Cover Feature

From Sport Broadcasting to Winepreneur: Kavita Channe on Starting Sip Channé

Photo courtesy of Peter Koloff

TV personality turned Winepreneur, Kavita Channe, first dabbled in the world of sports and entertainment before joining the wine industry with an impressive list of gigs from sideline reporting and giving sports betting picks for Fox Sports, to being the team reporter for the Jacksonville Jaguars, to hosting “The Chat” alongside Casey Desantis on NBC and ABC, as well as covering the NHL, MLB, NBA and MMA.

For Channe, stepping into the sports industry was a more unconventional approach. After competing with so many women in entertainment hosting who had the “sexy girl-next-door” trendy look that wasn’t hers, she opted to pursue sports instead. She started her career with a viral interview with basketball legend, Lebron James, which ultimately led her to start her own YouTube channel, “1st DownAndDirty.”

Her YouTube channel launched her career in sports broadcasting which led to her being hired by FOX Sports followed by multiple other jobs Channe has done. “With covering all of these sports all year long, I realized I needed a vacation. I just wanted to disconnect and travel a bit for a reset,” Channe said.

Channe’s fun translated to a month in Europe, with a big portion of her time being spent in France and Italy where she was offered “pinkish-salmon-colored” rosé at each hotel she visited. Channe fell in love with the drink after taking notice of the cultural change she was seeing.

“It seemed like a fabulous vibe with both men and women drinking it there. It didn’t have the connotation that rosé is for ladies. Everybody was drinking it. I fell in love with that,” Channe explained.

From her experience in Europe, Channe began to frequent her favorite restaurants, and when browsing the wine lists, noticed that the rosé list often had a mere two options, neither of which she loved. So, she flew back to France and attended a rosé conference, something dreams are made of. She couldn’t get in as a consumer, so she used her journalism credentials to work her way in.

Over the course of three days, Channe tasted hundreds of wines and eventually connected with a family of winemakers and a deal was made. Channé continues to work with them to this day. In its second year, Channe began mixing different existing bottles sent from her winemaker to get the exact taste she was looking for. At first, he thought she was crazy to do this, however, this varietal went on to win a silver medal at the Concours Général Agricole Wine Competition held in Paris. Fast forward to today, Sip Channe has recently won two gold medals with their Channé Rosé along with a silver medal with their newest varietal, Channé Blanc.

“I’m not a sommelier (yet, anyway). And I can’t always tell the exact notes of the fruits or hints of this or that. However, I can tell you if I like it or don’t. Some people get overwhelmed with the complexities of wine and there is no judgment within our brand. Wine is meant to be fun!” Channe said.

Sip Channé went from creating rosé to a white wine, Channé Blanc. Again, the goal was to mix different wines to cultivate a different taste unlike anything else offered on the market. Think White Bordeaux meets Chablis. It has been recently added to many wine lists in Aspen, home to some of the top sommeliers in the nation.

“It’s a combination of our skillful, talented and creative winemaker and the consumer, which is me,” added Channe. “It’s a beautiful collab and I absolutely love making magic with others”

Channe also explained that when she visits wine stores, she has pinch-me moments when she sees her wine sitting alongside rival brands like Domaine Ott, a brand Channe respects and has enjoyed on many occasions prior to forming her own label.

In 2020, after quarantining in Florida, Channé headed as a first timer to the Hamptons. Not knowing a single soul, she would put her toddlers to bed and head out by herself every night from restaurant to restaurant meeting GMs, staff and owners in hopes of scheduling tastings the following day and…voila! She opened a new market. From there she brought on a few more team members including her now COO, Jonathan Chabat, who has extensive background in wine and hospitality, and expanded from Florida and the Hamptons to more territories including Nashville, Aspen and Staniel Cay in the Bahamas and more.

Although stepping into the wine game has proven successful for Channe, many people still ask why she left the world of sports and TV. The answer is that she hasn’t fully exited that industry; she still has some projects on the side, whether it’s hosting a TV show in The Hamptons or Dining Divas on the Travel Channel or doing cameos in other TV projects. Channe is also a mom to two small children, Micah and Maverick. Through it all, she is appreciative of what founding Sip Channé has given her.

“I have two small children and it’s amazing for them to see how passionate I am about my business. And we are truly blessed to be able to travel to different places through this work and share in those experiences together,” Channe said. “It’s so much fun making memories with my children and seeing them so excited about our brand.”

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t see a woman at the forefront of a wine business and Channe has seen first-hand the effects of this. She’s experienced some pushback in the business side of tastings and the deals made. She notices that as a female, it sometimes takes her a little more work and time to close vs what she sees with males in the business. However, her background in male-dominated sports broadcasting has given her a tough skin, so she knows how to handle criticism.

“As a woman in any industry, you have to work a little bit harder to be taken seriously,” said Channe. “And it can be frustrating but at the same time, being a female in business also has its advantages.”

With the many roles Channe juggles, she still finds time to take a step back and enjoy the life she has made, noting she has never felt special or different from anyone else because of her extreme accomplishments. Her kids ground her more than anything, but she explains that other methods do, too. 

“We say prayers every night. I do a lot of yoga, pilates, walking, hiking and strength training. Whatever it is, [I love] getting outside to be in nature,” Channe said. “I feel so much more productive, successful, grounded and humble with having children than I ever did before.”

She created the wine brand because although she wanted wine, she couldn’t find the wine at home that she enjoyed like the ones back in France. She also knew other people wanted a wine that has no sugar, no additives and low sulfites, playing along the lines of the type of wine Channe set out to create.

“I created Sip Channé to share what I wanted and that’s why we’re here,” Channe said. “Just knowing life is beautiful and magic is to be made. And we are making some of that magic. It’s a dream come true.”

Channe’s passion for life and the view she has on living reflects in the work she continuously does with charities. Each charity she works with mirrors the times in her life.

“When I was pregnant, I worked with Miami Diaper Bank and I executive produced a PSA on drowning safety and how the most important lifesaving skill a child could learn is swimming,” Channe said. “For the past ten years I’ve also worked with 211, an organization that allows you to dial 211 rather than 911 with any problem you’re having. It will connect you with any organization with the issue in hand.”

The list of charities Channe works with is always increasing and recently includes Veterinarian International, African Community & Conservation Foundation, Miami Women Who Rock and Hamptons Community Outreach. With her busy schedule, Channe also works behind the scenes creating brand awareness for each cause. With the opportunities Channe has been given, she follows the mantra “Giving is Living” and urges each young person starting a business to work backwards from their end goal.

To any young entrepreneur, Channe shared a few words of advice for beginners. “Dream it, but DO IT,” Channe says. And her favorite quotes are “The secret to getting ahead is getting started and if people aren’t laughing at your dreams, then you’re not dreaming big enough.”