United by tragedy, these long lost sisters have built the largest Black-owned wine company in the United States

BY Preta Peace Namasaba March 16, 2024 10:46 AM EDT
Andréa and Robin McBride. Photo credit: McBride Sisters

Growing up 7,000 miles apart, sisters Andréa and Robin McBride had no idea the other one existed for the first half of their lives. They were united by tragedy and discovered their mutual love for winemaking. Together, the long-lost sisters have built the largest Black-owned wine company in the United States.

It all began with a note.

The McBrides shared a biological father, Kelly McBride, and had different mothers. Andréa grew up in New Zealand with her mother who was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and later passed away. From the age of six, she was raised by an uncle and placed with a foster family. Robin on the other hand was raised by her mother more than 6,500 miles away in Monterey, California. Although their father hadn’t been around for most of their lives, he asked his family to try and connect the two girls before he died of stomach cancer in 1996. They were in touch with Andréa but were clueless about Robin’s whereabouts. With no Facebook and Google searches, the search was bound to be tough.

“We didn’t know about each other at all when we were growing up. Both of us were growing up thinking we were only children– completely, you know, opposite ends of the Pacific Ocean,” Robin said about her journey connecting with her sister.

The solution turned out to be in an ‘Oprah’ episode featuring private detectives. The family followed the show’s recommendation and pulled the records of every Robin McBride listed at the Department of Motor Vehicles. They wrote dozens of letters and Robin finally received a note from her aunt in 1999. Only 16 at the time, she was shocked but also excited by the prospect of having an older sister.

In 1999, Andrea and Robin met in New York’s LaGuardia Airport – one day after the latter received the letter. The two discovered a shared passion for making wine as they got to know one another. Although they had grown up on opposite sides of the world, both sisters were raised in agricultural areas that were world-class winemaking regions. Andrea and Robin decided that they wanted to be in the wine industry. Neither had previous experience in the industry.

“We united in 1999 and it became clear to us that despite the fact that we grew up on opposite sides of the world we shared an appreciation for wine and were closely tied to the wine regions that we grew up in. We were confident that we were destined to do something together in wine, and within a few short years, we created our first wine company as importers which led us to bottle our first wines in 2010,” the McBride sisters told Forbes.

The sisters quickly solved the most fundamental problems – how to make wine and funding. They researched and found out that obtaining a federal import license costs $1,700. But first, Andrea and Robin had to learn the business of wine. They went down to New Zealand and convinced some growers and families that they could help develop and grow their wines and brands in California. Consequently, the McBrides first joint venture was a wine import business, importing unique New Zealand wines into the US Market.

Andrea and Robin founded the McBride Sisters Wine Company in 2010. Having engaged with every single component and decision – from the vineyard through to the shelf – the sisters were prepared to break the mold of the male-dominated and predominately white wine business. Their signature style, a blend of old-world elegance with new-world finesse expresses each of the places the sisters grew up in. Affordability, environmental protection and sustainable farming are at the forefront of their winemaking practices.

Over the years, McBride Sisters Wine Company has grown into the largest Black-owned wine company by volume. The McBride Sisters Collection launched in more than 1,500 retail locations nationwide and the company sold 35,000 cases of wine at retail outlets in 2022. Last year, the sisters acquired a 12-acre property in Carneros containing a 1920s-era farmhouse, guest houses, equestrian stables, tennis and basketball courts, and a pool to house their operations.

But for the McBrides, success is not just about selling wine. Andrea and Robin have assembled a team that is 80 percent women, including their head winemaker and vineyard director. They are creating a sisterhood among their staff because it is this quality that makes their own story exceptional. In 2019, the McBride Sisters launched the SHE CAN Fund to promote the professional advancement of women in the wine industry to eliminate the gender and ethnic gap.