The reunion story of long-lost sisters Andrea and Robin McBride stems from exactly the person you’d imagine would be involved in such a tearjerker: Oprah.
“We grew up on opposite sides of the world, not knowing about each other, thinking that we were only children,” says Andrea, the younger sibling at 33.
It wasn’t until their shared father — they have different mothers — was close to passing away that he told family members of his daughters. Then the hunt began. “This is ’94, so no Google, no Facebook,” Andrea says. “One of [my dad’s] brothers came home from work one day and sat down to watch TV and an Oprah episode came on. She was featuring private detectives who knew how to find people who owe you money or how to find misplaced loved ones. So he took pen to paper and wrote down these instructions. It took about five years, and then Robin received a letter in the mail.”
The first time they met was at LaGuardia Airport in New York. “I thought I was looking in a mirror,” recalls Robin, who at the time lived in Atlanta and worked in marketing. “Then I realized it was my sister.”
In an effort to make up for lost time, Robin relocated to Monterey in California and Andrea attended the University of Southern California, where she could spend every other weekend with Robin — often over a glass of wine. “Coincidentally, we both grew up in wine regions,” says Andrea, who was raised in Marlborough, New Zealand, working on her uncle’s vineyard, while Robin, 42, grew up in Monterey.
“For me, wine was just part of the culture where I grew up, and as I got older, I started enjoying it like everybody enjoys wine,” says the elder McBride sister.
“My experience of being out in the elements — you know, super cold in the morning, super hot in the middle of the day, basically just laboring out there — it wasn’t enjoyable but I think definitely gave me a real appreciation for what goes into making wine,” Andrea says. “We would grow the grapes and harvest them, but then the winery would buy the grapes from us so you never really got to see the actual finished product. It wasn’t until later that I started drinking with my sister that it kind of came full circle.”
When Andrea was still a junior at USC, the entrepreneurial sisters started their first business — an import company bringing boutique New Zealand wines to the states. “We were super naive. We had really good products, but we didn’t know not to just walk into Wolfgang Puck and be like, ‘Hey! Buy this wine,’” Robin says. “We were pretty brazen, but we had super high-quality products.” Within three years, they were supplying more than 100 restaurants in California.
“It gave us great insight into the business of selling wine,” Andrea says. “People think about starting wine companies as quite a romantic idea, but you need to build a business plan, and that business plan has to filter back to what you’re going to grow, how you’re going to make the wine, how much you’re going to spend on barrels, different things like that.”
It also gave them access to consumers. “We could see who was being ignored — and it was definitely women and people of color,” Andrea continues.
With that in mind, they started EcoLove in 2010, a sustainable wine company sourcing grapes from vineyards within the Wairau, Waihopai and Nelson Valleys in New Zealand. They describe their wine, which under EcoLove includes a riesling, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir, as food-friendly, meaning they’re not overly tannic or extracted (which happens when the grapes are left on the vine for a long period of time so the sugar and alcohol contents are high). “It’s kind of a derogatory term with sommeliers, but we make cocktail wines,” Andrea says. “Our philosophy is that we’re all about balance, structure and elegance.”
Not wanting to be pigeonholed to the Pacific Southwest, in early 2015 they launched their second label, Truvée, using vineyards along the Central Coast of California. “Our generation is pretty promiscuous when it comes to wine drinking — you’re not going to stick to just one brand — and so our hope is when you want your New Zealand fix you come to us, and if you want the Central Coast of California, you can come to us for that, too,” Andrea says. This month, they’re introducing a rosé to the chardonnay and red blend they’re producing under Truvée (retail price hovers around $15 for all three). The pink beverage — easy, approachable, and much-loved by women — is representative of their overall view on winemaking.
“It’s an old boys club, for sure,” Robin says. “We definitely got second-guessed a lot,” adds Andrea. “You have to prove yourself more, I think, than you would if there was a guy sitting next to you. We have had to go above and beyond, but it hasn’t been a bad thing because I think with most makers, there’s a natural obsession that comes with what you make. It’s cool because we can sit back and people are like, ‘Oh, wow we’re surprised at the quality of your wines.’ Which is kind of a backhanded compliment.”
The McBride sisters aren’t bothered. Beginning this year, they’ll be offering wine seminars at various speaking engagements to educate fellow imbibers — without any of that “pretentious bulls–t,” Andrea says. “The initial attraction to wine for both of us was, if there’s wine around, it’s usually a fun, happy time. There’s no drama, just a good vibe.”
Styled by Sherri McMullen, Owner/Buyer of McMullen Boutique in Oakland, California.