Upstart Winemakers The McBride Sisters Drop Their First Collection of Premium Wines

Robin McBride and Andréa McBride John’s story is remarkable even before one learns that together they have created the largest Black-and-women-owned wine company in the United States. They grew up 7,000 miles apart, in Monterey, California and New Zealand (the sisters include the country’s indigenous name as well, referring to it as Aotearoa New Zealand), unaware of each other’s existence. A few years after meeting for the first time in 1999, they spent time together in California, discovered they shared a mutual passion for wine, and founded three brands: Black Girl Magic, an accessible label from California, She Can Wines and Spritzers, a collection of affordable canned wine and spritzers, and McBride Sisters Collection, featuring wines from New Zealand and California’s Central Coast. While most of the wines the sisters have produced to date have been at the entry level of the price spectrum, they’ve just moved to the next level with the introduction of the McBride Sisters Collection Reserve Wines has them dipping into single-vineyard releases.

The first three releases in the new collection are Reserve Papatūānuku 2019 Pinot Noir from Central Otago a wine region on the New Zealand’s southern island; Reserve Cocky Motherf*cker 2021 Pinot Noir, sourced from select rows in the Escolle Vineyard in California’s Santa Lucia Highlands; and Reserve Rebels 2021 Gamay, which hails from a single vineyard in Bannockburn, another Central Otago sub-region. Quite a large step up from the Black Girl Magic wines, which sell for around $20, the three new bottlings retail for $70.

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There are also two white wines in the lineup, The Great Escape Chardonnay from Santa Lucia Highlands and a Rhône-style white blend from Paso Robles. Quantities are extremely limited, with only 3,000 bottles each of the Cocky Motherf*cker and Great Escape made, 1,800 each of Papatūānuku, and the white blend, which is named “Abalone or Pāua?”, and just 600 of the Gamay. One thousand bottles of a sparkling wine, Golden Spiral Méthode Traditionnelle Blanc de Blancs from the Santa Lucia Highlands will be available in time for the holiday season. Andréa tells Robb Report, “We love bubbles! This one is three years in the making.”

The Rebels Gamay and Papatūānuku Pinot Noir
The Rebels Gamay and Papatūānuku Pinot Noir

While many brands start with a single high-end wine and then release a second, more affordable label in order to capture additional market share, the sisters decided to reverse the process, because, as Robin explains, “We understand that people have different tastes and different moods and occasions to celebrate. That’s why we have three core wine brands within our portfolio, each of which was created with different consumer moments in mind.” She continues, “We aren’t looking for folks to ‘trade up’ necessarily. Rather, we hope both existing and new customers expand their palates to experience new wines from some incredibly special small lot vineyards, from the most unique and outstanding places where we grew up.”

While Gamay, the main grape of Beaujolais, is an unusual choice, the McBride Sisters Collection 2021 Reserve Rebels Gamay showcases the best aspects of the variety. It offers a heady bouquet of raspberry, red plum and lavender that sets the stage for a sheath of polished tannins encasing raspberry, pomegranate, clove, and freshly ground black pepper flavors that linger on the palate. According to the sisters, Gamay makes up less than one percent of the grapes grown in Central Otago, so this wine is an ode to those who rebel against the status quo. “Gamay is not a popular variety grown in Aotearoa New Zealand, but we think it should be. Gamay enjoys the same growing environment as the Pinot Noir in the Central Otago region,” Andrea says. “Situated on the 45th latitude South, Central Otago is the geographic counterpart to the world’s top Pinot Noir regions: Burgundy and Oregon. We love light to medium body red wines and Gamay fits this profile perfectly.”

In addition to being grown an ocean apart and in two different hemispheres, their two Pinot Noirs are very different stylistically, which is reflected in their names. Cocky Motherf*cker is named for the sisters’ father. “Cocky Motherf*cker pays tribute to our late father’s legacy,” she says. “It stands for his presence, stature, intellect, and overall give-no-f*cks attitude. He was elegantly confident, just like our Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir. Not unlike the peacock you see on the label and the peacock you will find in the McBride Sisters Collection family crest, which is representative of him.”

The new Reserve lineup
The new Reserve lineup

On the other hand Papatūānuku is the Maori earth mother; Robin points out, “Papatūānuku is an ode to the Māori culture and its respect for the earth and the feminine energy that creates this wine’s earthy and floral character. Andréa grew up in and was influenced by Māori culture; it informs a lot of who she is as a person and how she views the world.” She states that both Pinot Noirs are “…sourced from hand-selected rows in small-lot vineyards from world-class winemaking regions where Andréa and I grew up. Both wines tell an important story from different and pivotal moments of our lives and reflect our winemaking philosophy of expressing the area where the grapes are grown without manipulating the profiles.”

McBride Sisters Collection 2020 Reserve Papatūānuku Pinot Noir has a nose of raspberry, purple plum, cedar chest, clove, and a touch of nutmeg. It is soft in the mouth, with polished tannins and flavors of black and red fruits of the wood, purple flowers and a touch of graphite that lingers into the smooth finish. McBride Sisters Collection 2021 Cocky Motherf*cker Pinot Noir offers bold aromas of cherry preserves, strawberry, and candied orange peel. Velvety tannins and vivid acidity provide a backdrop for black cherry, pomegranate, and dried Mediterranean herb flavors. A note of Turkish delight appears near the finish and lingers on the tongue. As Robin McBride points out, “It’s fun tasting them side by side; [they are] similar, but very different!”

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