‘Arrow’ Star and a Former MTV Executive: Just 2 Guys, Selling Wine

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‘Arrow’ Star and a Former MTV Executive: Just 2 Guys, Selling Wine

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HOLLYWOOD — “We usually start with some sparkling just because it’s morning,” said Andrew Harding, a founder of the Nocking Point wine club. It was a recent Monday, and Mr. Harding, 39, was in the castlelike home of his friend and co-founder, Stephen Amell, 35, the star of the television drama “Arrow.”

Mr. Harding popped the cork of a sparkling chardonnay blend, spilling some on his jeans before filling an array of wine glasses. Sunday football was recapped. A Los Angeles Dodgers game was scheduled for that afternoon. There was talk of ordering sushi, since the two would be tasting nine wines over the next few hours, but Mr. Amell balked.

“I’ve actually made a point of eating as little as possible,” he said, adjusting his baseball cap and flashing a mischievous grin.

This was a day at the office for the two men, who were selecting wines for Nocking Point, a four-year-old club that ships proprietary blends to its members in Hollywood and beyond. While celebrities selling wine is nothing new, Nocking Point has amassed a loyal following. Trading heavily on Mr. Amell’s fame and their celebrity friends, the upstart club has 4,300 members and another 6,000 on a waiting list.

Mr. Amell and Mr. Harding, a former MTV executive who founded the music licensing start-up SourceAudio, also know the magic buzzwords to frame their venture. “At our core, Nocking Point really is a technology company,” Mr. Amell said. “We have an infinitely scalable online e-commerce platform.”

Translation: Nocking Point doesn’t get mired in the actual winemaking process. Instead, it hires winemakers to make custom blends and markets the resulting wine online. This wine club has no casks, or walls, to worry about.

“We’re a technology-focused winery, versus the typical brick-and-mortar winery,” Mr. Harding added.

The idea was born of a baseball trip. In 2012, Mr. Harding and Mr. Amell were driving to Oakland from Los Angeles to see Mr. Amell’s home team, the Toronto Blue Jays. On the drive, Mr. Harding, who grew up in Washington State’s wine country, discovered that Mr. Amell had never been to a winery, so they detoured to Paso Robles. They never made it to the game.

“We just had the best time in Paso,” Mr. Amell said. “I brought it up when we were sitting on a dock watching a sunset: ‘How do we replicate this?’”

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That December, on a couples’ trip to St. Bart’s, they used Mr. Amell’s iPhone to lay the groundwork for Nocking Point while their wives got massages. “We drank a bunch of rosé, we started buying domain names and setting up Facebook accounts for the winery, and had everything done when the girls came back,” Mr. Harding said.

They made their first wine, Year One, a Bordeaux blend, with Marie-Eve Gilla at Forgeron Cellars in Walla Walla, Wash. With their wives, they spent six hours in a barn putting labels on bottles by hand.

When the batch of 1,680 bottles was ready, Mr. Amell told his Facebook followers, which numbered around 400,000 at the time, that some wine he had made would be available on Nocking Point’s website at midnight. Then he reported to the set of “Arrow,” in Vancouver.

On the drive back from the set, he got a frantic call from Mr. Harding. “The wine’s all gone,” he told Mr. Amell. “We need more.” The bottles sold out within 24 hours.

They created the quarterly wine club to meet the demand. Each Nocking Point box costs $90 to $100 and includes two to three bottles of their wines. They have since expanded to include coffee beans, branded socks and other promotional items.

To promote sales, they capitalized on Mr. Amell’s comic-book fan base (“Arrow” is based on the DC Comics character Green Arrow), held wine parties at comic conventions and created graphic renderings of themselves for bottle labels. They also roped in celebrity friends like Jared Padalecki, a star of the show “Supernatural,” to produce their own wines.

Mr. Amell and Mr. Harding have created 12 blends so far, and 10 more are on deck for 2017. They are also expanding production and hope to accommodate 8,000 members by March. Mr. Harding said that while they had not sent any bottles to wine bloggers or reviewers, the reputations of their winemakers, like Justin Wylie of Va Piano Vineyards in Walla Walla, spoke to the quality of their wines.

Still, they acknowledge that two newcomers to the wine industry may not inspire a lot of oenological confidence. In fact, they are banking on that image. To spread the word, they shot a pilot called “Dudes Being Dudes in Wine Country,” which Mr. Amell pitched to production companies as a “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”-type caper through less-known wine regions.

“After Year One came out, we would get all these notes like, ‘Tried the wine; it’s actually really good,’” Mr. Amell said.

“I hear that at every party,” Mr. Harding added. “People walk up and say, ‘Thank you so much; this wine is actually really good.’ It’s like, guys, what do you think we’re doing here? We can’t sell gasoline.”

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