These Long-Lost Sisters Are Navigating The Wine Industry As Black Women — & Winning

Sisters Andréa and Robin McBride are not your standard-issue winemakers. For starters, in an industry that's notoriously been dominated by white, older men, the fact that the aptly named McBride Sisters Wine is owned by two Black women is a welcome breath of fresh air. In addition to shattering preconceived notions of what major wine players look like, the sisters are also finding ways to foster other women in the wine industry through their hiring and philanthropic efforts — all in addition to making some truly great wine.
With mirrored passion for the industry, each McBride sister tackles different leading roles within the company: Andréa as CEO, Robin as President. At first, their story sounds easy to sum up as a traditional case of "runs in the family," but the sisters' journey has been anything but traditional. For starters? They were unaware of each other for nearly half their lives.
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Sharing a father, whom both were estranged from, the sisters were born and raised on completely opposite sides of the world by their individual mothers, living under the assumption that they were only children. But when their father’s family sought out to connect them nearly two decades later, the McBride sisters were reunited, and with open hearts and curious minds, they got to know one another. In the midst of swapping childhood stories and favorite home-cooked meals, the sisters quickly discovered a shared passion for wines and vineyard culture.
Today, Andréa and Robin are based in the San Francisco Bay Area (along with their business), though they clock in serious sister bonding hours traveling around the globe to meet distributors, hosting local wine tastings and wine dinners, checking in on harvest at all of their vineyards, and even teaching private wine education seminars for fellow female entrepreneurs looking to enter the industry. The wine-making siblings have paved a new way for women, especially Black women, in the industry with their story of discovery, fearlessness, and curiosity. 
Ahead, we caught up with them to find out more about how they met, how their business came about, how they landed national distribution with mega retailers like Target, and what it’s really like to be Black women entrepreneurs in the wine industry. 
The two of you have such a fascinating story — can you share how this journey of meeting came to be?
“We both grew up on completely separate sides of the world thinking we were only children. I [Andréa] was in New Zealand and Robin was in California. Our shared father, who we both did not grow up with, was diagnosed with a terminal illness, and his last wish to his family was to find and connect his two daughters. Then he passed away in 1996. They found me first in 1995 and then Robin in 1999. Coincidentally, I happened to be visiting our dad's family in Montgomery, Alabama during the holidays in '98/'99 when we found Robin who was living in Atlanta, Georgia. Shortly thereafter, we decided to meet and were united in 1999.
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What had you both been doing professionally prior to meeting? Was wine of interest to you individually?
“I was 16, so I was still in high school in New Zealand. Robin was in corporate America specializing in importation and exportation of goods around the world. When we first met, the questions started with, 'What was it like where you grew up?' Quickly we figured out we were both growing up in agriculture areas, upcoming wine regions, and had the ambition to be in the wine business. I decided to come back to the U.S. for university on an athletic scholarship to be closer to Robin...and that's when we started to hatch our plans. How we met was serendipitous and against all odds. Both growing up in wine regions was a crazy coincidence. The universe was telling us something, and we believe it was to chase our passions in the wine industry. So we decided to go for it!”
What does an average day look like at the McBride HQ?
“There isn't an average day. Depending on the time of year, it could be a mix of harvesting grapes in New Zealand or the Central Coast of California, blending wines, hosting wine events, meeting with our retailers, meeting with our distributors, and overall our ongoing obsession to help people on their wine journey that manifests in every single detail throughout our company.”   
What’s been one of the biggest challenges since starting the brand?
“Being an entrepreneur and starting something from square one, you are met with challenges on a daily basis, especially in the beginning. I think one of the biggest challenges is building a great team of talented people you can trust with your baby! They are out there — you just have to kiss a lot of frogs.”
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The wine industry is predominantly white and male and is often referred to as a boys’ club. How has being Black women entrepreneurs shaped your experience in the industry?
“I would say it's sharpened us into becoming the business women we are today. We have no choice nor the luxury of just being average in this business because we don't look like the ‘normal’ winemaker, owner, CEO, executive. Every single time we are at the table we have to bring it...and that's okay, because we come to SLAY!”
Do you feel like working together has made it easier to get to know one another?
“Yes, we learn something we didn't know about each other every day, and we're still catching up on the time we missed not growing up together. We both hold our relationship very close and dear to our hearts. We protect it ferociously.” 
You’re now in Target! Can you speak to your transition from a boutique producer and importer to becoming a national brand with wide distribution?
“A lot of blood, sweat, and tears...but worth every second of it! We've surrounded ourselves with amazing, smart, and passionate people who believe in our mission. It takes a village, and we have our village to thank for all that we have accomplished together.” 
What advice do you have for other women who might want to get into the wine industry? And for those who want to be entrepreneurs in general?
“Learn the business of your passion first. By that, we mean you could really LOVE wine, entertaining, the events, the scene, the vibe, but the business of producing that product, taking it to market, and selling it profitably is an entirely different world that is unseen and can be very difficult. To bridge this gap and help raise up women in the wine industry, Robin and I created the SHE CAN professional development scholarship fund that awards women with scholarships to support their professional development in the wine industry. In 2019, we awarded more than $37,000 in scholarships. Applications for 2020 open March 8, International Women's Day.”
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What’s next for you two, through the holidays and beyond?
“Right now, we're truly embracing the spirit of the holiday season and love seeing so many of our customers gifting our wine-club memberships to their vino-loving family and friends. In 2020, we have an amazing lineup of wine events we will be doing around the country. We are pushing the envelope and turning a boring old wine tasting into something new and fresh.”
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