USTYLE: Tell us about Edelheiss Wine.
RF: Well, it is a German wine and traditionally you drink it heated, like tea or hot coffee. It’s a tradition in Europe during the winter months, although people in the US prefer to drink it room temperature. Some people make Sangrias with it as well. It’s made with all-natural spices, cinnamon and brandy. I have had pastry chefs make poached pears with it also. So it is a wine that is very versatile. It’s not your traditional red wine.
USTYLE: How did you get involved in winemaking?
RF: It is so different for me because I didn’t grow up in a wine family or near any vineyards. I was vacationing in Switzerland in 2011 and a colleague told me you have to try this wine that they heat up over there, so I said, cool, it sounds interesting. I found the restaurant that sold it and when I saw it I knew exactly what it was because it was in a mug similar to a beer mug with a handle – it was red and had steam coming from it. Everyone there was drinking it. It was freezing cold there and everyone was outdoors with ski suits and furs on drinking this wine and it was just this lifestyle that I had never seen before. I tried the wine and thought this is interesting to drink a wine that is heated up.
USTYLE: How was Switzerland?
RF: I met some great people over there that I am still friends with to this day. I told them that I want to create my own wine over here in the US like this and they were like, okay cool, let’s do it. So one of the guys I met there introduced me to his brother-in-law who lived in the States at one point but now lives in Munich, Germany, where he is originally from and now he is my business partner. That’s how it all came about.
USTYLE: What challenges did you come across, if any, trying to bring it here to the States?
RF: Well, working with the federal government as far as getting my permits was a very smooth process. The challenging part was trying to find a vineyard that could make it, because everyone could not make this wine. I contacted a couple of vineyards here in the States and they said that they could not make it, so we eventually found a vineyard in Germany that only produced organic wines, and my particular wine was what they specialized in. It was a match made in heaven.
USTYLE: So you found the vineyard in Germany?
RF: Yes, it is in Germany, about four hours away from Munich. I’ve been there a couple of times and it is breathtaking. If I could really do it, I would love to live in Europe. With the scenery, the architectural structures of everything, it’s breathtaking. Once we found the vineyard that could make the wine we took a trip there. We met with the owner and his daughter and at the time they had been trying to break into the US market. With me living in the US and they were in Germany it was a great match. Even though this is my brand, the vineyard is in Germany, so it’s their wine but under my brand.
USTYLE: What exactly are you hoping to achieve with Edelheiss Wine?
RF: Well, I want to introduce to the States a red wine that you heat up, because a lot of people here are not used to that. A wine that you can make a Sangria with or drink at room temperature. I want to market and promote it like no one has ever done, because you can go nowhere in the States and find this type of wine.
USTYLE: How involved are you with the process of making Edelheiss?
RF: I am very involved. My business partner friend’s grandmother has the recipe to the wine – it’s like a family tradition. He sent me the recipe and we tweaked it to how we would like it over here in the States. In the States we like our red wine a little more sweet instead of dry. The way they make it was very dry and a little bitter. My mom suggested that we add a little brandy to it to give it some flavor. We tried it and it came out perfect, after that my friend and I were in my kitchen making the wine. The first batch we made was horrible because I had put too much brown sugar in it and it taste like oatmeal. The second batch we added less brown sugar and it came out great. I sent that batch to the vineyard in Germany and told them this is what I want and how I wanted it to taste. They tasted what I had and I tasted what they had, and what I had was still a little too sweet for this type of wine, so they lessened the sugar a little bit more and I liked it.
USTYLE: How long does the whole process usually take?
RF: After the research was done and getting everything done legally, it took me from the idea in 2011 to having the product now.
USTYLE: What advice would you give to someone who may have an interest in wine-making?
RF: My suggestion would be to first find out what type of product you want to have. Who your target market will be. Who you will be selling your brand to, because every brand is not catered to everyone. I wanted my brand to cater to the millennials because it’s a fresh young brand. It’s exciting and cutting-edge. I’ve had many managers at five-star restaurants try it and they were like, “Wow.” There is nothing else out here like this.
USTYLE: Did you find it hard getting support in the States?
RF: No, because if you are giving out stuff for free, which is what I do with my samples, they will take it. It’s not hard getting anyone to try anything that is free. It’s just the point of introducing a new brand and introducing it to people that have never tried it before, because it’s not like it’s a Merlot or Moscato or anything like that. It’s very unfamiliar.
USTYLE: Were you also hands-on with the packaging as well?
RF: My business partner is the creative director of an ad agency in Germany, so this is actually what he does. He sent me three bottle designs to choose from and told me to pick one and the bottle you see is the one I chose.
USTYLE: Yes, I do like this one. It has a clean look and is simple but pronounced.
RF: Yes, and you can actually reuse the bottle once the wine is finished because it has a flip top and not a cork, so you don’t need a corkscrew. It takes seconds to open.
USTYLE: Tell me about the Swarovski Crystal bottle. Will that be on the market for the general public?
RF: Yes, I am in the process right now of finding the right people who can make it for me and then we will narrow down the pricing. Those bottles take about 5000 Swarovski crystals to cover the entire bottle, so it’s very time consuming to make, so they will be a little pricey.
USTYLE: What else can we expect from Edelheiss Wine?
RF: I have a sparkling organic white wine coming out. The samples are ready now, we are just in the process of getting it approved through the federal government. I am actually doing an event soon with The Steve and Marjorie Harvey Charity Golf Tournament that will be taking place in Las Vegas and they have requested I supply them with the red and the white wine.
USTYLE: How did that come about?
RF: I know Steve Harvey’s wife Marjorie’s hairstylist; in fact we are really good friends, so I had the opportunity to meet her a couple of times. They put me in touch with the producers of The Steve Harvey Show. They knew I had a new wine on the market because we had discussed it previously and me coming on to the show. They reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in donating wine for the golf tournament and I accepted.
USTYLE: What challenges are there with working with the vineyard that’s located in Germany?
RF: I have two big challenges. One is dealing with the different time zones between the US and Germany, because they are six hours ahead of us, so I have to get a lot of my business done in the morning, because when it is 7:00 am here it’s 1:00 pm there. That’s a challenge but it works. My second biggest challenge was getting with distributors. I am with a distributor now who distributes in Maryland and Washington, DC, and I just got with a distributor in Virginia.
USTYLE: What process did you have to go through in finding them and for them to even say, we will take this on?
RF: Once you meet with a distributor they are going to want to sample your product and from there they will either say yes or no. In Washington, DC and Maryland I am already registered, but for the Virginia distributor, in order for them to represent me, I have to register my product in that state. Each state is a little different.
USTYLE: How far would you like to see your brand reach?
RF: Dubai. Every morning that I get up I pray and ask God to bring favor to my product and take it from city to city, coast to coast and country to country. That’s where I see my wine going.
USTYLE: So where can our readers purchase Edelheiss Wine?
RF: It can be found in Yes! Organic Markets in Washington, DC and Maryland, a few wine and spirit stores in Washington, DC and Maryland, and they serve it in Lauriol Plaza in Washington, DC. The Virginia distributors are getting it into the Wegmans there and next month I have a meeting with Costco.
USTYLE: Now, can you elaborate on the television show that is in the works? Who will be appearing in it?
RF: Yes, it will be me, Vernon Martin, Darnell Perkins, Gary Coates and a transgender who goes by the name Riley Knox, who does Beyoncé impersonations at Nelly’s. We are filming it because the production company that films The Braxtons are going to film this show as well. We are all really good friends with Traci Braxton and her manager Cliff, so he is putting it all together. Production has not started yet because they are still filming The Braxtons and right now they are the priority before we start filming.
USTYLE: So in closing, what else can we expect from Edelheiss Wine?
RF: We have the organic white wine, we will be having bottled water and we will be doing an energy drink that has 14k gold flakes in it.
USTYLE: I can only imagine how much that energy drink will cost with 14k gold flakes in it.
RF: Actually it will be very affordable, because there is already a company in Germany that manufactures it, so it’s just a matter of partnering with them and bringing it to the States.
RF: So I am just trying to expand the brand. It’s all about branding and expanding the brand.
If you would like to order a bottle of Edelheiss Wine, you can order from their website, at: