Chip Forsythe has combined two of his favorite things in the branding of his new wine -- being naked and being rebellious.
Bill Silverfarb/Daily Journal
Winemaker Chip Forsythe, above, opens a bottle of Pink Panda to celebrate his company's pending move to San Mateo.
At just 28 years old, the winemaker and his brother A.J. have already sold their first wine label, Sexual Chocolate, and are ready to get their Naked Rebel Winery labels into every establishment in the state that sells alcohol.
The brothers, from Texas, got their start in college, making wine in trash cans while living on campus at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and sharing it with their friends in the dormitories.
The wine was barely drinkable then but, as they neared graduation, the product got better and the brothers were already selling a lot of bottles right out of college.
"I just like the drinking aspect of it," said Chip, whose distinctive handlebar mustache is the company's logo.
The two sold Sexual Chocolate last year and started up their new label almost immediately after.
This time, though, they have taken a new approach to boosting the brand as Chip participated in a visionary entrepreneurial program at the Draper University of Heroes at the former Benjamin Franklin Hotel in downtown San Mateo last summer.
Naked Rebel will be one of the first products sold in the pop-up retail spots in the former Collective Antiques building on Third Avenue downtown, part of the new Draper campus.
The Draper experience has got the brothers ready to put their past mistakes behind them in running their former business and "what not to do" with their new business Naked Rebel.
"They have helped us eliminate our rookie mistakes," Chip said.
The experience provided contacts, knowledge, mentorship and even budget forecasting. Since Chip completed the program, the company has hired nearly 20 people, mostly in sales and marketing, and is moving its operation from San Francisco to San Mateo.
The company has two labels, a blend of syrah from Amador Valley with cabernet from Napa's Oakville called Naked Rebel and Pink Panda, a sparkling wine made from Alexander Valley pinot grapes with raspberry and strawberry flavors.
The bottles even come with glow in the dark ink.
Chip hopes to sell 50,000 cases in the first year and his sales representatives think they can do it.
"The wine sells itself," said Erin Walker, who just sold six cases to Piacere restaurant in San Carlos. "I poured it, they read the label and they bought it."
All sales will be in-house to control the brand's image, Chip said.
Kimmie Spears is the company's East Bay sales representative and said sales are brisk.
"This is a great company to be with if you want to believe in something," Spears said. "And it's fun."
Naked Rebel is now the top selling wine at the Melting Pot in San Mateo, said Rob Sanchez, one of the restaurant's owners. It is also sold at Astaria Restaurant & Bar in downtown San Mateo and at the Circus Club in Menlo Park.
The third partner in the business is Doug Burkett, the vice president of sales for the company who met Chip back in college.
He currently shares a bunk bed with Chip in a San Francisco apartment. Eventually, Chip said he plans to get a home in San Mateo and fill it with staff and interns, who will work in exchange for room and board.
Venture Capitalist Tim Draper is impressed with what he has seen so far.
"Chip is amazing -- a force of nature. His model of branded wine is unique and I believe he got a lot out of his experience with us. The mentorship and contacts we were able to provide seemed to help him better define his business and to get some of the funding he is looking for. I don't drink but apparently his wine is quite good and his brands are just plain fun," Draper wrote the Daily Journal in an email.
Naked Rebel will be sold at the new Collective Entrepreneurs Club in a pop-up retail site on Third Avenue when it opens this spring.
Last night, however, the company had the honor of pouring its Naked Rebel wine at a Grammy after party after some of the crew drove down to Los Angeles over the weekend.
To learn more go to: www.nakedrebelwinery.com
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106