good mistakes. Having finally secured an appointment to meet with several influencers, he drove several hours to get there, pulled sample bottles out of his car and started pouring tastes as he wandered around the building. He met a group of guys that were enthusiastic about the product and enjoyed a taste or two. 

That was the early days of Wild Roots spirits, founded in 2012 with the first product available for sale in July of 2013. Apparently, Joseph made an impression that day on many people, with one outcome that those guys he met have served as the company’s attorneys ever since. However, at one point, they did let him know that “he had broken a lot of laws that day serving alcohol out of the back of his car with no licenses of any kind,” and he should just be grateful that he now has them around to protect him from himself.

The Roots of the Company

Originally a business and finance major, Joseph started the company while he was still in college. His unique hobby—distilling small-batch spirits—led him to realize that he liked the crafting side of the spirit business. 

"I was at an age where I couldn’t legally buy alcohol, but I could make it,” said Joseph. “I decided to go the route of making my own sprits to give to my friends and family while having access to it myself."

At the same time, he recognized what he considered to be a hole in the spirits market.

He looked around and didn’t find an infused vodka with all-natural ingredients and thought consumers were being deprived of that option. 

According to Joseph, "When you look at the infused market at the time, it was full of whipped vodka, cupcake vodka, and I think I even saw salmon and bacon vodkas. There were all of these vodkas out there that you knew weren’t real, it was just flavoring.”

Joseph wanted an infused vodka crafted with natural ingredients.

Lacking a chemistry, F&B or hospitality background, Joseph naively envisioned raspberry vodka made with real raspberries. In his head and later in reality, he decided that he was going to make raspberry infused vodka with real raspberries in the production process. No chemicals, flavoring or additives would be included.

“So some of that foolishness and me being naive as to what was available on the market, helped to create our products and led me to the philosophy of our company—be true to the fruit,” he said. “I don’t believe in creating flavors, whether it is raspberry, pear or peach, when the fruit itself is perfect.”

Joseph sees this as making his job a lot easier. “When I get ready to create a new product or new flavor, all I have to do is let the fruit do all of the work for me.”

Sourcing Ingredients and Infusing Vodka

Wild Roots purchases vodka from sources in Northern California and Oregon. The fruit comes from farms throughout the Pacific Northwest. The cranberries, for example, come from Johnson Creek Farm in Bandon, Oregon. This family-owned farm is about ninety percent organic and will be fully organic for the next growing season. 

According to Joseph, there is almost a pound or more of fruit used to infuse each bottle! 

The infusion process takes place after distillation to ensure that the fruit is not stripped of much of the flavor and color. Fruits and berries are pureed, added to the batch, and allowed to rest. Small batches of no more than 100 12-pack cases are blended at a time, giving Wild Roots the opportunity to finesse the flavor, color and fragrance of the final product and ensure consistency.

Wild Root’s products are best consumed within a year of opening, and recommended to be kept in a refrigerator or freezer. “Since our products are natural and contain real fruit, there is a shelf life for our products,” said Joseph. “That is one thing that I really like about our product. If it’s real, it should have a shelf life.”

The Taste of Roots

One of Joseph’s goals was to tie the company to his roots in the Pacific Northwest, and this has morphed into one of the strengths of the company. “I’m very familiar with what the fruits and berries we use should and do taste like,” he said. “When we create those products with marionberry, pear or cranberry, I know when we’ve gotten the flavor right: when it’s that homegrown familiar taste that I grew up with.”

Wild Roots’ products are available in Las Vegas at Total Wine stores for approximately $25 for a 750 ml bottle. 

Wild Roots

77 NE Grand Ave. Suite F

Portland, OR 97232