Matthew: Hi, I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday I look for a fresh new episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry.
Learn more at cannainsider.com. That’s C-A-N-N-A insider.com. Now here’s your program. We knew it wouldn’t be long before the cannabis industry started to take market share from the traditional wine and spirits industry. Today we have a perfect example showing how that trend is accelerating.
I’m pleased to welcome Chip Forsythe from Rebel Coast to discuss his cannabis wine. Chip, Welcome to Canna Insider.
Chip: Thank you so much for having me, Matt.
Matthew: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?
Chip: I am in sunny Los Angeles right now.
Matthew: Great. And I’m in Orlando, Florida. Chip, what is Rebel Coast at a high level?
Chip: Yes. So Rebel Coast started out as a traditional winery, making wines with alcohol in it. And we transitioned about two years ago into making cannabis-infused alcohol removed wines.
Matthew: Okay. I wanna dig more into that. But first, tell us a little bit about your background and journey and how you got to this point with Rebel Coast.
Chip: Yes. So I started off, I moved out to California from Texas when I was in, I just graduated high school to go to college out here at Cal Poly. And the first day, first week of school I found out you could get a degree in winemaking.
So, I went that direction and got an internship apprenticing under a couple of different winemakers while I was studying there. Studied winemaking for the five years that I was going to school there. And then, while I was doing that, me and my buddies would make wine in trash cans in our backyard and sell it to kids in the dorms because we had no money. It was awesome.
Matthew: Did it taste okay or…?
Chip: Not really. I mean, we reinforced it with brandy and sugar. And we were just doing anything to get the effect of it, I think. And then, when I graduated I started a winery called “Sexual Chocolate.” And what we would do is we’d buy wine on the bulk market, blend it, bottle it and then rent the equipment we need to get it into the bottle, and then go out and sell it.
I started that in 2009, we grew pretty quickly. In 2012, I always….I did not get along with my co-founders very well so I ended up selling the winery, traveling, kind of like what you’re doing right now, traveled the world for a year, and then came back to United States in California and decided to start Rebel Coast Winery, same guts of it. It’s called a virtual winery where you buy on the bulk market, blend, bottle and sell. We’d made one wine called “Reckless Love.” That took off again.
And about two years ago, 2017, we decided to, we saw a prohibition for cannabis coming to an end. So we decided to see what would happen if we removed the alcohol from wine and infused it with cannabis.
Matthew: So, Chip, how does that work exactly with making cannabis wine? Is there alcohol in there, removed, what do you do exactly?
Chip: Yes. So alcohol is a federally granted license to make and sell alcohol. And cannabis is still federally illegal. So it’s completely illegal to have alcohol and cannabis in the same building or even in the same product.
So, when we found out that that was where everything was going back in 2017, we decided to see what would happen if we removed the alcohol and if the wine would still retain its flavor compounds, and it would still taste like wine and then infuse it with fast acting THC. And it turned out it was really hard to do and took a lot of time but turned out great now.
Matthew: Just circling back to your “Sexual Chocolate,” a great name. So you were essentially like buying, you were kind of like a brokering wine and then bottling it yourself with your own label. And really, you’re kind of targeting people that are trying to make a statement for the evening that are buying that wine, is that it?
Chip: Exactly. Yes. The fancy word for it in the industry’s a negotiant. It was too hard to get a loan or raise money right out of college for $5 million to build a brick and mortar winery with the equipment pumps, land and actual building. But I knew I wanted to make wine. So, the virtual winery was the direction I took.
Matthew: Okay, it’s funny how in the wine world, everything just sounds just a little bit more sophisticated.
Chip: Yeah, absolutely is.
Matthew: Okay. Do you think sometimes that’s unnecessarily so, like, we really don’t need to call it that but…?
Chip: Every day. Absolutely every day.
Matthew: Okay. So, man, that’s great. You’re in college and you’re like, “Hey, I could major in some boring, bland middle-market management major or winemaking sounds like the road less traveled,” that sounds interesting. And you probably haven’t been disappointed by choosing that as your major, I imagine.
Chip: No, I love it. But my parents at first, like, when I told my parents I was gonna be a winemaker, they’re from Texas and my mom cried and my dad laughed. He’s like, “That’s not a real job.” I was like, “All right. Well, let me try. Let me see what happens.”
And I planted my first vineyard my sophomore year, and they came out and looked at it. And then they were like, “Wow, this is actually real,” and they’ve been insanely, insanely supportive ever since. The cannabis, they’re still a little apprehensive about that side of the direction of my life.
Matthew: Yeah, I’d imagine.
Chip: But they still support it.
Matthew: So they’re apprehensive about the winemaking, so the cannabis wine is like, “What is he doing? He’s combining every element into…”
Chip: Don’t go to jail.
Matthew: Okay. So, take us back to when you really had the thought of like, “Wait, cannabis wine,” and then it went from a thought to an actual business. Can you just describe what you were thinking back then?
Chip: Yeah. So, back in 2004, a lot of winemakers are, I guess, they’re called enthusiasts now for cannabis. So, a lot of winemakers, they are a little bit rebellious or whatever. They’ll make their own cannabis-infused wine. And it’s pretty easy the old school way of doing it. You take a pound of shake, throw it into a halfway fermented barrel of usually white wine or red wine will do it. And then five days later, you strain out the shake like tea leaves, and you’ve got alcohol. The alcohol extracts the THC, it also extracts a lot of chlorophyll and polyphenols and terpenes and stuff.
But the end result is you have cannabis-infused alcohol wine, and it’s totally illegal. But it’s just a little ever…you make 20 cases of it a year, give it to friends and family and yourself. So that was when I really got interested used to it. That kind of fell off the radar when I graduated college.
And then, it was 2017 I think mid-2017 we kind of sat down and looked around like, “Hey, the wine space is highly competitive. And there’s a lot of…it’s a very price-conscious market.” We’re like, “Okay, I wanna start, I wanna do something with no competition, high-profit margins and try to be the first at it. So we saw cannabis prohibition coming to an end. And then we’re like, “Okay, how do we make cannabis wine?” Let’s take that…what does it tastes like if you take the alcohol out because most people have never had alcohol-removed wine because we tasted everything on the market, and it tasted like garbage, absolute…it just seems like grape juice, bad grape juice, whatever. And so, we really started down the road of trying…I’m a pretty good wine maker. So I was like, “Well, I can make this taste better.”
So then we went down the road of what it would take to make alcohol-removed wine taste like actual wine. That was kind of the “aha” moment when we tried our first R&D project. And it was like, “Oh, wait. We may be onto something. This actually does taste like wine now.”
Matthew: What are some of the mechanics of that? How do you make that work? I’m sure there’s a lot of struggles and difficulties there.
Chip: Oh, yeah. Are you talking about infusing it with THC or just…
Matthew: I’m talking about just making it taste good.
Chip: It’s really hard. You really have to have a good palate. And it takes a lot of blending of acid and sugar levels. And then, it’s not technically terpenes, but terpenes are just like essential oils or whatever. But the grape has a lot of flavor compounds, polyphenols in the wine. So you have to be…you have to really start with good wine. And then you have to have a really good partner to remove the alcohol, is the overarching idea behind it.
Matthew: And how tricky is that removing the alcohol once you get to mass scale?
Chip: So hard. It is absolutely really…Bringing it down in the wine industry, there’s a law where if your wine is over 14% alcohol, you’re taxed as a liquor, so you don’t ever wanna go over 14% alcohol. But if you pick your grapes too late, they have too much sugar in them, the yeast eats the sugar, turns it into alcohol. And if you have too much sugar, it’ll make too much alcohol. So it’s pretty traditional for wineries if they have too much alcohol to remove a couple of percent points so you get down to the 12 or 13% alcohol thing. So there’s companies out there that do remove alcohol. But bringing a full wine down to zero, I mean, I pretty sure we were the first to try that as well.
Matthew: Do you go around to friends and family and be like, get to a point where you think it tastes good. And then you give it to them and say, “What do you think of this?” Is that what you do?
So we got really heavy into terpene extraction, doing steam extraction, and using hydrosol to reintroduce it into the wine. And it tasted, or it smelled great. It smelled like you just walked into a room that had just been cut down, smelled like really, really good bud. Spent months doing R&D on that, made samples, gave it to about 1,000 people. We did case studies and used surveys and stuff like that. And every single person we gave it to was really disgusted by it. They did not want it to smell or taste like cannabis at all. They made the manufacturing process easier. But we spent a couple, too many months going down that rabbit hole.
Matthew: Well, that’s good to find it out before you go into mass production, though.
Chip: Oh my gosh, yeah. I would be really sad if nobody bought what we made yet.
Matthew: So how does the calories work then? If you’re removing the alcohol from the wine, what does that do to the calorie count per glass?
Chip: Oh, yes. So it almost, it cuts it way down. So, a traditional glass of white wine is about 150 calories. And once you remove the alcohol and even with the THC in it, I guess the THC doesn’t have too many calories, but ours comes out to about 40 calories a glass right now instead of 150. It’s great.
Matthew: Wow, that’s massive. So you can call it healthy cannabis wine or like, light.
Chip: Yeah, and it’s gluten and vegan. But in all fairness, all wines are gluten free and vegan.
Matthew: Right. Why not highlight the benefits.
Chip: Yeah, go for it.
Matthew: Was there a time when you were going through this process of dialing it in, and you’re getting negative feedback and you have a bit of a dark night of a soul and wondering, “Hey, is this gonna be a viable business? Am I a little bit crazy? Maybe there’s a reason why there’s no cannabis wine?” And did you struggle with that? And how did you overcome that?
Chip: Yes. So, I want to say that we’ve got a calendar reminder every two or three months where there’s a company ending-decision that needs to be made or not made. So, there’s been plenty of those rough nights.
From the very beginning, I knew that one of the things that I knew I needed when I was starting the traditional wine side of Rebel Coast was a good CFO. So that in 2017, met Josh, he’s my co-founder, best friend. Having someone that’s down for the cause with you every step of the way, not always encouraging. But we work together and we disagree on things and work, figure out the best way to move forward. That’s been absolutely essential for this company. But yeah, every couple of months, the California government passes a company-ending law or potentially company-ending law. It’s gnarly.
Matthew: Now, we’ve talked about some of the difficulties in making the wine and all the negative feedback you got initially and getting it just right. But then, just in terms of scale, like producing thousands of bottles, what are the kind of particular problems there?
Chip: So, our biggest problem was finding a facility large enough, a cannabis-licensed facility large enough to store our tanks. So, even though we were still pre-revenue right now. We’ve only been really selling for about three weeks in all of 2018, but we know that this is something special, and people are incredibly curious about it. And everyone wants to try it at least or is curious about it.
So the way we built the winery for the cannabis side of things is, you know those tanker trucks that go down the road that carry gas, like, the big stainless steel ones?
Chip: So those also carry wine, you know, they’re food grade or whatever. But that’s 6500 gallons, so we wanted to be able to buy wine, or buy from our buddies that make it, buy the wine in tanker truck loads, get it to our facility, or get the alcohol removed in tanker truck loads, get it to our facility and bottle tanker truck loads it.
So we bought these huge tanks, these 6500 gallon tanks, they’re 15 feet tall, and they don’t fit in most buildings. So that was the main, the first thing, is finding a facility, cannabis facility large enough to put them in. And then we had to get a bottling line which is kind of expensive. They’re a couple hundred grand sometimes.
So we got a bottling line to do that. And just scaling up everything is…just the scale of what we’re doing is…it’s the largest operation for a cannabis drink in, I don’t know everyone’s, but definitely, the largest in California.
Matthew: And so the reception has been good. It’s been…you’re right. People hear about that, and they’re curious I would imagine. That’s the first reaction. Like, “What does that taste like?” Is that the first question?
Chip: Yeah. Usually, it’s what we…what we found is mainly people are asking how strong is it? Because it turns out a lot of people have had at least one terrible experience with a too strong of an edible. And a lot of the cannabis drinks out on the market are 100 milligrams for a 12-ounce serving. So everybody asked like, “How strong is it? What does it taste like?”
And we kind of dosed it exactly like a glass of wine where you can always drink more, but you definitely feel it. You don’t get drunk off of one glass of wine, but you may catch a buzz. But if you drink two or three glasses, you’ll get drunk.
And that’s the approach we took for our wine. We don’t wanna…this is not a conveyor mechanism for T…not only a conveyor mechanism for THC, but it definitely works. It’s definitely there. But it tastes and smells like wine. And it’s dosed just about a little bit stronger than a glass of wine but right around there.
Matthew: Okay. And how do you educate bud tenders and people in the industry on what they should know about this? Because there’s, you know, there’s kind of a flood of products. This is obviously unique. So there’s interest, but how do you approach them and talk with them?
Chip: Oh, yeah. So, customer-education, we’re spending a ton of time, effort and money on because like you were saying, nobody’s ever had weed wine before.
So, every time a dispensary orders a case or I think our minimum is three cases of wine. Every time a dispensary orders for their first time, we have a team of brand ambassadors all over California. And they’re just waiting to get a date and a time and then they do a customer appreciation day for that dispensary.
And our real goal for the customer appreciation day, someone shows up, someone on our team comes into the dispensary, pours our non-infused, non-THC wine so people can taste it and see what it tastes and smells like.
But the real goal isn’t to educate the 300 or 500 people that come in the door that day. The real goal for them to be there is educate the bud tenders. Because those guys, they’re there every day. And we’re gonna do about 500 or 600 customer appreciation days in 2019 just in California.
Matthew: Oh, wow. That’s smart.
Chip: Yeah. And it’s the only way to, I mean, we try and say as much as we can about that the product on the wine label, but it’s really the only way to get out there.
Matthew: And so the non-THC version, how close does that taste to the THC version?
Chip: I’m super proud of it, really, really close. We were astonished. It was kind of an afterthought when we were bottling. I mean, we planned to do it, but we didn’t have any high hopes for it.
And then we bottled it and tasted it. And holy cow, it tastes good. People, I mean, apparently just drink it just because it tastes good, even though doesn’t have any alcohol or THC in it.
Matthew: Yeah. This is a perfect example of creating a new market category. Because why compete in the insanely competitive wine industry where the margins are tough. It’s huge, huge capital requirements when you can create this new segment and be top of mind. So that’s a great way to do it.
Chip: Yeah, we’re…the future is very bright, that’s how we see it.
Matthew: So you’re in a difficult regulatory environment in California. What’s it like working with regulators and politicians? And, are they understanding of how their laws and regulations have a cascading effect? Or do they seem, like, totally oblivious to that? And what’s that process like working with them bringing this product to market?
Chip: Yeah, so the laws come out in you…when the laws are published, and they seriously come out, and they were coming out every three to four months, something would be written in stone, and then it would be rewritten and completely contradictory all through 2018. I think, actually, there’s gonna be a lot of…I predict there’s gonna be a lot of companies that end up going under because they spent all their cash trying to follow these laws with legal fees and packaging, repackaging, repackaging, repackaging expenses. I’ve already had a couple of friends, cannabis companies go under because they just run out of cash. They didn’t, they couldn’t get to market, their product out there and it had to come back. And it’s gonna be…it’s a really hard thing to do.
But the regulatory bodies are not malicious in my opinion of them. They’re not malicious. They just don’t have any clue what the laws that they write, what they do to the companies trying to follow them. They wrote a law that said, “You can’t use the word wine in your product.” And this is targeted directly at us because there’s no one else doing it. But the thing is, is we make alcohol-removed wine, and we say that on the label because that’s what it is. And they were like, “Dude, you can’t even use the word wine, even though you’re saying, we say, like, five times that there’s no alcohol in it, it’s completely removed. This is what the product is. So we’ve had to re-label our products at least a half dozen, or not to half dozen. Yeah, maybe like…I think we’re on number five right now, for relabeling. It’s hard. It’s really hard.
Matthew: Yeah. They’re probably protective of that word up in Northern California I imagine.
Chip: It’s not even that, they just don’t want to mislead the consumer. And they just did a blanket statement, “Don’t say wine, beer, spirits, or you can’t use ale, you can’t use margarita, you can’t use…” And they just did a blanket statement, said, “Don’t use those words no matter what.”
And then we came to them and we’re like, “Hey, we say it’s alcohol-removed, non-alcoholic wine or whatever.” And they were like, “No, still, that doesn’t happen.”
So then we had to hire a lobbyist, and help get this law changed because now we’re just a cannabis beverage, is what it’s called. But that’s not what we are. We make wine and then remove the alcohol. It’s been tough, man. It’s really tough.
Matthew: Yeah. That is tough. And you can have a whole business set up and then, with a stroke of a pen, it’s like, nope. That’s frustrating. I’ve seen it.
Chip: Yeah, they got rid of ice cream. I didn’t know it was a big thing. But they said no cannabis-infused ice cream. And that put a couple of companies under.
Matthew: Can you say cannabis-infused creamed ice?
Chip: Yes. I don’t know. It’s because you can’t use dairy, it has to do with the shelf stability and refrigeration and stuff like that. Like, so no dairy products.
Matthew: This is such an interesting space. Where do you think the wine and spirits markets’ going in the next three to five years? And where’s it dovetail with the cannabis beverage market?
Chip: I mean, that question I’ve been asked a lot in front of large audiences. I don’t think, and this is just my opinion. But I don’t think the cannabis space is gonna truly cannibalize.
If we make this cannabis-infused wine and it takes off and we sell millions of cases of it, I don’t necessarily think that that’s gonna cannibalize the wine industry. Because my opinion is, people have their vices already.
If you’re over 21, you’ve tried both, you picked one, you kind of go with it, you know, one or the other, usually. And the first joint wasn’t smoked in California in January of 2018. The industry has been around for 20, 30 years, however long you wanna call it, and it hasn’t…they’ve co-existed up until that point. That being said, now that there’s more products and stuff available, and you don’t have to go to a drug dealer to get anything, it’s…the access is there. I don’t know. I guess that’s the billion-dollar question if you’ve got the crystal ball.
Matthew: I guess you just create it, is what the answer is. I don’t know. I know as I create it.
Chip: Yeah, exactly. I can tell you people are insanely curious about cannabis-infused wine. Everyone’s like, “Where can I buy it? Where can I buy it?” So it’s awesome.
Matthew: Now let’s talk a little bit about patents and intellectual property. What do you see happening there in the cannabis space and with drinks?
Chip: So when we were making this to make to…THC is an oil, and all drinks without alcohol are basically juice, like water. Oil and water don’t mix. So to make the THC liquid soluble, so it does mix into the water, there’s three ways that I know how to do it. Everyone’s inventing new stuff all the time. So, I hope there’s still three by the time this goes live. You can either nano-emulsify it, which you just shake up the T molecule with an ultrasonic rod and make the little oil globs really small. You can do a lipid-soluble THC, where you attach it to a lipid molecule, the oil to a lipid molecule or you can do a hydrophobic hydrophilic surfactant. And that’s the way we went. Basically, the THC behaves like it’s water soluble, even though it’s not truly technically water soluble, but it goes into the product and stays in suspension indefinitely.
A lot of people are having problems with getting their THC to stay in suspension when they use nano-emulsification because it’ll form a ring at the top. I don’t know. It’s a complicated thing. But Canopy acquired a company out of Colorado called Abu, and we’ve…we were using Abu’s, we were licensing Abu’s technology for the water-soluble surfactant.
When that, when they got acquired, Canopy at the time could not invest in U.S. plan touching companies. So they had to cancel all their THC contracts and licensing deals with all the companies that they were licensing it to except for us.
We took it as a signal that they liked what we’re doing and want us to grow and keep blazing the trail creating this category. So, we’ve got the patent granted to us for liquid soluble technology for seven states for 10 years here in California in the United States.
Matthew: Oh great.
Chip: Yeah. I’m sorry. I kind of rambled off for a second.
Matthew: Good job, good job. Well done.
Chip: Yeah, I guess it…Yeah. And then back in 2000…in November of 2017, we did have this idea and we’re like, “Wait, how has nobody ever done this?” So we hired a patent lawyer. They did a search and they were like, “Hey, honestly, nobody’s ever done this. It’s not in the office.” We’re like, “Okay, cool. Let’s write the patent for this.” So then we had talked about it because this is gonna be published publicly by now. But what we did is, we wrote a patent. And the invention isn’t removing alcohol from wine and the invention isn’t making THC liquid soluble, the invention is putting the two together.
So anybody who makes beer or wine, removes alcohol from it and infuses it with any cannabinoid, THC, CBD, CBG, whatever, is going to…and if we get the patent granted, will end up having to license that technology from us. And we don’t know if it’ll get granted. Patents are a very tricky thing in the cannabis space. But if it does, it could be a game changer for us.
Matthew: Wow. Very interesting. There’s so many dimensions to this. You have to wear a lot of hats and really be convinced that you’re doing the right thing to really move the ball down the field.
Chip: Relentless is the right word for it. And sometimes you go down the wrong rabbit hole, but having a good team helps you come out the other end.
Matthew: You were a college, or high school wrestler, was it?
Chip: Yeah. I was one of the best in Texas.
Matthew: Wow, that’s saying something. So you’re wrestling this pole, whole, all these problems to the ground?
Chip: Yeah, hopefully. I think we’re very, very, very close to just really rocking and rolling with this thing. But there’s no guarantees in the cannabis space. Every time I give a guarantee, like over the last year, I’m like, “I don’t know.” I mean, it’s always like, I’m 99% sure that this is gonna happen because there’s so many curve balls being thrown at this. I mean, a startup is hard enough on its own, but a startup in a regulatorily uncertain environment is even harder.
Matthew: Yes, I agree with that. And where are you in the capital-raising process?
Chip: Yes, so we raised a seed round. And we’ve pretty much exhausted that. We’ve got, we just started our Series A about two weeks ago. So we’ve met with…and because of the product in the first to market, people, every VC, large or small pick up the phone when we call or calls us back.
So we’re headed up to Canada next week to be in Toronto for a week and then New York for a week to talk to all the large LPs up there in Canada in the publicly traded companies.
But VCs, just like consumers are incredibly excited. They all want in. “All right, cool, it’s a good idea. Let’s taste it. Does it taste like wine? Does it smell like wine?” And so far, we’ve gotten really, really good, really good feedback from everybody. So we’re hoping to have a couple of term sheets here by the 19th of April.
Matthew: And for accredited investors that are interested in just learning more about that, can they go to your website and fill out a contact form or anything or is that…?
Chip: Yeah. We actually… it’s just, it’s, rebelcoast.com. And then there’s a Contact Us page. And we’ve actually had three or four potential investors inquired, just cold-calling us through the website. We follow up with everybody.
Matthew: They’re coming for you. They’re coming for you, Chip. Finally.
Chip: We are in Los Angeles. But yeah, we get back to everybody, follow up. Because we’re in this position, we definitely wanna…we’re fortunate enough in this…This prettiest girl at the party thing won’t last much longer. I mean, maybe in three or four more months before, I’m assuming, I can’t believe nobody’s tried to do this. We’re a year into legalization in California, like the cannabis and wine capital of America and we’re still the only ones doing it. So, I keep assuming someone else is gonna try it but it is incredibly hard to do it.
Matthew: That’s what I was gonna say, you’ve…this whole podcast has been about huge Goliath-size problems. So you’re like, “I can’t believe no one’s doing it.” I can. I can totally believe it.
Chip: It sounds easy. Just get wine, remove the alcohol and infuse it with THC. That’s the general thing. And I thought when we went, when we first launched, we’d have competition springing up left and right.
But no, but there’s one company that said they made a rose, the world’s first cannabis-infused rose, and it was just a bunch of liars doing a press release. They’ve never made it. They’re not in market. They’re not legal. They’re not compliant. But that was our first potential competition. It was just a joke. So, I don’t know, it’s exciting.
Matthew: Well, Chip, I’d like to ask you a few personal development questions to help listeners get a better sense of who you are personally. But before I do that, is there anything you can tell us to help us, just make us a little bit smarter about wine in general? A lot of people think it’s an esoteric subject. And you’re so deep in this world. How can we sound a little bit more educated, and be a little bit more educated about wine so we can understand it better?
Chip: Oh, yeah. I guess, so everybody always asks like, when someone’s smelling or tasting wine, they rattle off, like the flavors of whatever, that it reminds them of. And it’s not that like, there’s grapefruit or white peach or citrus used to make the wine, it’s just the characteristics of the wine that reminds you of that. So, the best way to get better at tasting wine and being able to talk about it is find someone that loves wine and that does that, that’s really good at talking about what they smell and taste in their wine, and then just have them talk to you about it. Like smell the glass of wine with them, have them rattle off what it sounds like, and then when they say what they’re tasting and smelling, then for some reason, this always happens, but for some reason, you’ll be able to pick up.
You’ll be like, “Oh, no way. There is…I smell the grapefruit. Now, that’s what that it.” So, find a good tasting buddy. And wine’s not that pretentious, it’s just a delicious way to catch a buzz with someone.
Matthew: Have you ever…do you remember a time when someone used a word to describe the taste of wine that you thought was just so creative or off the wall that you couldn’t believe it?
Chip: Yeah. It’s usually to describe flaws in wine. There’s a compound called VA and it smells like a wet Band-Aid or wet cardboard or wet dog. You don’t want that characteristic.
But usually when someone’s like, “Oh, I’m getting real, real nasty Band-Aid smell,” we’re like, “Oh no. Your winemaker’s got his work cut out for him. Because to get rid of that, it takes some serious equipment.”
Matthew: Oh, my gosh. Well, thanks for that. So back to the personal development questions. Is there a book that you’ve read that’s had a big impact on your life for a way of thinking that you’d like to share?
Chip: Yeah. So, I thought about this one a lot because I’ve listened to almost every single one of your podcasts also. You’re pretty incredible in helping me learn about the industry from years ago when information sharing wasn’t really there. So thank you for that one.
Chip: I used to live in Australia. I used to study winemaking over there. And I spent a week fasting out in the bush and I read “The Alchemist” randomly.
And it was the perfect book at the perfect time. And that kind of just helped guide me throughout the next 10 years, 20 years of my life. Just like, if you put it out there, what you want into the universe, it usually provides it for you. Sounds a little hippie but whatever.
Matthew: No, that’s…I found that to be totally true. I walked out of my corporate job 10 years ago, and it was really good job. And I was just like, “I’m doing this,” and it’s like the universe is, when you commit, the more you commit the universe just comes in and just provides for you right as each step seems like a cliff.
Chip: Yes, absolutely. And it’s like, “Hey, this isn’t gonna kill you, just it’s gonna be really hard for the next couple of weeks. Yeah, it’s good.”
Matthew: If you could go back in time to when you were just starting this business again, what would you do differently?
Chip: Oh, that’s one…that’s a tough one. How far back in time, like five years?
Chip: I would have started back then. I wish I would have been able to see prohibition coming to an end when it did. I thought it was gonna take a couple of more years, so I thought I had more time to perfect a formula for the wine. But I would have started working on this day one in college. I was started studying this, figuring it out so that we could have already been in the market right now.
I’m always kicking myself like, “Oh, if I’d just done this a year ago or two years earlier, we would…all this would be out of our way and we would just be rocking and rolling, selling this stuff.” So I would have started sooner.
Matthew: I realize, like, your marketing, you have clever marketing techniques in your illustrations and everything, and how you present yourself has done really well. And I realized that alcohol and the beverage, wine, and spirits industry, that’s so important how the brand sits in the prospect’s mind even more so than other types of businesses. Like I saw at, was it George Clooney that just sold that mezcal or the tequila.
Matthew: Yeah. And I see how he positions that, with him driving, like, vintage motorcycles through the fields, like high deserts of Mexico and stuff like that. It’s like, how do you want the prospect to think about this? So you have to really think deeply about that.
Chip: Yeah. Well, for the wine industry, I studied marketing, wine marketing in college. And the one thing I took away and implemented day one for “Sexual Chocolate” and on was, you’ve got to tell a story.
Because all wines, you know, if they are a California Wine, they’re usually gonna be pretty good. The quality of the juice inside the bottle, and then you’ve got to tell a story on, about who you are, or whatever story you wanna tell on the label.
So for our “Reckless Love,” I have a huge handlebar mustache. So I just put it on the bottle, and then wrote a story. And every year we write a story of where we are in our lives and why we’re making this wine. And then we printed it with glow in the dark ink because it’s one more thing you know, and we like glow in the dark ink. And then all of our cellphone numbers are on the corks just for fun, and it’s just a way to engage with people on another level.
Like one of our wines, I make a white wine called “Sunday Fun Day” and we have a scratch and sniff pineapple on it.
Matthew: Someone just drank a bottle of wine and messaged you, Chip.
Chip: Yeah. I get text messages and calls 5 or 10 times a day now. I answer all of them if I can. I love talking to people about it.
Matthew: Yeah. Well, before we started recording, you had mentioned that you did a virtual reality simulation with HTC set. And every time I’ve heard about virtual reality or augmented reality in the past, it’s like not quite ready yet, almost there. This is totally unrelated to cannabis wine. But what did you think about it?
Chip: I mean, I don’t wanna use the word “life-changing” because I don’t feel like I’m a different person. But I definitely have a different perspective on what reality is versus where it can go. Virtual reality is the…once it’s indistinguishable from real reality, things are gonna get really wild, and it’s getting close. It’s getting really, really close. But it’s awesome. It’s cool.
Matthew: Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. I got to give that a try. I tried…the last time I tried it, it was pretty good. And we were talking about this too, before the call, like, I’m worried that it’s gonna be too good. So it’s like, you don’t wanna…you’re just like, “I wanna stay in this world and do all these crazy stuff.”
Chip: And Elon Musk, as crazy as it sounds, he’s got a pretty good theory that we could be living in a virtual reality world created by some other super being, and with unlimited computing power and unlimited energy. It’s hard to conceptualize. But once you try virtual reality, and you’re like, “Wait, if this felt, if this, 10 years from now indistinguishable from reality, it’s gonna be pretty crazy.”
Matthew: Yeah. It’s like, well, how do we know this is real? Just because it’s persistent. And it seems real, like, okay. We don’t, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is.
Chip: Yeah, that’s a whole other rabbit hole.
Matthew: Right. You need at least one bottle of Rebel wine down before you go down that hole.
Chip: Honestly, if you’ve had a couple of glasses of our cannabis wine and then you play virtual reality, I played for eight hours straight, it was awesome. And I do not play video games. So it was awesome.
Matthew: Well, Chip, thanks so much for coming on the show today and educating us. This has really been an interesting subject. And congratulations to you for all the work it takes to do this, and all the persistence. I think having a background as a wrestler is really probably helpful because this is a lot of discipline, a lot of pain, and just a lot of feedback you’re getting as you try to go through the process. But as we close, tell listeners your URL and the best way to find the wine and connect with you.
Chip: Yeah. Absolutely. So I mean, the one that’s easiest to remember is just probably Google “cannabis wine.” There’s no one else doing it. So we’ll always pop up. But our website’s rebelcoast.com. And what we’re most active on and honestly, I kind of feel nerdy saying this but we’re most active on is Instagram. So, our Instagram handle is rebelcoastwinery.
People listen to every word we write, everything we say out of curiosity. And we’ve got 15,000 people on Instagram that are actually genuinely enjoyed following what we’re doing because we’re very transparent with our ups and downs, and manufacturing, and our team, and our girlfriends, and having fun at the same time. So it’s pretty exciting to watch what we’re doing, apparently.
Matthew: Good. Well, I’ve got to check out your Instagram account now. All right, Chip, thanks so much for coming on the show. We appreciate it and good luck with everything in 2019.
Chip: Absolutely, thank you. And please, keep doing what you’re doing. It’s helped me out a lot. Just navigating the industry and seeing what everyone else is working on.
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