Welcome to Outside-In with DCN where we interview upcoming startups and businesses in the cannabis industry. Each interview you will get to meet the founders taking a leap into building a business they believe. Gain knowledge of their services, their mission and what makes each of the unique.
On this Outside-In, with DCN we spoke with Founders of Rebel Coast Winery, Alex Howe.
DCN: Alex, we are excited for our readers to learn more about Rebel Coast Winery, can you please share with our readers a little bit more about yourself and your business partner, Chip?
Alex Howe: I bring more than 14 years of experience working in corporate strategy and marketing/communications for cannabis, consumer, technology, Fortune 50 and sports and entertainment companies. I manage a consulting firm (Powerplant Strategies) that exclusively works with cannabis companies around the country. My experience in the cannabis space is a great match with my co-founder Chip Forsythe who has started three wineries and is also a marketing professional.
DCN: Can you share the backstory of Rebel Coast Winery and how the idea came to incorporate cannabis?
Alex Howe: Yes, so the backstory, no joke this concept has been passed down from winemaker to winemaker since the pioneers got to California.
Almost every winemaker worth his salt has indulged in marijuana. The two love the same climates, think Humbolt vs. Napa. You can literally throw a couple marijuana seeds into a vineyard that already has trellises and irrigation. Oh, and both plants harvest around the same time in September-October.
Traditionally, when the grapes arrive at the winery they are immediately removed from their stems and pressed. After the juice is transferred to a tank, fermentation begins. Meanwhile, the cannabis crop is harvested, trimmed and dried. To activate the THC cannabinoids, the flower is heated in ovens, and the marijuana is added to the partially-fermented white wine. Five days later we strain out the flower-like tea leaves, age the wine for 8-12 months, and boom,– marijuana-infused wine. Our winemaker at Rebel Coast was taught this as an apprentice back in 2004. It is super simple and SUPER ILLEGAL! Like, SUPER illegal.
If we did it that way we would lose the whole winery and then do jail time. No Bueno. But we did not give up and knew there was a way to make this work, (you have to remember that we really like marijuana, the taste of wine, and staying out of jail).
That was when the idea came to fruition.
DCN: So there is no alcohol in the wine, can you give some insight into how this works?
Alex Howe: Yes, legally no one can have alcohol and THC in the same product. However, what we quickly found it, turns out it’s way harder than it sounds. See, there are no books or classes to take because no one has ever done it before. So, long story short, after a ton, I mean a ton of trial and error and we can proudly say we created the world’s first Marijuana-infused Sauvignon Blanc that we can legally sell if you live in CA… and you are over 21… and it’s past January 1st, 2018.
Going through the actual process, we ferment the grapes normally, like in traditional wine, them remove the alcohol using reverse osmosis and infuse it with liquid soluble THC. There’s a bit more to the process but it is proprietary and our “secret sauce.”
DCN: Originally, when you first thought of the idea, were you considering keeping the alcohol portion in the wine with the cannabis? If so, what caused you to pivot?
Alex Howe: That was the original intention but legally wasn’t an option.
DCN: Did you ever envision you or Rebel Coast Winery being apart of the cannabis industry?
Alex Howe: We always had an inkling there would be a crossover product as there is so much in common between both industries.
DCN: Did you or the team have any cons to launching a cannabis product?
Alex Howe: Absolutely not.
DCN: What has been the hardest thing about launching a cannabis product?
Alex Howe: Navigating the state and local ordinances around cannabis, particularly as they change.
DCN: What challenges have you faced as a company with the new regulations?
Alex Howe: Obtaining licenses, ensuring our labeling is up to code.
DCN: What are you looking forward to as California moves to recreational?
Alex Howe: A larger market and greater understanding of the industry for the country as a whole. California has always led the rest of the U.S. with trends.
DCN: What do you envision for Rebel Coast Winery and your new product for 2018?
Alex Howe: We are focused on growing this flagship product throughout the Golden State. We will be launching new varietals and a CBD-infused line later in the year.
DCN: As we all start fresh for the new year, what is the best piece of advice you would like to share with your fellow entrepreneurs?
Alex Howe: The time is now!
DCN: Thank you for sharing with us more about Rebel Coast Winery, we look forward to seeing the growth of the company in 2018 before we let you go, is there anything else you would like to share with the DCN audience?
Alex Howe: Hangovers suck!
Follow Rebel Coast Winery:
Social Media- Instagram: @rebelcoastwinery
Want to get pre-order Rebel Coast Winery? https://definitelynotrebelcoastwinery.com/product/marijuana-infused-wine/
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