Amazing Grapes

by Rona Berg

Cameron Diaz exudes joy onscreen, with her wide grin, infectious laugh and mischievous sparkle. It’s nice to see that same fun-loving spirit in real life, over a Zoom interview.

The breezy comedic actor who starred in Something About Mary, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Charlie’s Angels along with many more hit films, broke the hearts of legions of fans when she announced her retirement from acting two years ago. A year later, she reinforced it when she said, “I don’t miss performing.” Never say never! Meanwhile, Diaz and her good friend, Katherine Power, have launched Avaline (drinkavaline.com), a clean organic wine company that so far includes a dry white, a crisp rosé and the newest addition, a medium-bodied red made in Rhône. The wines are made from organic grapes, with no added sugars, colors, preservatives or concentrates. They are also vegan and non-GMO.

The two were introduced by Nicole Richie, Diaz’s sister-in-law and Power’s close friend, when Diaz was dating her now-husband, Benji Madden, with whom she has a daughter named Raddix. Diaz is a wellness aficionado and author of two wellness books, the number one New York Times bestseller, The Body Book, and the followup, The Longevity Book. Power is cofounder and CEO of WhoWhatWear, a site that champions the idea that “style is inclusive and attainable by all,” and Versed Skincare, a clean skincare brand.

The friends were sitting around, enjoying a glass of wine—of course!—and talking about how everything in their lives was getting healthier. “We started asking ourselves, ‘What’s in our wine?’” says Diaz, “and we realized that we had no idea.” They wondered, “Are the grapes organic?” “What about preservatives and additives?” “What about the wine-making process?” Power adds,

“We spend so much money on organic groceries, but what about wine?” They saw an opportunity to create something different, and perhaps take a bit of the mystery out of what was in the bottle.

According to Diaz, they wanted to create an accessible organic wine that people could buy everywhere, from the grocery store to a high-end wine shop, and they worked hard to keep the price point around $20 or less. They set out to make Avaline an everyday wine—“screw-top, no pressure!” says Diaz—something that you would pick up and take to a friend’s house (when we start doing that again!). They chose simple, stylish labels, intended to create an emotional connection with their customers. Their marketing strategy is similar to that of a fashion or beauty launch, says Power: connecting with their customers digitally, having conversations in real time and seeing what consumers really want. “It is a community, a friendship brand,” says Power. They also set the bar for taste really high.

Diaz and Power traveled extensively and partnered with winemakers in Spain and France whose grapes come from certified- organic vineyards. “We got on a lot of planes, and ate a lot of baguettes and cheese,” laughs Diaz. “We loved going to meet our providers and visiting the vineyards,” she continues. “The reverence they have for the land is so beautiful. They watch the land so closely, because they’re not using pesticides. Our vintners really honor the process of making wine,” says Diaz. “We sought out a different winemaker for each blend,” adds Power, “and our rosé is made by a woman winemaker in Provence on a generational vineyard.”

One of the biggest lessons they learned is this: what you don’t add may be more important than what you do. “When we learned what could be added as tools for the winemakers,” says Diaz, “it was shocking to think we’d been drinking wine all these years and consuming things we didn’t want to drink.” For example, some winemakers add animal products—like shrimp shells, fish oil, egg whites or gelatin—to clarify the wine. If you are vegan, you would want to know about that.

Avaline has created exhaustive criteria for its winemakers to follow, but most of its partners have already been doing it that way for generations: hand-harvesting, biodynamic farming, organic grapes, no harsh pesticides. And Avaline wines are tested through a third-party lab to ensure that sulfites are low and that its winemakers have held up its standards. “It goes back to transparency,” says Diaz. “With Avaline, you know what you are getting. You’re not going to have to guess what’s in the bottle.”

Diaz, a skilled home cook (she posts her cooking videos on Instagram) loves red wine, so much so that they pushed up the launch date in time for this winter. She describes their new red with all the poetry of a true wine pro: “a Syrah and Grenache blend, with a beautiful stone fruit, bold fruit forward taste, spicy finish, silky, right over the palate.” Recently, she’s been using the Avaline red to cook stews, and says, “I went from making broths to thick soups like cream of mushroom last week, because we had a cold snap.”

Power says, “We built Avaline from soil to glass. There are a lot of celebrity wine brands. Avaline is not that,” she continues. “It is a wine company that will be around forever.” Given that they sold 120,000 bottles of the white and rosé in their first 90 days, so far, they’re right on track.

Avaline cofounders Cameron Diaz and Katherine Power

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