Leah Van Dale is a nice person from Massachusetts whose love for the performing arts and fitness led her to pro wrestling. Her alter ego, Carmella, is the tough-talking one-time WWE Women’s SmackDown Champion, star of E!’s Total Divas and self-proclaimed Princess of Staten Island. Both personalities share a love of gathering with family over a good meal and bottle of wine, so Van Dale started Capo Cagna wines to channel that camaraderie. The motto for her California Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon is “Caution: Not for snobs.” Here, she talks about who her wines are for (spoiler: everyone else) and how they came to be.
Can you tell me a little bit about your performing career?
I started dancing when I was three, and I danced all throughout high school. While I was in college, I had a tryout to be a Patriots cheerleader and was on the team from 2007–2010. I was also a Laker Girl for the 2010–2011 season. I felt like I had done everything I could in the dance world, but I still wanted to continue my passion for entertaining and performing. I found out about the opportunity to try out for WWE and felt like it was the perfect fit for me. My dad was a wrestler for WWE in the early ’90s, so it was the perfect hybrid of my family history and my love of performing.
Has wine always been a big part of your life, too?
Sunday dinners were a weekly occurrence growing up. Even as kids, we had a glass of wine with our pasta. It was just normal for us and not at all a big deal. I would say, in my adult life, when I was living in L.A. and dancing for the Lakers, a few of my girlfriends and I were just sitting in my little bungalow in Laurel Canyon and drinking some wine with cheese and crackers and we stayed there all night talking and laughing together. I loved that feeling the wine provided for us to all be able to sit and converse.
“Sunday dinners were a weekly occurrence growing up. Even as kids, we had a glass of wine with our pasta. It was just normal for us.”
What are some of the differences between Leah and Carmella? Do you think they would drink the same wines?
Carmella is the moon-walking trash-talking Princess of Staten Island. She’s loud and in your face. Leah is a bit more shy. [But] they both love wine!
Right, Capo Cagna means “boss bitch” in Italian. Would you say these are bossy, assertive wines?
I would say they are whatever they make you feel like. I don’t like to tell anyone what to expect from my wines, other than the fact that they taste amazing. I want for my wine to make everyone embrace their inner “boss bitch,” whatever that means to them individually.
And you’re working with a California winery?
I work with Michael Sullberg Family Wines, who are based out of Morgan Hill, California. I’ve been learning so much from them and their team about all things wine related. I can’t even begin to explain the amount of work that goes into each and every bottle, and I’m in complete awe of what they do every season.
Is there a specific drinker you’re hoping to reach with Copa Cagna?
It’s all about embracing the boss bitch that you are. You could be working 9 to 5, on Wall Street, a stay-at-home parent or a broke college student searching for a job. My wine isn’t going to break the bank, but it will make you feel like a million bucks. Bougie on a budget.
Is there a built-in market who knows you through WWE or E! Total Divas?
I will say that I have the best fans in the world. They are so loyal. Now, with the new season of Total Divas [that premiered] October 2 on E!, I’m hoping to tap into a whole new fan base. I’m really just excited to expand the Capo Cagna brand, share my love for this wine with my fans and to hopefully gain more and build new relationships along the way.