BFFs Cameron Diaz, author of two science-backed books on health and wellness, and Katherine Power, founder of WhoWhatWear and clean skincare brand Versed, have combined their entrepreneurial superpowers to create Avaline, the wine brand they wished to see on store shelves. (And stolen my future baby name in the process, but I suppose I’ll forgive them.)
Curious as to why two extremely busy women with access to literally any fermented grape juice in the world would make extra work for themselves by creating their own, I sat down with the duo (virtually) for a chat and a sip (or two).
Well+Good: You guys are *so* successful already; why did you decide to add Avaline to your overcrowded plates? Why go into the wine business?
Katherine Power: Cameron and I have both oriented around wellness in some shape or fashion. I’m a brand developer who’s focusing my time on this millennial-minded consumer and what she’s buying, and I’ve seen so much change over the last few years in terms of her leveling up when it comes to wellness in every aspect of her life. At the same time Cameron, in addition to being a great actor, has written two books on the body, which are essentially science books. She’s an investor/advisor for a lot of wellness brands, too.
So we were drinking wine together, and we started to wonder, ‘What is this, actually? Are these grapes organic, that we drink every day?’ We looked on the label and were reminded that wine is one of the only consumable products that does not have ingredient lists or nutrition facts or really any kind of transparency into what’s inside.
Our initial conversation was, ‘I wonder if there’s a way to make wine better for us’, and in order to do that, we needed to learn about the winemaking process. So we met with several experts over a two-year period, everyone from winemakers to farmers to people on the business side, to really understand soil to bottle. We were pretty shocked by what we learned, because there are a fair amount of ingredients that are legally allowed to be added to wine that people don’t know about—some good, some not so good. And we really felt compelled to share our newfound understanding with consumers and provide an alternative that was accessible. Because when we tried to switch to organic, naturally-made wine, it was super hard to find.
Cameron Diaz: It wasn’t that it wasn’t being made, it just was really hard for us to identify it by looking at a bottle, or even asking a sommelier or wine shopkeeper. We found that really interesting, because if we were trying to consume this kind of wine in Los Angeles, which is sort of the health mecca, how was it going to be in other parts of the country?
We wanted to be able to provide consumers with the information we were looking for very plainly on the label so that when they’re walking down the wine aisle, they know immediately that Avaline aligns with their standards. That was something we wished existed.
KP: And we wanted to put taste first because we’re discerning wine drinkers, and we weren’t willing to sacrifice taste for the criteria that Avaline meets. We wanted to create easy to drink, delicious wines that are made with organic grapes, are vegan, and are free from all of the unwanted extras, packaged in a bottle that’s easy to understand.
W+G: I heard you actually threw wine away after learning what was in it, which I have to admit made me cry a little, because wine. What ingredients specifically turned you off?
KP: Not all wine is bad or poorly made; there are a lot of fantastic winemakers and generational farms that have been farming this way and producing wine this way for centuries. But I drink a lot of the mass-produced commercial wines, and after learning about all of the ingredients that can be added—anything from added colors or concentrates to things that might edit the taste—yeah, I cleaned out my wine fridge. It’s like eating clean and organic—you feel better knowing that you’re not ingesting any of the pesticides.
W+G: How do you respond to critiques asserting that the concept of “clean” wine is just marketing and doesn’t really mean anything? What does it mean to you?
CD: Clean starts in the vineyard with organic farming, which is safer for the planet, and safer for our bodies. So it’s knowing that our grapes, first and foremost, are organically farmed. And then knowing that there’s minimal intervention [in making the wine], using only additives that help the wine stabilize enough to make the journey from Europe, which is just a little bit of sulfur.
We do use a clarifier, because it’s hard to get people who don’t drink cloudy wine to drink cloudy wine, and wine naturally has sediment in it. And one of the things we found is that the fining process [used to clarify wine] oftentimes uses animal products, which was a real shock to us. So we use a plant-based pea protein that’s organic to do our clarifying and fining.
KP: We definitely expected a fair amount of judgment coming into this industry… but we look at this as an invitation to this industry to join us. We want to champion a new standard in wine drinking and wine production and transparency, and we hope to see more brands embracing that.
CD: Especially with brands that are already made that way, it would be great to see more transparency on their labels. So we can drink other wines [besides Avaline], too!
KP: There are wines made from organic grapes and you would never know it because they don’t put it on the label, and this is because historically, if you would mark your wine organic, you would end up in kind of a weird section in the grocery store with no traffic. It wasn’t as important to the consumer, and now it is. So I think now we’re going to see a lot of companies being much more transparent.
W+G: Speaking of transparency, what can you tell me about your vineyards?
KP: This is not your typical celebrity wine brand. It’s not a licensing deal. We did not buy bulk juice and slap a label on it. We’ve partnered with the best winemakers we could find for each taste profile. Our farms are generational vineyards in Europe, in France (Provence) for the rosé and Spain for the white. A lot of care goes into the land and into the process. And we work with both male and female winemakers, which has been really cool.
“This is not your typical celebrity wine brand. It’s not a licensing deal. We did not buy bulk juice and slap a label on it.” — Katherine Power
W+G: Since you spent a lot of time researching what goes into wine, can you share any tips that don’t involve in-depth research before buying a brand?
CD: That’s why we made Avaline, because no [there isn’t an easier way]!
W+G: To circle back to where we started, you put a lot of effort into this, which means wine must be pretty important to you. Why do you reach for it? Is it for self-care, to socialize…?
CD: I think it’s all of those things. It was really born out of out of friendship, too—sitting and talking over a glass of wine about life, and pondering the things that are important to us… like, organic! So friendship, community. And then ritual—it’s the nighttime wind down after a long day, or just on the weekend to get together with your friends, or when you do laundry, those kinds of things—moments when you’re just kind of like, ‘I need a little wine.’
W+G: Especially in this heat, nothing is better than a cold glass of white wine!
CD: Yes—put it on ice. I drink mine on ice. Katherine loves a spritzer.
KP: With a charcuterie and cheese plate, or sushi.
W+G: You let slip your next Avaline release earlier, which I won’t print here because you’ve asked me not to. But is there anything upcoming for the brand–or any of your other endeavors—that you do want to share?
KP: We’re going to continue to release new products that are really guided by our community. We’re listening to what they want next, and Cameron and I are excited about what we want next. We’ll definitely have a couple of new products out there before the end of the year.
W+G: Which is fast approaching, and what a year it’s been, too. Since you’re both mothers, I wonder if there’s anything you’ve found yourself hoping for (over wine!) for your children, for the future? You know, just as a super casual question to end this conversation on.
KP: We’re lucky because the Gen Z and younger generations… are a completely different type of person, and they’re going to do so much great stuff in this world. I just know it. I am so proud of that generation and would love to think that by the time my son is a teenager and goes into his early 20s, he’s living in a world with more kindness and understanding.
CD: That’s such a great sentiment. I concur.