When twins Alan and Brian Haghighi founded the California Fruit Wine Company, they were 22 years old and had no training or experience in oenology. Now, three years into it, business is sweet. But as many of their customers discover, that’s not necessarily the case when it comes to the wine.
“People think fruit wine is a dessert wine so it’s supposed to be sweet,” Brian says. “Wine grapes are actually much higher in sugar than most of the fruits we use so we end up having to add hundreds of pounds of sugar.”
“The dessert-wine-people who only like super sweet wine come in loving the idea, but our wines actually aren’t sweet enough for them,” Alan adds.
The brothers were introduced to fruit wine in 2009 by a couple making it as a hobby. “The wine itself wasn’t amazing but the concept definitely was,” Brian points out. The foursome became partners and by the end of 2010 they were set to launch their business during the holidays.
But as their business was ready to explode, it literally almost did. As they prepared to ship their first orders, the brothers were forced out of their Escondido home. Authorities had discovered explosives in their next-door neighbor’s house. The area was evacuated and the brothers lost access to their computers, and thus their business.
Alan and Brian also discovered their partners weren’t well-versed “as far as the technical aspects of making wine,” Brian says. So when their friends moved to Northern California less than a year later, the partnership ended but the amateur oenologists decided to press on.
They spent the next two years dedicated to understanding how to better their product. After securing an inexpensive production facility, they sold their wine exclusively at street fairs, however, licensing laws prohibited tastings.
Fortunately, that didn’t matter. “People would walk by, see the sign, and murmur,” Brian notes. “They were curious, so we’d engage them in conversation and without even tasting, we had a transaction.”
In October 2011, Alan and Brian saved and borrowed enough money to move into their current location in a Vista business park, on the border of Carlsbad, that now includes a tasting room.
Their wine, they say, is versatile and can be consumed on its own or served with most foods. They recently launched a line of “Girls Night Out” wines that boast, “We’re not as sweet as we seem,” and include Strawberry Stiletto, Cherry Lipstick, and Watermelon Clutch.
Having just celebrated their 26th birthdays, it would appear the brothers have created a business that, much like them, is ripe to improve with age.