Behind the Brand

McBride Sisters Unite Wine and Family

McBride Sisters

Apr. 16, 2020

The story of the McBride sisters is nothing like anything you’ve ever heard of before in the wine industry.

Andréa and Robin grew up on separate continents, each one believing they were an only child. It was only when their father passed away that his family wanted to connect the young women. They were already in touch with Andréa but had no idea how to go about finding Robin.

Thanks to an Oprah episode featuring private detectives being hired to find displaced loved ones, the family looked up every Robin McBride listed through the Department of Motor Vehicles. They wrote letters to all of them in hopes of reconnecting the long-lost siblings.

Finally, in 1999, a letter reached the right Robin McBride and the very next day, Robin and Andréa met for the first time.

Once they got to know each other, they discovered they both grew up in popular wine regions, Robin in Monterey, California and Andréa in Marlborough, New Zealand, and shared the same undeniable passion for wine.

For a short recap of the story of the McBride sisters, check out this video.

 

Together they’ve created the McBride Sisters Wine Collection, the largest African-American-owned wine company in the U.S. We sat down with Andréa and Robin to talk about their wines, empowering women, sustainability in the wine industry and life lessons.

What inspired you to create the Black Girl Magic collection?

Andréa: We were invited to be the wine sponsor for Essence Festival, which happens every year in New Orleans, and there are about 500,000 black women in attendance. We attend this conference every year. During the day it's an empowerment conference, and at night it's a music festival with headliners like Beyoncé and Janet Jackson. It’s a pilgrimage of women going in groups of like five or six, hanging out and having a good time, and that year was the first time that New Orleans had an African-American mayor.

So, we wanted to create something that honored the essence of the Essence Festival and also honored this mayor who had broken through and done something that had never been done before. That's when we came up with the idea of creating Black Girl Magic.

What was the creative process behind developing the SHE CAN collection?

Andréa: In terms of the wine, the most important thing was we wanted to have the quality of our bottled wine represented in the can. We were able to work with the can supplier to get a lining that was resilient enough to be able to hold the quality of our wines and make sure that the experience our wine lovers were having would be exactly the same as if they were drinking out of the bottle. So, our motto is SHE CAN, it's all the quality with the convenience of a can.

Robin: With SHE CAN, we wanted to find a way to express what it means to be a woman in the wine industry and to really acknowledge that it's a different space for us. When we launched, we also created the McBride Sisters Collection SHE CAN Professional Development Fund. It was the first time that we were able to give back in that way and help women who are in the industry already as , winemakers, sommeliers or on the business side, to be able to advance their careers.

We launched the fund on International Women's Day in 2019 and we announced the inaugural winners along with the 2020 program on International Women’s Day this year.

What are the changes you feel the wine industry needs to make to be more inclusive?

Andréa: I think we need to have more women in the room at all levels of the business. We're big believers that if you have diversity of thought, when you have people that come from all walks of life, and represent different cultures and experiences, you're able to innovate and make better products.

Sustainability seems to be a core value for your business. Can you elaborate?

Robin: Andréa and I both grew up in super environmentally conscious places. I grew up on the central coast of California in Monterey, and Andréa grew up in New Zealand. Both are very much on the forefront of protecting the environment and protecting the place where you live, where you grow your food, and the air that you breathe. So from that perspective, it's very much part of our DNA. That's just who we are. We look at everything through that lens.

Andréa: From a farming perspective, it's pretty simple. If you farm sustainably, organically or biodynamically, you get a higher quality grape, which I believe translates into a higher-quality wine.

It takes a village of people to get wine into a bottle. We’re making sure that we're sustaining our community by paying people a living wage and taking care of the environment to make sure that it's here for generations to come.

What are some of the most important lessons you both have learned in business, in the last 15 years, or in life in general?

Andréa: The wine industry isn’t very diverse and one of the things that we've had to learn is that it’s helpful to find allies including men in the industry that support our mission and our vision. Having a strong community is really important, and that can be from women and people of color, but also from men.

You can have a big, grand ambition, but most people don't usually get there by themselves, you know? So, embracing community is a big lesson.

Robin: That was a big lesson for us. We felt a little bit like outsiders coming into the business, so we relied on each other, great wine and hard work. You need to network and have a community of people in order to be successful. We were not quite sure how to integrate ourselves early on and we had to learn how to do that.

Andréa: A second lesson was that coming into an industry that has tons of heritage and is super ingrained with tons of wine companies and big multinational companies, you really have to have a lot of tenacity. We've talked about unapologetic tenacity, because you're going to have to do things and know that people will say, "Well, it's not done like this."

You just have to figure out a way to get it done, and hopefully, not offend anybody. But I always tell people, "I don’t have enough patience and I have too much passion, but I can't apologize for my passion." So, I think the second lesson for us, which has kind of been our motto, is if you're trying to do things that are outside the norm, you have to have to go for it with unapologetic tenacity.

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