Since its inception in 2005, the McBride Sisters Wine Company has grown to be the most prominent Black-owned wine business in the United States. With less than one percent of the vineyards in America being Black-owned, the sister duo offers a refreshing and necessary splash to the industry. “The most powerful aspect of our business is connecting with folks globally and building community,” says Robin McBride, co-founder of one of the largest Black-owned wine companies in the world.
As the brand matures, it stays true to its founding values while leaving room for necessary innovation and tenacity. The wine connoisseurs illustrate that growth is obsolete without caring for others and instilling time for reflection.
Cultivating Community One Glass at a Time
Every McBride Sisters product involves a meticulous process to yield enticing sips for oenophiles and wine newbies. However, the self-taught experts and long-lost sisters’ dedication allowed the two to enter and dominate the wine market.
As an emergent household name, the stunning bottles and cans are hard to miss on mainstream shelves where wine and spirits are sold. Yet, despite these successes, while breaking into competitive retail spaces is a priority, implementing social impact programs also holds precedence.
“If this industry does not begin to meet its consumer and reflect its consumer, it's doomed,” says Robin. The McBride Sisters' admirers extend global territories. Despite this, they intentionally focus on Black communities. When developing their legacy, the sisters had ulterior motives to include Black people in an industry that traditionally excludes them. There is a lack of Black-owned vineyards, winemakers, sommeliers, culturally appropriate bottles, wine media, and even beverage events.
Despite the lack of Black inclusivity in the industry, the McBride Sisters rejected this seemingly arduous task of creating belonging. From scholarship programs to book clubs, the company intentionally creates opportunities to support the folks that support them.
One partnership the sisters pride themselves on is a viticulture program they helped develop and support at the HBCU, Southern University – A&M College. Robin, the oldest sister, reminisces that the viticulture program started with only six participants and then, within one year, grew to a program encompassing over 130 students.
She also eagerly shares, “It was so crazy. I get goosebumps whenever I think about it. The school even hired a winemaker to support the program because it had grown in such a short period.”
For the maturing brand, they are hoping to cultivate a broader movement of Black people having a platform and opportunity in the food system. This work is intergenerational, as their programs impact current Black leaders in the food and beverage industry and the emerging ones.
Being Intentional About Care and Reflection
With growth, the dangers of burnout for founders are daunting. “In a fast-paced and high-growth company, you keep pushing forward and sometimes don't take moments to think about the day or week before you go on to the next 40 items on your to-do list that are already behind schedule. “So we try our best to stay in the moment and recognize the small and large joys,” reflects Robin.
The co-founder's personal preferences for care include participating in spa-esque activities to wind down. But what stood out was the collective care they internally prioritize as a business. For example, they purchase mindfulness app subscriptions for their entire team. Other instances involve implementing “wine down” meetings for their staff that involve sharing reflections and tasting different wines.
Furthermore, when asked how the two sisters navigate their relationship, Robin says they implement nightly check-ins. “We get on together and download because we are very much dividing and conquering right now. We're splitting our workload, but each of us needs to be able to communicate what's happened exactly during the day. Also, it's our chance to talk about how things transpired that day in a safe space,” shares the business owner.
As the expansion continues, in the spring of 2022, the McBride Sisters released their collection of Reserve Wines. The luxury, single-vineyard bottles from California and New Zealand are an ode to the two sisters’ identities.
The dynamic duo worked with artists to develop customized art pieces to grace the bottles. Each piece of art has a special connection to the sisters. “We have a depiction of the two black sheep sitting on a bed of flowers. And each black sheep has a hairstyle similar to how my sister and I wear our hair individually. It depicts us coming together in business, even though we're outcasts. But the two of us together are very powerful,” shares Robin.
The people-first brand is becoming a highly sought drink. As a result, they prioritized selling the Reserve Collection to Black-owned wineries and restaurants to avoid becoming inaccessible. “There's not much of the Reserve Wine to go around, so we just want to be intentional about who has access to it,” says Robin as she discusses prioritizing Black establishments for distribution.
With growth, the largest Black-owned wine establishment remains dedicated to those who made it possible with Robin sharing, “Our business wouldn't be where it is without the support of people. People who just are looking for something different in the wine industry.”