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The pair have followed in the footsteps of fellow star wine entrepreneurs like Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, John Legend, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Kyle MacLachlan, and Jon Bon Jovi by launching a health-conscious wine brand called Fresh Vine.
After almost a decade of friendship, Hough and Dobrev linked up with Napa Valley winemaker Jamey Whetstone on the 2018 and 2019 varietals and released their first bottles on March 22. The brand currently offers a chardonnay ($17.89), a pinot noir ($18.89) and a cabernet sauvignon ($21.89), and a rosé ($14.89) set at the launch this summer in time for rosé season.
Ahead of the latest debut, the two spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about bonding over a “yes year,” the healthy philosophy behind Fresh Vine and what the future holds.
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How did you meet?
JULIANNE HOUGH We actually met through our hairstylist, Riawna Capri. It was during a time of transition for both of us. She said, “I think you guys would be really great friends. I know you haven’t met but I feel like you have similar personalities and values and are both going through a transition right now. I think you would both be great company for one another.”
NINA DOBREV We were complaining about the same things and she was over it. She was like, “You guys need to meet each other.”
HOUGH Oh is that the story? I didn’t know that!
DOBREV We were going through a tough time and she was our therapist and said, “You guys can figure it out with each other since you’re both going through the same thing.”
HOUGH We connected and had kind of a year of exploration — it was our “yes year.” We became fast friends but deep friends because when you have that kind of experience in your life where you go through those ups and downs, you have an intimacy with a friendship that you can’t really craft, it just happens. We realized how much we celebrate each other’s differences and bring out each other’s greatness. We’re honest, we’re true, we call each other out for all the things and we do it with so much love.
How has it been working together?
DOBREV It’s so much more exciting when you create a company with your best friend. It’s made this experience so much more enjoyable and exciting to have someone to share it with. At the end of the day, life is about sharing things with people you love, laughing and enjoying every single moment, the highs and the lows. It’s been such a high with Julianne.
HOUGH In the past we used to hear the phrase, “Don’t work with family, don’t work with close friends.” That’s so wrong! Why not work with family? Why not work with close friends? There was a time when we weren’t allowed to talk about our feelings but now, we live in a time where we have great friendships because we actually go there. Why not work with your friend and share all of the joys and experiences instead of doing it on your own? That’s what is so special.
What inspired you to make health-conscious wines?
HOUGH Nina and I are total polar opposites but we have the same values and a lot of the same interests. One of those things is that we’re very active. We try to live a healthy, sustainable life. We thought, how do we still enjoy and have pleasure in life while not constantly counting calories or taking away from the enjoyment of life. At the same time, how do we not feel guilty or physically terrible? And how do we create something enjoyable and sustainable? That’s when we were realized nobody’s really doing this.
DOBREV Wine is such an experience and hopefully, you’re not drinking alone. Jules and I have so many memories together, whether it’s good memories, celebratory memories, or going through a tough time with a glass of wine in hand, so it felt like the perfect thing for the two of us to try and get people to connect more. And honestly, I couldn’t drink a lot of wines because I’m sensitive to gluten products. It’s not very known that wines are not gluten-free most of the time. Selfishly, I wanted to blow this out of the park so they have it everywhere and there are options to drink when I go places to socialize with my friends, family and loved ones.
Tell me about the new rosé.
DOBREV Jules and I both love, love rosé. It’s the first thing my hand reaches for in the summer because you want something refreshing, light and airy. We played around with a lot of different notes and spent some time deciding which direction we wanted to go in. We chose a really fresh and light citrus; grapefruit is one our main taste markers we both agreed upon when we were making it.
HOUGH At the end of the day, everybody’s preference is different and something that I find really enjoyable might not be enjoyable for somebody else. The commonality in what our wine does though is it always has a juxtaposition and duality so that with the citrus you also get a very smooth aftertaste, and the lining and the film in your mouth feels complementary to the citrus, whether it’s the grapefruit or the lemon that’s attached. It always feels very balanced, and as far as being low calorie, low carb, there are restrictions.
You can’t have a certain alcohol level because it takes the calorie and carb intake so much higher and so if you have a low-calorie intake it’s going to taste much tangier and of course we didn’t want that. We didn’t want to sacrifice the premium taste, which is smooth and luxurious going down and crisp and bright. We worked with our winemaker, Jamey Whetstone, who is just phenomenal and speaks our language. As you can see, I speak very much in feeling and he basically has to digest and translate our feelings into winemaking. He helps so much in creating the experience because at the end of the day, having a glass of wine, in my world as I’m 32 now, it’s not about getting wasted. Having a glass of wine is an experience. When we think about life and friendship and all the things that we accomplish, at the end of the day life is made up of memories. Do you have good memories? Let’s create a product that helps people experience and create new memories that are wonderful.
What has been your favorite part of the process?
DOBREV The whole thing has been such a fun experience — flying out to Napa, being there on the ground, touching the product, touring the vineyards or spending time with Jamey. The creative process is also probably the most fun because it’s an experience. It’s been such a journey and we’ve learned so much from the inception through to now. I think both of our lives are much richer as a result. Especially for our kind of health-conscious wine, the rosé couldn’t come at a better time when people are trying to get their summer bodies and trying to get the pandemic weight off after being stuck in their homes. Everything is opening up and people are allowed to emerge and experience things outside. They want to be healthy and start fresh. Nothing says fresh like a rosé.
HOUGH Like Fresh Vine wine!
What’s next for Fresh Vine?
HOUGH We’ve been in the process of looking at different vineyards to do a Napa Valley Fresh Vine reserve, which is the more luxury, premium wine. We want it to be accessible to everyone but also aspirational, so everyone has an option and can relish in the pleasures of drinking wine. We’re really excited about that and we also want to be able to give back to the Napa Valley community while still focusing on low cal and gluten-free, keto, etc., but just bringing the premium scale up a little bit more.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
A version of this story first appeared in the May 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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