How 2 Long-Lost Sisters Went Into the Wine Business Together
Sisters Andréa and Robin McBride share DNA, but they found their way into the wine industry via wildly different paths: The two women didn't know each other growing up—they didn't even live on the same continent. Robin was raised in California, and Andrea grew up in Marlborough, New Zealand. For a long time, neither even knew the other existed. (They share a father but have different mothers.) But following their father’s last wish, and with the help of information provided by their extended family, the two finally found each other, and connected in New York City in 1999.
Coincidentally, Andréa and Robin both grew up in excellent winemaking regions and they both had winemaking backgrounds—so it felt natural for them to launch their own wine company together. "Once we met, it felt like the universe was on our side by bringing us together and we felt unstoppable!" they said in an email interview. They released their first wine on the eco.love label in 2010. Now, with several years and another label, Truvée, under their belt, the women, both currently based in the Bay Area, told FWx how they make their wines, what inspires them, and what it's like to work with your sister.
What inspired you to create your own wine company?
Andréa & Robin: Independently of each other, we both grew up in beautiful wine regions more than 7,000 miles apart, in California and New Zealand. Once we finally met and discovered we both had a passion for wine, we felt we were destined to become vintners together–it seemed like the stars had aligned. So we made a plan to make it happen! We started in the industry first with a wine import business, and later created The McBride Sisters wine company, through which we launched our two wine brands: eco.love from New Zealand and more recently Truvée from the Central Coast of California.
How do you select the grapes for your wines?
Andréa: It all comes down to the style of wine we are trying to make and the quality of the land. Our Central Coast Chardonnay has great nectarine, golden pear and green apple flavors that you only find in the Edna Valley. To get those flavors we pick grapes that have had good exposure to the sun. The green apple flavors are from grapes that have had less exposure to the sun because they've been protected by the shade of the leaves. It’s a bit of mix and match when it comes to making harvesting decisions.
Robin: For the selection of grapes for our Truvée Red Blend in the Central Coast of California, it was love at first taste. It's a blend of Grenache and Syrah, and this Grenache vineyard is amazing, nearly 100 years old, with what we call "head trained" vines–they grow wild and free, with no wires or wood posts like most vineyards you'll see today. Because the vines are so old, they focus all their energy into grapes (instead of the leaves) and the result is the most incredible blend of raspberry and cherry fruit flavors that makes this wine really amazing. The Syrah in this blend comes from a very unique area called Chalone: it's 1,800 feet above sea level and the vines are grown in limestone soils. Thanks to the unique soil in Chalone, these grapes produce the most wonderful black plum, blackberry and earthy flavors.
How have your backgrounds influenced your winemaking?
Andréa: I was introduced to the wine industry through grape farming with my uncle in Marlborough, New Zealand when I was a child. Not glamorous and it was really hard work! From a young age I was heavily influenced by sustainable farming, flavor farming and the purity of fruit.
Robin: Growing up in Monterey, sustainability was a big thing–it’s a common connection Andréa and I have, and you see this today in all of the wines we make. Also, as young women in a traditionally male-dominated business, we have a unique perspective. We really believe in the style of wines we make together and we're not afraid to take risks, go against the grain, re-mix the traditional and do something different. I guess that explains why we make wine in different countries... because, well, why not?
Was it difficult for you to break into the wine industry?
Andréa & Robin: Wine is a boys club. We've had to kick through some ceilings, but we hope it makes it a little easier for all the other women behind us that want to be in the wine business.
What's the best part about working with your sister?
Andréa: We speak the same creative language, and our business is our lifestyle. We get to travel the world looking for great vineyards, making amazing wine, eating amazing food, throwing awesome parties and meeting interesting people along the way. What's better than that?
Any big plans for the future of the McBride Sisters?
Andréa: We're traveling a lot this summer looking at new regions and vineyards where we might want to make wine–and we're always open to suggestions on what we should make next!