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Andréa McBride
 
April 27, 2021 | Andréa McBride

Celebrating African Diaspora Cuisine

Food and wine tell a story. They allow us to document and experience culture across generations and help us honor where we came from. We celebrate Black History always (long after February), and want to continue tracing our roots along the African Diaspora, highlighting the powerful influences that these routes of migration have had on culture and society today. Robin and I are drawing from as many sources as we can find (e.g. books, experts in the category, people we know, the inna net) to guide and shape these pieces of the puzzle through the diaspora. If we get it wrong, we’re sure you’ll let us know. But we’re hoping we get this right and can share what we find and what we learn so we can educate, celebrate and cultivate community, one delicious glass of wine at a time!  

From the smallest migration region of Mozambique in Southeast Africa to the largest migration origin of the Republic of Congo and Nigeria in West Central Africa, our African ancestors come from a diverse continent with subregions, each with their own culture, cuisine, languages and more.

Every country in Africa is distinct, with its own traditions, flavors and methods of preparing food. Each of these countries have their own occasion and moods. We will explore through our evolved definition of terroir (eco-system, tradition & culture), starting our journey of tracing our roots along the diaspora in Central Africa, exploring culinary influences and cuisine along the way, and of course pairing our wines to match the food and mood. 

Source: A map of Central Africa | © Peter Fitzgerald / WikiCommons 
 

Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Along the Western coast of Central Africa, bordering each other are the Republic of Congo (also referred to as Congo-Brazzaville) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (also known as Congo-Kinshasa). The Republic of Congo was colonized by the French, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo was colonized by Belgium. Both countries gained independence around 1960, and use French as one of their official languages, but according to The Culture Trip, both still maintain many other subregional languages and cultures throughout. Even in recent history, colonization and wars have made life extremely difficult for the Congolese. Despite these challenging & traumatic times, we want to educate and highlight the beauty and Black Joy that can be found in these countries, regions and cultures. 

Democratic Republic of the Congo - Image Source: Journeys By Design

 

The Food: Saka-Saka

A vibrant, mostly plant-based diet is common here, and consists primarily of vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, and often seafood. Congolese cuisine is grounded in strong roots that date back 80,000 years, mixed with French and Belgian influence following colonization. Saka-saka is the Congolese word for cassava leaf and is the namesake of this simple yet delicious dish that is a staple in the Republic of Congo and the Democatic Republic of the Congo. 

Because we don’t have Cassava leaf available locally (it can be found in the ground-up form in African and Filipino food shops), we substituted for a mixture of kale, collards, turnip greens and spinach, and then we added shrimp and paired with our Black Girl Magic Sparkling Brut.

(Side note: This dish tastes even better on Day 2!) 

Shredding the greens up reminded us of cooking with our Aunty Annie May in her kitchen in Camden, Alabama. My mind made the instant connection to her collard greens and ham, passed down to her from our grandpa who loved to cook. I wonder if Saka-Saka had evolved from Africa throughout the Diaspora to the United States in the form of how we prepare Collard Greens today? 

Image & Recipe from @ImmaculatebitesShop the Wine Pairing: Black Girl Magic Sparkling Brut

The Mood: The Congolese Birds of Paradise

Source: CNN Photo Courtesy of Daniele Tamagni
 

Le Sape ("Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes" - the Society of Ambiance-Makers and Elegant People) also known as the Sapeurs and Sapeuseare are what would be described as Congolese Dandies. According to Condé Nast Traveler, the aristocratic superiority of one’s mind is the symbol of the Congolese Dandy. In Brazzaville and Kinshasa, their appearance is STRIKING in the context of the living conditions of many Congolese. Those conditions were a result of wars that decimated their economy for many years. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around tailored designer clothing in this context, so I had to dig in and learn more. In reading, the topic is very controversial. The French word Saper means to dress up or to undermine. This Congolese Dandy phenomenon can be traced historically to the 1920s when young African men began to combat the racist attitudes of their masters by rejecting the second-hand clothes they were often given instead of wages. Instead, they took the style of the colonial overseers, exaggerated it with beautiful bold colors and prints and made it their own.

"A group of sapeur women strike a pose during a sapeur event in Brazzaville"
Source: OZY - Photographs by Victoire Douniama

Badouin Mouanda, a member of the Congolese Photography Collective shared his insight in a fascinating interview with Marion Nur Gonde in Africultures:

“I realized that S.A.P.E. played a very important role in Brazzaville in 1998-1999, after the civil war. There wasn’t anything left to do in town; everything was shut down. The sapeurs recreated the atmosphere that is part of Congolese day-to-day life. For the traumatized population, the attraction of the sapeurs was to show that you had to have hope. Their message was, “We didn’t get dressed up to stay at home! We have been spared by the hostilities and we are lucky to be alive. There’s no point in fighting; We can talk and take each other by the hand”. The sapeurs often advocate this peaceful message. That’s why I, as a photographer, wanted to follow them. Images travel and spread messages. I want to show that a joyful Africa exists.”

Inspired by the Sapeurs and Sapeuseare, we’ve crafted and paired an after-dinner drink to meet this occasion and here’s why. Our Black Girl Magic Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon Red Blend from California is inspired by the great Red Blends, found in the right bank of Bordeaux, France, but remixed by us with our New World expression. We are then going to pair this with Grand Marnier, which is a mix of Cognac (which is a spirit made from wine grapes in France) and Orange liqueur and make a beautiful Sisters Grand Sangria Rouge. We feel like this will complete your after-dinner mood, topped off with a playlist from the artist Fally Ipupa (check out his hits on YouTube)!

The Recipes

Saka-Saka (Cassava Leaf Soup) 

Check out Immaculate Bites for more incredible recipes by Imma here via africanbites.com

Ingredients 

3 lbs cassava greens (or feuilles de manioc), or substitute kale, collards, turnip greens, spinach, or similar, stems removed, cleaned, and cut or torn into pieces
1 pound beef cut in bite size pieces
½ pound smoked chicken, turkey, or fish
½ - 1 pound of shrimp (optional)
3 tbsp red palm oil, Moambé Sauce, or any cooking oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup ground crayfish or dried shrimps
4-5 tablespoon ground groundnuts or peanut butter puree
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon 
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper optional
Salt and pepper to taste
 

Steps

  1. In a large saucepan, season meat with salt, chicken bouillon and onions and boil until tender, depending on the choice of meat. You should have at least 1-2 cups of stock. Remove the meat and beef stock, reserve.
  2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add onions and crayfish and sauté until fragrant for about 1-2 minutes. Add beef and or / smoked meat 
  3. Stir in peanut butter or groundnut paste, then add stock about a cup cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Throw in the drained cassava leaves and continue cooking for about 5 more minutes.
  5. Finally add shrimp (if using) - cook until shrimp turns pink about 3-5 minutes
  6. Adjust seasonings (chicken bouillon, salt, soup consistency with water and oil) to taste
  7. Serve warm over rice

 

Sisters Grand Sangria Rouge

 

Ingredients
 

Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
1 bottle of our McBride Sisters Collection Black Girl Magic Zinfandel (or Red Blend - available in store)
2 ripe Oranges
1 bottle lemon-lime Club Soda
Ice

Steps

  1. Fill your glass with ice
  2. Add in 1.5 oz Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
  3. 3 oz Black Girl Magic Zinfandel (Or Red Blend)
  4. 2 oz fresh squeezed Orange Juice 
  5. 2 oz lemon-lime Club Soda
  6. Mix well, serve immediately 

 

 

Xoxo,

 

 

Time Posted: Apr 27, 2021 at 8:00 AM Permalink to Celebrating African Diaspora Cuisine Permalink
Robin McBride
 
April 27, 2021 | Robin McBride

Best Red Wine Selection & Pairing Guide | McBride Sisters

We're Feelin' Bold & Boujie

We'll enjoy a great glass of red wine all year round. From a medium-bodied silky Merlot to a full-bodied, rich Zinfandel, we love pairing a glass with a meal on our Wine Wednesday, or as an end-of-the-week wine down. When we have a glass of red wine in hand, we feel bold and boujie — spice up your palate with our all Red Wines set here to taste the differences between the wines & find your favorite red varietal. This wine set with set the mood and it includes our Merlot and Zinfandel - two online exclusive wines that you can only get on the website. Hurry before they're gone!

Apart from being a delicious drink, red wine is said to also have a range of health benefits, with studies finding that the red elixir is not only heart healthy, but it may also help you live longer, and boost your brain function. We’ve also read that red wine can also help you from getting sick. According to a study conducted by the University of Auckland, the antioxidants contained in red wine can reduce the chance of catching a cold. Sign us up!

Aside from all the amazing benefits and taste, how do you decide which red wine is right for you, and what food should you pair it with? We’re here to share the difference between some of the popular red wine varieties, a couple of must-try red wine recipes, and the best food to pair with each. Check out our red wine guide on the best way to maximize each wine. Salut! 

The Red Wines to Know

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted red grape in the world, and for good reason. The wine is derived from a special kind kind of grape, a hybrid of a red Cabernet Franc grape and a white Sauvignon Blanc grape, which first occured in Bordeaux region of France. The dark, full bodied red wine is more on the juicy side and typically is drank alongside food, due to its heavier nature. In some regions, this wine is heavily oaked, giving it a coconut, nutty and vanilla profile.

Food pairings: Cab Sauv pairs well with other heavier dishes, such as red meats or pasta dishes with creamy red sauces. For a cheese pairing look to aromatic types such as blue cheese or camembert. 

Try pairing our McBride Sisters Collection 2018 Central Coast California Red Blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with a ribeye or sirloin steak or a roast or grilled lamb. For non-meat eaters try pairing with a juicy stuffed portobello mushroom recipe. Available in our Bold & Boujie set here. 

Merlot

Known for its soft, sensual texture, one of the world's close second favorite red wine (after Cab Sauv) is extremely food friendly and produced for a range of price points. The easy-drinking red has an approachable style that makes it great for those new to red wine. With notes of chocolate and plum, this smooth and velvety medium-bodied red wine has a versatility that makes it perfect both on its own and in blends.

Food pairings: Merlot matches well with a wide range of foods due to its medium-bodied nature. Typically, Merlot pairs well with light meats such as chicken or lightly spiced darker meats.

We are all about the Merlot here, our online-only McBride Sisters Collection Black Girl Magic 2018 California Merlot is a must-try for red wine lovers and can only be ordered online. Our McBride Sisters Collection 2018 Central Coast California Red Blend is also going to be the perfect red blend to try featuring Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon. Try both in our red wines bundle here. 

Zinfandel

The late-ripening red Zinfandel wine produces a jammy flavor bursting with fruity aromas of blackberry, cherry, plums, black pepper, and cinnamon with varying levels of oak. A fuller-bodied wine that is high in alcohol content, Zinfandel is known for its fruity meets spicy kick with a smoky body. Previously known as California’s grape, it used to be made in a sweeter wine style but is now grown all over the west coast and internationally as well produced in a more dry style.

Food pairings: Due to its unique flavor profile, Zinfandel pairs well with pizza, cheese lasagne, or any other dishes with tart sauces or cheese. It would also pair well with BBQ meat dishes (think juicy ribs) or even a spicy curry. Try any of these dishes with our online exclusive McBride Sisters Collection Black Girl Magic 2018 California Zinfandel. Taste our full red wine selection here. 

Shiraz/Syrah

Shiraz/Syrah (they’re the same!) produce a dark, heavy-bodied wine that can be peppery, spicy, and bold. With notes of darker fruits such as blackberries and plums, this dry wine has a high level of tannins, which means it can have a high level of health-benefiting antioxidants.

Food pairings: In addition to pairing well with any bold foods, this is one of the rare wines that can also pair perfectly with spicy foods and will actually help enhance the spices in the dish. Alternatively, try balancing out the heavier taste with a charcuterie board containing a range of cheeses to bring out the subtle nuances in the wine. 

Malbec

Similar in flavor profile to Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec is an easy-drinking wine that has its origins in France but is now primarily produced in Argentina. The fruit-driven wine has plum and cherry flavors that meet hints of vanilla and tobacco.

Food pairings: Malbec pairs well with lean cuts of meat, such as lamb or sirloin. 

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a popular light-bodied red wine native to Burgundy, France, that is known for its flower and spice aromas which are complemented by a smooth finish. Despite being notoriously difficult to grow, the internationally produced wine is one of the few fruits that is often made into red, rosé, white, and sparkling wine. Typical flavors of a French Pinot Noir will be mushroom, cherry, potting soil, and rose.

Food pairings: Due to its light body and complex structure, Pinot Noir pairs well with most foods. A fruitier Pinot may pair well with a roasted salmon dish or another fatty fish, while a more tannic Pinot can pair well with heavier game such as duck or with a beef stew. 

Have you been enjoying our wine guides? If you're hoping to learn more about the wines you drink, join our McBride Certified Wine 101 community for a wine course to learn all things wine, winemaking, and wine tasting to give you the tools to feel comfortable in any situation. 


 

Xoxo,

Time Posted: Apr 27, 2021 at 7:00 AM Permalink to Best Red Wine Selection & Pairing Guide | McBride Sisters Permalink
Andréa McBride
 
April 22, 2021 | Andréa McBride

The Can Queens

When Robin and I launched SHE CAN Canned Wines, we scoured the canned wine landscape and Archer Roose stood out above the rest. It might have been their logo of a woman riding a moose, or the fact that they also make an imported Southern Hemisphere Sauvignon Blanc (but from Chile) or the bad-ass leadership of CEO & Co-Founder Marian Leitner-Waldman. Not only were we both creating wines from regions that are close to our hearts, we were doing it in a can.

Archer Roose’s tagline is “Worldly Wines for the Curious” and their wines are from vineyards as far-flung as Argentina and Greece. We applaud Marian’s fierce commitment to quality wine in a sustainable package.

We’re chatting with Marian about her perspective on the wine industry and exploring the similarities and differences between her Chilean Sauvingon Blanc and our New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. We’re bringing you bottle quality wines from international regions with the convenience of a can for your next get-together.

Check out our interview and happy hour chat with Marian on Facebook here, featuring both of our Sauvignon Blanc wines in a can & the best moods or foods to pair them with. 

Meet Marian Leitner-Waldman

Andréa: What would you most like to change about the wine industry?

Marian: Customer centricity. So much of what we are told to like and how we are told to enjoy it is driven by a small group of people. But wine, like all foods, is subjective. I want people to feel empowered and WELCOMED into wine, to explore great wines from around the world and describe how they like them. By doing this, we create a more inclusive and fun industry!

Andréa: Spring is here. When the pandemic subsides, who are you raising your first glass with and why? 

Marian: My girlfriends. So much has happened to us in this past year that we couldn't celebrate together: babies were born, puppies adopted, master's degrees obtained and new companies launched. I have missed drinking too much wine with them and having the heart-to-hearts that can only happen when you're in the same room, feeling the love and support of people you know have your back. I have missed them so much.

Andréa: Tell us about the mentors and those who inspired you on your path.  

Marian: I am so lucky to stand on the shoulders of many incredible women. My grandmother was a fiercely intelligent woman who taught me the power of imagination. My mother taught me that kindness and thoughtfulness can be a powerful legacy. My aunts are badass working mothers who dominated in their fields but always made time for their "chicks" even when I am sure they were exhausted. And my sisters and blood sisters show me time and time again that success is not about personal achievements, but carrying others as you climb. This is how you can combat the loneliness at the top - and ensure someone else has your back when you get there!

Andrea: What is the story behind the name, Archer Roose?

Marian: A rebel and boundary breaker, Archer Roose travels the world living by her own rules. With boundless curiosity, she explores far flung wine regions. Our portfolio of worldly wines tells the stories of the places she visited on her travels. And our logo - her portrait riding her moose - reminds us that adventures, like wine, should be a little whimsical.

Andréa: What advice would you give to women who want to pursue nontraditional careers that combine their work and passions? 

Marian: The single most important quality to success is grit. Be prepared for the marathon ahead but know that the peaks will be the highest high you've ever known.

Andréa: What are you most excited about in your work right now? 

Marian: The team we are building. I am in such awe of the amazing womxn (and mxn!) that I get to work with every day.

Andréa: Which wine varieties or styles are most often on your table? Do you have a favorite MSC wine, and a recipe, cuisine or mood to pair with it? 

Marian: I love the SheCan SauvyB! Perfect pairing for wine walks with friends :)


Thanks for joining us as we chat all things Sauvignon Blanc & how we came to have these delicious wines from the Southern Hemisphere. Shop SHE CAN Wines on our website here and Archer Roose Wines here. 

 

Xoxo,

 

Time Posted: Apr 22, 2021 at 5:00 AM Permalink to The Can Queens Permalink
Andréa McBride
 
April 12, 2021 | Andréa McBride

A Trip Through New Zealand Harvest

We’re heading to the Southern Hemisphere on the blog this month. We love to take you to one side of the world for a glass of deliciousness and then bring you back to California from time to time

 

As you likely know, the seasons are flipped, so while we just entered Spring here in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s Fall for our winemaking team in New Zealand. Harvesting grapes, or picking the fruit, is the first and most important step of the winemaking process. Whether you’re hand picking or machine harvesting, it takes time, patience and a little bit of intuition. Knowing when to pick the fruit isn’t an exact science — it requires measuring the level of sugar in the grapes (this is called brix) and some degree of gut feeling to know when the grapes are ready, which is usually based on taste.

Our Assistant Winemaker Diana Hawkins is based in New Zealand (you may remember her from our Women’s History Month feature - read it here). We are going to get to see harvest through her eyes. It’s not too often that you get the chance to go behind the scenes with the women at work in the vineyards and winery. But that’s just what we do. Break the rules. Drink the wine.

Winemaking in New Zealand is an art that spans across 10 main wine regions. Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough and Central Otago are areas which all attract a significant amount of wine tourism due to their international reputation for producing excellent wines, and they are where we make our wines at McBride Sisters. 

  

Map Source: Wine Traveler

The McBride Sisters Collection Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc comes from the top of the South Island in Marlborough and the McBride Sisters Collection Sparkling Brut Rosé (available in store only) comes from the Hawke's Bay region in the North Island.

Now let’s catch up with Diana as she heads to Hawke’s Bay for harvest of our McBride Sisters Collection Sparkling Brut Rosé this year. 

Hawke's Bay

Located on the North Island, Hawke’s Bay is New Zealand’s oldest wine region, with the first plantings of vineyards dating back to the 1850s. It is also the second-largest wine region, with production reaching approximately 41,000 tonnes of fruit in 2018 which is approximately 41 million bottles of wine, according to New Zealand Winegrower’s Annual Report. The temperate climate and excess sunshine, which is moderated by the region's proximity to the sea, make it the perfect area for fruit-growing. 

Source: Audley Travel

The Drive Down

Diana: “The drive down to Hawke’s Bay was stunning, with winding mountain roads and breath-taking views. It’s tucked between the Kaweka and Ruahine ranges and the Pacific Ocean. Like most of New Zealand, the region is geologically active. It borders a geothermal power plant and isn’t far from Lake Taupō, which is, technically speaking, atop a dormant volcano.

When you come down the mountains, the coast finally comes into view. Then, in the blink of an eye, you’re out of the hills and surrounded by vineyards and orchards. Hawke’s Bay is known as the fruit basket of New Zealand. With ample sunshine and warm summer days, fruits and veggies grow abundantly here, including grapevines. Between the farm-fresh produce and award-winning wines, it’s a foodie’s paradise. 

After settling in, I checked out the towns of Hastings and Napier. In 1931, Napier and parts of Hastings were razed to the ground after a 7.8 earthquake. The quake also changed the entire layout of the area, raising some coastal areas by almost 6 feet and turning them into dry land.  When the towns rebuilt, they did so in an Art Deco style. To this day, Napier embraces that era with 1920s themed shops and attractions.” 

We’re Off To The Races

Diana: “The next morning, I joined the team at the winery to get to know some of the vintage (another word for harvest) crew. The first fruit was Pinot Noir from the Twin Rivers vineyard in Te Awanga. The fruit was picked in the vineyard and delivered to us in the winery. We’re working with Pinot Noir grapes first to make our Sparkling Brut Rose. These grapes are picked earlier than other varietals because sparkling wine grapes are picked for flavor and acidity.”

Pinot Noir Vineyards in Hawke's Bay are in blue & pink shown via Google Maps
 

The earlier grapes are picked during harvest, the higher the acidity they will generally have. Acid in sparkling wine gives these crowd pleasers life and vibrancy. 

“The vines themselves were planted on sandy loam soils at a vineyard between the Tukituki and Ngaruroro rivers. The vines were trellised using the Sylvos method, which is pretty unique and something I hadn’t come across before. It’s utilized here because it allows for better airflow and higher quality fruit for sparkling wine.”

From Grapes to Wine

Diana: “When the grapes came in, they are immediately pressed. We press them more gently because we want to get the juice out of the grapes, but not any of the bitter flavors that are present in the seeds. Grape skins are what give red wine its color. Without them, you end up with a pale pink rosé, which is exactly what we’re looking for.

Once the juice was pressed, it was sent to tanks for fermentation. Fermentation occurs when yeast gobble up sugars and produce alcohol and CO2. Because they’re living breathing organisms and essential to the winemaking process, as a winemaker it’s really important to ensure they’ve got everything they need to get the job done. That could mean giving them a bit of nutrition or a cheerleading session by yours truly to keep their spirits up. 

 

Once fermentation starts, the color of the juice gets paler, the sugar level goes way down, and the key flavors you usually find in the wine start to take shape. It is no longer Pinot Noir juice; it’s officially baby Pinot Noir rosé with an electrifying acid backbone and hints of strawberry and raspberry. A wine that will eventually make our delicious McBride Sisters Collection Sparkling Brut Rosé!” 


The harvest in New Zealand is something very special. The country is unlike any other region in terms of natural beauty and a pureness of place, the climate is simply perfect for the wine styles we produce. Harvest takes a village and we have Diana leading the charge to make sure we craft the most delicious glass of bubbles you will ever taste.

We can’t wait for you to pick up a few bottles of our next release of McBride Sisters Collection Sparkling Brut Rosé that’s being made right now. We hope this look into the winemaking process gives you more of an idea of the work and LOVE that goes into every bottle.

Xoxo,

 

Time Posted: Apr 12, 2021 at 1:00 PM Permalink to A Trip Through New Zealand Harvest Permalink
Robin McBride
 
March 31, 2021 | Robin McBride

The One & Only Jessica Alba

Thank you for joining us throughout our #WomenCrushingIt campaign. We're so excited to close out March by interviewing a mother, entrepreneur and game changer, Jessica Alba! Jessica founded The Honest Beauty Company in 2012 to provide consumers with mission-driven, clean beauty products that are earth conscious. She’s also developed one of the most successful baby care product lines with the goal of making basic necessities available to all families. 

Jessica was on the cover of Forbes “Self-Made Women” and has been listed in Fortune magazine as one of the 10 Most Powerful Female Entrepreneurs. She’s a bestselling author and icon among women and mothers of today. 

 

Not only has she taken on the beauty industry with the goal of providing clean products for all consumers, she’s done so with sustainability at the heart of her company. The Honest Beauty Company was awarded the Pioneer in Sustainability Award by the Sustainable Business Council of Los Angeles. 

She cares about other mothers, the planet and using her platform to raise the voices of other women. We’re in awe of her success and drive. She’s crushing it as a woman in business and in every industry she enters.

Meet Jessica Alba

Robin: When the pandemic subsides, who are you raising your first glass with and why? 

Jessica: I am most looking forward to raising a glass with my extended family -- grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins...the whole fam. I am excited to be surrounded by all those close to me. I have been in a pod with my immediate family, but I look forward to gathering again with everyone I love.

Robin: How is the 2021 International Women's Day theme #ChooseToChallenge meaningful to you? What has challenged you as a woman in a male-dominated industry?

Jessica: This year’s theme of #ChooseToChallenge is meaningful for me because it’s important to use my influence for good, to empower women and smash stereotypes. I recently learned that 73% of women experience bias at work which is completely unacceptable. In my personal experience, I have found that when people aren't used to a female leader, and a strong female leader at that, it takes a lot longer for them to absorb direction and feedback. 

As a business owner, I’m determined to continue to support our female workforce at The Honest Company to ensure they feel safe and empowered, both professionally and personally. At Honest, 68% of our workforce are women and 59% of our leadership team are women -- women are at the core of everything we do! This year, I challenge myself and others to call out gender bias and inequity when we see it. 

Robin: Who has inspired you to break the rules or think beyond them as a woman in business and entertainment?

Jessica: Oprah has always been a huge inspiration for me as a leader not only in entertainment and business, but in life in general. 

Robin: How would you define your tribe or sisterhood that has supported you during your path? 

Jessica: My tribe consists of a few extremely close girlfriends. They are more than friends at this point, they are friends that have become family… they are my sisters. I prefer this over having a bunch of acquaintances. I lean on these girls and we are there for each other through both the good and the bad and we love each other unconditionally, as sisters do. 

Robin: What advice would you give to women who want to pursue nontraditional careers that combine their work and passions?

Jessica: You must know every piece of your business model, from the market opportunity to the creative angle to your competitive edge and how you will win in the landscape. It’s also important to pressure test your idea with friends, family and people that you respect in business prior to going out and raising money. And as always, know your numbers. This is key when you are working to turn your passion into a profitable business. 

Robin: How has the pandemic changed your work, industry and outlook?

Jessica: This past year was challenging to say the least, but it reminded me to prioritize what truly matters most, which is my family and loved ones. As we have all been through a lot this past year, it’s important now more than ever for women to lift each other up and to support each other. As a female entrepreneur, I know firsthand how hard it is to start a business for anyone, especially for women. It’s always been my priority to surround myself with other strong women and to give back and support them however I can. For me, it’s about women supporting women by bringing each other up and giving them an equal opportunity and a seat at the table.

Robin: What are you most excited about in your work right now?

Jessica: I am most energized about continuing to build a company and a workplace that people are excited about. My mission is always to create an environment that supports our employees, not only professionally, but personally as well and recognizes them as a whole person, connecting both the head and the heart. 

Robin: Do you have a favorite MSC wine, and a recipe, cuisine or mood to pair with it?

Jessica: SHE CAN is my go-to favorite for myself and to gift to others. The packaging makes it super convenient and, of course, the wine itself is amazing. An outdoor, socially distanced walk with a SHE CAN in hand is my jam.

Xoxo,

Time Posted: Mar 31, 2021 at 6:59 AM Permalink to The One & Only Jessica Alba Permalink
Andréa McBride
 
March 29, 2021 | Andréa McBride

Raising A Glass To Rachel & Paige

As we close out March, we’re mixing it up a bit for this #WomenCrushingIt interview (you know we like to break the rules, right?) This time, we’ve got an amazing pairing — actress Rachel Brosnahan and her production partner Paige Simpson. 

Rachel Brosnahan is an Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning actress (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, House of Cards), as well as a producer and founder of Scrap Paper Pictures. She’s also a passionate advocate for young people experiencing homelessness and currently sits on the board of Covenant House International. 

Photo by Victoria Stevens
 

Paige Simpson is the Head of Development for Scrap Paper Pictures. Her previous projects have included the Affair, Billions, Black Monday and Masters of Sex, as well as programs for OWN and BET+. Rachel & Paige are actively producing diverse content and providing a platform for artists to tell their stories, their way. 

We’ll admit to being a little obsessed with Rachel’s turn as the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (her character was blazing trails for women back in the 1950s, after all), and it looks like these two are going to give us a lot to look forward to. We toast to this talented team of women crushing it in their industry…  and we can’t wait to see what comes next. 

Meet Rachel Brosnahan & Paige Simpson

Andréa: When the pandemic subsides, who are you raising your first glass with and why?

Rachel: “My pod! The four of us have been together through the thick and thin of all of this and I wouldn’t have made it through the last year in one piece without them. Cheers to the end & to new beginnings (and hopefully being able to travel again!)”

Paige: “I will be raising multiple glasses to my college friends who I haven’t seen since Spelman College’s Homecoming 2019. A few of my friends have had babies, and I can’t wait to meet them for the first time, catch up and make great memories.”

Andréa: How is the 2021 International Women's Day theme #ChooseToChallenge meaningful to you? What has challenged you as a woman in a male-dominated industry?

Paige: “This year has been a continuation of last year’s challenges. The theme to me means that we are all choosing to challenge all things that don’t make sense, are immoral and all injustices. Change is a challenge, so we must continue to fight for the changes we want to see in our world.”

Rachel: “#ChooseToChallenge feels like it’s been my unofficial mantra since I began working in our industry and certainly represents the mission of Scrap Paper Pictures. The goal has always been to challenge myself as well as society’s ideas of how women should move through the world, hold positions of leadership, make art, use our bodies and voices...but it’s not always easy. I, like every other woman I know, have been made to feel small, to question my talent, passion and ambition, to feel the need to apologize for advocating for myself and others. But those challenges make me even more grateful for women who have led by example and courageously carved pathways for us to follow and continue to grow.”

Andréa: Who has inspired you to break the rules or think beyond them as a woman in your industry?

Rachel: “My first manager Carole Dibo who empowered me to say “No” to people, situations and even opportunities that didn’t feel right from a young age when so many women feel pressure to say yes all the time. But the list is long...Frances McDormand, Viola Davis, Shonda Rimes, Laverne Cox, Greta Thunberg, Amy Sherman Palladino, Michelle Obama, Madge Thomas, AOC, Shakina Nayfack, Carson McCullers, my close girlfriends & so many more.”

Paige: “My mother. She raised me with the belief that I could be and do anything I wanted to. It was very freeing. My mom worked very hard to provide me with experiences and knowledge.” 

Andréa: How would you define your sisterhood that has supported you during your path?  

Paige: “They are my everything … my sounding board, my laugh factory and my heartbeat. They uplift me when I’m down and never drop me.”

Rachel: “Lifeblood. I admire, learn from, grow alongside, love deeply and am ceaselessly grateful for my sisterhood every day.  Would not be here without them.”  

Andréa: What advice would you give to women who want to pursue nontraditional careers that combine their work and passions?

Paige: “Know that you will hear ‘No’ a lot. You might even say no to yourself. But the moment that you truly believe in yourself and your abilities, you can’t be stopped. No weapon formed against you can prosper, and God has your back.”

Andréa: How has the pandemic changed your work, industry and outlook?

Rachel: While it’s been undeniably challenging, it has forced folks to get even more creative and given the space to reflect and re-examine our priorities. I’m excited to see the kind of work that results from this period of introspection (and one thousand zooms). 

Andréa: What are you most excited about in your work right now? 

Rachel: To have any! I’m immensely grateful to be juggling a handful of projects I’m passionate about and to be collaborating with other artists who are inspiring creative powerhouses.

Andréa: Which wine varieties or styles are most often on your table? Do you have a favorite MSC wine, and a recipe, cuisine or mood to pair with it? 

Rachel: We don’t discriminate when it comes to wine...but we do love a high low moment. One of our favorite pairings lately has been the McBride Sisters Brut Rosé with a good old fashioned New York slice. 

And we’ll leave you with one of our favorite “rants” from Mrs. Maisel herself - 

“Why do women have to pretend to be something that they’re not? Why do we have to pretend to be stupid when we’re not stupid? Why do we have to pretend to be helpless when we’re not helpless? Why do we have to pretend to be sorry when we have nothing to be sorry about? Why do we have to pretend we’re not hungry when we’re hungry?” – Midge Maisel

Xoxo,

Time Posted: Mar 29, 2021 at 2:03 PM Permalink to Raising A Glass To Rachel & Paige Permalink
Andrea McBride
 
March 24, 2021 | Andrea McBride

The Art of New Traditions

For our next #WomenCrushingIt we’re introducing an icon in the kitchen and winner of the 2018 James Beard Award for ‘Best Chef: South.’ Nina Compton is one of the most impressive chefs in the country, and she’s been uniting cuisines and cultures throughout her career. Originally from St. Lucia, she started her journey in the kitchens of many notable restaurants in Miami, and earned accolades at every stop. 

Nina then opened her first solo restaurant in New Orleans, Compère Lapin. There she made an art out of intertwining St. Lucia, her love of French and Italian cuisine and the indigenious ingredients found throughout Louisiana. 

Nina is a visionary and a woman who focuses on the epicurean experience of food. She’s crushing the food and restaurant industry, creating successful and rave worthy restaurants, while also serving as a Culinary Ambassador for St. Lucia. Her most recent venture, Bywater American Bistro, is shaping the way chefs explore their culinary curiosities and continue to challenge themselves with bold cuisine and bigger dreams.

Meet Nina Compton

 

Andréa: When the pandemic subsides, who are you raising your first glass with and why?

Nina: ​My Mum. She's in St. Lucia and we haven't been able to see each other this whole time. I can't wait!

 

Andréa: How is the 2021 International Women's Day theme #ChooseToChallenge meaningful to you? What has challenged you as a woman of color in a male-dominated industry?

Nina: Looking back, there were never a lot of me in the kitchen. I'm encouraged today that this is changing and the young women of color have that encouragement to challenge for any job they want.

 

Andréa: Who has inspired you to break the rules or think beyond them as a woman in your industries?

Nina: ​Leah Chase (known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine) told me I have to make it as a chef and restaurateur to set the stage for the next generation like she has for me and my peers.

 

Andréa: How would you define your tribe or sisterhood that has supported you during your path?  

Nina: ​I think the combination of being around successful friends as well as those working hard and coming up creates a nice balance. 

 

Andréa: What advice would you give to women who want to pursue nontraditional careers that combine their work and passions? 

Nina: Do what makes you happy with realistic expectations of what the future could hold. I went to the best culinary school in the states, but there was still years of learning and refining my craft until I was ready to own my own restaurant.

 

Andréa: How has the pandemic changed your work, industry and outlook?

Nina: It turned the restaurant industry upside down. However, while we were shut down, I was able to slow down and work through things that required that time. When we reopened, we were able to reset some systems in the restaurants which made for a more equitable environment. The outlook I i think is very bright once we get past the pandemic.

 

Andréa: What are you most excited about in your work right now? 

Nina: The changing of the seasons is always fun because I get to change the menu!

 

Andréa: Which wine varieties or styles are most often on your table? Do you have a favorite MSC wine, and a recipe, cuisine or mood to pair with it? 

Nina: We have 9 months of warm weather here, so most often it’s the McBride Sisters Sparkling Rosé. It’s great with fresh warm weather foods like crabmeat salad and also stands up to a spicy ceviche.

 

Andréa: One of our initiatives this year is content and education on the African Diaspora. Where are your family’s roots and how has that influenced your cooking? ​

Nina: My father was from Canouan and my mother St. Lucia so Caribbean has had the greatest influence on my cooking. St. Lucia particularly with African and Indian influences

Xoxo,

 

Time Posted: Mar 24, 2021 at 8:00 AM Permalink to The Art of New Traditions Permalink
Robin McBride
 
March 17, 2021 | Robin McBride

Activist. Entrepreneur. Sommelier.

For our next #WomenCrushingIt in celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re raising our glass to Grace Mahary. Grace is a woman who brings wisdom, an inspiring work ethic and strength into everything she does. She started her career in the fashion industry modeling for international companies such as Chanel, Vogue and Prada. As an Eritrean-Canadian model, she has leveraged her platform -- and over fifteen years in the fashion industry -- to focus on what she believes in most: Equality. 

Grace is a global activist and entrepreneur, and the founder and executive director of Project Tsehigh. Over the last six years, Grace and her team at Project Tsehigh have focused on researching and finding renewable energy sources for countries who are lacking the infrastructure. It was after visiting Eritrea, in Eastern Africa, that she realized how many people were living in under-resourced communities without power, driving her to find ways to provide solar energy solutions for communities in need. She’s dedicated, driven and crushing it across many different domains. 

In addition to her activism, she’s also a certified sommelier. As co-owner of Chulita in Venice, California, she curates wine lists and wine experiences within different spaces using her knowledge of wine, keen palate and great taste. Grace is a change agent and we’ve watched in awe as she has focused on leaving the world a better place than she found it, while enjoying the journey along the way.

Meet Grace Mahary

Robin: When the pandemic subsides, who are you raising your first glass with and why?

Grace: My husband, family, and closest friends I’ve missed over this time.

Robin: How is the 2021 International Women's Day theme #ChooseToChallenge meaningful to you? What has challenged you as a woman of color in a male-dominated industry?

Grace: I love to see the status quo challenged especially when it means freeing up space for those who’ve been marginalized in society. There are countless challenges, but knowing your worth and building confidence have helped me visualize my place in the world.

Robin: Who has inspired you to break the rules or think beyond them as a woman in your industries?

Grace: My mother

Robin: How would you define your tribe or sisterhood that has supported you during your path?  

Grace: They are my outer brain that I consult regularly!

Robin: What advice would you give to women who want to pursue nontraditional careers that combine their work and passions? 

Grace: To not doubt themselves, to dive into as much research as possible and to start! (You’ll figure it out as you go.)

Robin: How has the pandemic changed your work, industry and outlook?

Grace: It definitely has slowed things down and has made working from home possible. I never thought I could love or live in stillness as I do now.

Robin: What are you most excited about in your work right now? 

Grace: Continuing to shine light on underrepresented and sustainable artists, winemakers, and game changers whilst making personal discoveries along the way.

Robin: Which wine varieties or styles are most often on your table? Do you have a favorite MSC wine, and a recipe, cuisine or mood to pair with it? 

Grace: We’re always exploring! My favorite MSC wine is the Central Coastal Red Blend. It's silky and smooth, definitely my Friday night vibe.

Xoxo,

 

 

Time Posted: Mar 17, 2021 at 3:00 PM Permalink to Activist. Entrepreneur. Sommelier. Permalink
Andrea McBride
 
March 10, 2021 | Andrea McBride

The Woman Who Leads The Pack

 For our next #WomenCrushingIt this Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting a Change Agent on the distribution side of the business, challenging the wine & spirits industry status quo, proudly and loudly driving diversity and inclusion at her company and not accepting anything less.  It goes without saying that Jennifer Chaplin Tolkin embodies the phrase of “women supporting women.” Jennifer is the Vice President, Family-Owned Brands for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, the largest and most prominent distributors of beverage alcohol in the United States and the world. 

Jennifer has been crushing every industry she takes on since she graduated from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. From global entertainment to national strategy & business development, she’s a force that leads in her roles and champions other women as she goes. For Robin & I, she’s elevating what it means to be a powerful, thoughtful and groundbreaking leader.

Through a partnership with Columbia Business School, she’s helped build the Southern Glazer’s and Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America Women in Leadership program. This program not only supports women in business, it encourages them to find their strengths and leverage them in the business landscape in order to step into, with a whole lot of confidence, roles of greater influence by focusing on the advancement of all women as the goal. She’s a mother, thought leader and gamechanger. 


Meet Jennifer Chaplin Tolkin

Andréa: When the pandemic subsides, who are you raising your first glass with and why?

Jennifer: Before the pandemic, my extended family would get together for dinner every Monday night, hence the name, Monday Night Dinner. This tradition started with my late Grandma Arlene more than 30 years ago with just eight people and has now morphed into a 25-person gathering every Monday night. I can’t wait to raise a glass (safely) with my family and celebrate just being together again. 

Andrea: How is the 2021 International Women's Day theme #ChooseToChallenge meaningful to you? What has challenged you as a woman (in a male-dominated industry)?

Jennifer: I want to keep pushing boundaries and making it known that I have just as much grit, passion, and determination as anyone else. Just because I am a woman doesn’t mean I am any less. It doesn’t mean I care less about my job, or more about my family, or vice versa. Both are extremely important priorities to me. The environment is a challenging one, but if we keep chipping away at the iceberg there is no way we can’t win. 

Andrea: Who has inspired you to break the rules or think beyond them as a woman in Wine & Spirits?

Jennifer: This may sound funny, but most recently I’ve found inspiration from within. This past year has forced me to overcome so many different obstacles and I have never given up. I am proud of myself for staying the course. There have been times I didn’t think I could juggle all of the competing responsibilities of being a working mom, but I continue to surprise myself. I am also inspired everyday by my colleagues at Southern Glazer’s. I get to work with people who are just as passionate about diversity & inclusion and getting the job done as I am. Seeing their passion ignites my fire even more and I know together we can inspire so many. 

Andrea: How would you define your tribe or sisterhood that has supported you during your path?  

Jennifer: I am lucky to have several different support systems. My husband, for example, has always been there to gently push me beyond my comfort level. As an executive in his own family’s business, he really relates to my work situation. He knows how far I want to go in my career, and he supports me every step of the way. I couldn’t achieve anything without his guidance, love, and of course, help with our son. My mom has been another influential member of my tribe. She has been the greatest example of how I want to mother, how I want to love, and how I want to stay a positive force for my family. Of course, I can’t forget about my Dad. I think grit, tenacity, honesty, and hard work has been ingrained into my framework from day one because of his example.   

Andrea: What advice would you give to women who want to pursue nontraditional careers that combine their work and passions? 

Jennifer: Never be scared -- everything happens for a reason -- and never give up! I originally studied at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts to become an actress, and when that didn’t work out, I moved on to a talent agency in New York City. When I decided to move back to Miami, I didn’t really know where I would fit in at Southern Glazer’s. I started in events and worked my way to the commercial side of the business where I am beginning to thrive and find my niche. It takes time, and sometimes you have to realize the best thing you can do is ask questions and take it all in. Every experience, good or bad, is a learning opportunity. 

Andrea: How has the pandemic changed your work, industry and outlook?

Jennifer: The pandemic has changed so much for me, and so many. I had my son, Henry, at the end of March 2020 right at the outset of the pandemic. I’ve learned so much about being a woman, a mom and a working mom. Sometimes I can’t wait to get back to working in my office, with my colleagues, and travel for meetings, etc., but then I remember that means spending more time without my baby and family. Although I know it will be hard to separate family life and work life when it's time to get back to in person meetings, I can’t wait to do what I love most, and that’s spending time with the people in our industry and at Southern Glazer’s. I also feel incredibly lucky to work for a company that cares so much about FAMILY.  That commitment to FAMILY was really demonstrated during 2020 – when many of us pivoted to work-from-home, while at the same time, we put in extensive safety protocols and other policies in place to protect our essential frontline employees. It was because of these measures that we were able to continue serving our customers without disruption, while keeping our people healthy and safe. I want to recognize those employees on the frontlines, particularly our warehouse teams and drivers, who really stepped up during this challenging time.

Andrea: What are you most excited about in your work right now? 

Jennifer: Our Industry is begging to be more diverse and more inclusive, and that’s extremely exciting. I feel like I am a part of something way bigger. It’s incredible that the passion for diversity, equality and inclusion is so well aligned with our suppliers’ priorities. They are looking to do business with diverse and inclusive companies that take action to move the needle. I’m lucky that Southern Glazer’s is one of those companies that continues to strive to be better in every way.  I also love getting to work with other family owned companies who have similar values. Integrity, inclusiveness, leadership, honesty, are all a part of my day to day interactions with them.

Andrea: Which wine varieties or styles are most often on your table? Do you have a favorite MSC wine, and a recipe, cuisine or mood to pair with it? 

Jennifer: I love all different kinds of wine, but my go-to is definitely chardonnay. I love the McBride Sisters Collection Chardonnay with my husband’s Brussels sprout salad. It’s shaved raw Brussels sprouts, toasted pine nuts, and shaved Pecorino Romano cheese topped with a light olive oil and lemon dressing.  It’s light and fresh! 

Jennifer, we raise our glass to your triumphs, your hard work and your purpose. We’ve seen you CRUSHING IT for years now and this #WomensHistoryMonth we celebrate you.

XOXO,

 

Time Posted: Mar 10, 2021 at 12:00 PM Permalink to The Woman Who Leads The Pack Permalink
Andrea McBride
 
March 3, 2021 | Andrea McBride

The Women Behind The Wine

It’s Women’s History Month and we’re highlighting #WomenCrushingIt in their industries every week of March. These women are inspiring, hardworking game changers. We’re kicking it off with two of the women on our winemaking team who perfectly complete our sisterhood across two hemispheres. 

Before we begin, a little HERstory from Andréa and Robin:

Andréa: “In 2016, we were on the prowl for a GREAT winemaker that could join us on our mission. Not an easy task, given our winemaking philosophy, non traditional approach and view of the world through Rosé colored glasses. (Not to mention the fact that our sister wine journey is 18 years strong.) And while wine is tied to 8,000 years of history, we can’t ever learn enough and remain hauntingly curious, tasting hundreds of wines a year in pursuit of pleasure and perfection of our craft and portfolio. We’ve developed our own unspoken language when it comes to wine … sometimes we don’t even need to talk about it, we just know what the other is thinking. Robin has the stronger palate and my strength lies in the geeky details. Robin hates pretense, and I can be boujee AF. We are nothing without each other, but definitely something together, here to break the rules and drink the wine.

Image: Jean Pedigo

 

Robin: “We met Amy Butler first. Stasi Seay, a force whom we both admire greatly, had been breaking barriers in grape growing and Viticulture in the Central Coast with more than 30 vintages under her belt. She said we had to meet Amy. Amy had been bitten by the wine bug at a young age too. Her mom joined a wine club and she was mesmerized by the winemaker notes. She decided to attend UC Davis and pursue a degree in fermentation science. After graduation, she first worked for Stag's Leap and then she worked for the well-known American winery, Schramsberg, to perfect her skills in sparkling wine. Eventually, she found herself in Paso Robles and her love affair with Rhone varietals would lead her to become president of the Rhone Rangers in the Central Coast and she is still an active member in the organization. Amy is fearless, but also practical, incredibly thoughtful and smart. We work closely with Amy to develop wines that we love, wines we are proud of. And 5 years later, she’s our head winemaker, doing the impossible and CRUSHING IT.

 

Andréa: “Diana Hawkins is one of our newer family members. We first learned about her at Essence Festival in 2019 when we were chatting with esteemed Advanced Sommelier Wanda Cole Nicholson about expanding our winemaking family. She mentioned a Diana Hawkins, who was ‘down in New Zealand, finishing her Master’s program in winemaking.’ We find out that Diana was a former engineer who quit corporate America to follow her passion for wine. She’d attained her Level 2 Certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers and worked at one of the best restaurants in Chicago, Alinea, which has 3 Michelin stars. My mind was blown. We met up in New Zealand and over several glasses of sparkling wine, at the bottom of the South Hemisphere on a tiny island that most have never heard of (Waiheke), we got to know each other and I was immediately taken by her confidence, curiosity, humbleness and perspective. She’s been our Assistant Winemaker since 2020, based in Waiheke Island, New Zealand and she is absolutely CRUSHING IT."


Let’s hear from Amy and Diana in our first #WomenCrushingIt Q&A to celebrate Women’s History Month. This month is a time to showcase and celebrate the women in our sisterhood. Raise a glass and enjoy!

Meet Amy Butler 

Head Winemaker

Robin: “How is the 2021 International Women's Day theme #ChooseToChallenge meaningful to you? What has challenged you as a woman in a male-dominated industry?”

Amy: “I have always felt (and maybe this is just my personality) that I had to do more and be better to get by. When I started my own wine brand, this became even more clear to me. I was constantly asked ‘Who makes your wine?’ Or even ‘So your husband makes the wine?’ It is truly a breath of fresh air to be working in a women-owned, women-driven business, where there are no assumptions and no ignorant sexism. And yes, I still feel like I have to do more and be better, but now that’s just a work ethic instead of a gender-imposed challenge.” 

Robin: “Who has inspired you to break the rules or think beyond them as a woman in wine?”

Amy: “You and Andréa are overwhelmingly inspiring. You absolutely live by your ‘Break the Rules, Drink the Wine’ mantra. To be honest, you both were the first women in a position of power in my professional life who truly, truly believed in me and convinced me to get on board! I'm so glad I did!”  

Robin: “How does your sisterhood - friends, family and colleagues - support you personally and professionally?” 

Amy: “My mother has always inspired me. She was always a career-focused woman who showed me how to do it! The girlfriends I feel closest to are largely entrepreneurs (entrepreneuresses?) and make their own rules. And we are truly cheerleaders for each other! Maybe they don't make wine, but they make chocolates, or visual art or legal briefs. We all appreciate each other so much. Professionally, I'm on a great team of women in the Operations/Winemaking department at MSC, and their talent, communication, and execution constantly amaze and guide me.”

Robin: “What inspired you to get into winemaking and how does this career measure up to your expectations?”

Amy: “When I was in high school, my mom was a wine club member and there was one on the Central Coast of California whose shipments I came to anticipate because of their super-creative wine club enclosure. Their winemaker waxed poetic about the offerings and I just LOVED his writing. I decided I wanted to be a winemaker … I think I thought they were ALL brilliant wordsmiths and wacky scientists. I feel lucky because I'm equally comfortable handling a shovel in the cellar and a pipette in the lab, foot treading grapes or creating a blending spreadsheet. Without being certain what my expectations were, I have to say that my life feels very fulfilled from a career perspective. I've had other jobs, but winemaking has been my only career. I'm not sure I know how to do anything else!”

Robin: “What is your favorite part of the process when it comes to making wine?”

Amy: “Completion. While bottling day is either the most interesting (if it goes poorly) or boring (if it goes smoothly) day of a winemaker's life, it is so satisfying to see that product finally filled, corked, labeled and boxed. Few people realize how many moving parts have to come together to make that happen. It's like cooking eggs benedict for a crowd!” 

Robin: “How would you describe the region you're working in and what makes it so special?”

Amy: “I'm California born and bred. Napa had its appeal when I first came out of college, but when it came to settling down for a life and a lifestyle, the Central Coast was everything. It still has a small town appeal while taking wine very seriously! I love the cool nights here during the summer and early fall, and so do the vines! You only need to drive a few miles to experience completely unique grape-growing conditions.”

Robin: “If you could describe your job in one word, what would it be?”

Amy: “One word? Just one? FUN! Even though it can be high-stress and fast-paced and there's a lot at stake, ultimately we are creating an unforgettable experience for women of all kinds. How can that be anything but FUN?”


Meet Diana Hawkins

Assistant Winemaker

Andréa: “How is the 2021 International Women's Day theme #ChooseToChallenge meaningful to you? What has challenged you as a woman of color in a male-dominated industry?”

Diana: “If we don’t challenge the status quo, nothing is ever going to change for the better. By encouraging people to get a bit uncomfortable or challenged via calling out inappropriate behavior, it encourages and promotes positive change and progress (which is sorely needed!) 

In addition, making wine is a very physical process. Other than overcoming misogynoir, the biggest challenge when I was first starting out in the cellar was making what my male counterparts did work for me. I don’t need to be able to deadlift a wine barrel to get the job done safely and efficiently, for example. Another challenge has been overcoming people’s shock to my very existence as a young, black, woman winemaker. Sometimes people short circuit initially and don’t know what to do with me (lol) but I’ve found that once they get over that initial shock, they’re happy I’m there and quick to put me to work on the team.”

Andréa: “Who has inspired you to break the rules or think beyond them as a woman in wine?”

Diana: “My grandmother. She broke every rule in the book and inspires me to keep pushing and challenging the status quo. She moved from Louisiana to Chicago during the great migration, went to college and got her teaching degree. When my biological grandfather died suddenly, she raised 4 kids as a single mom, paid off her house, and travelled around the globe. I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for her tenacity and rule breaking behaviour.”

Andréa: “When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?”

Diana: “I wanted to design and build robots and cars. I went to school for engineering. So I did design and build robots, but in the end it wasn’t for me.”

Andréa: “What inspired you to get into winemaking and how does this career measure up to your expectations?”

Diana: “I’m a nerd and had a lot of questions about wine and the winemaking process that I didn’t find answers to in the books I was reading at the time. So, I decided to take the plunge and really get into it. I absolutely love it! I love the physical aspect, the creativity involved, the seriously geeky parts, how it brings people together and everything in between.”

Andréa: “What is your favorite part of the process when it comes to making wine?”

“Blending, which occurs once the wines have been made. I love tasting through all the different vineyard blocks (lots) and detecting the nuance and differences between each one. Then, you blend them together to make something far more profound. Winemaking is equal parts art and science, and blending is definitely the artsy part. I also love selecting yeast for fermentation and tasting a wine as it goes from grape to glass.”

Andréa: “How would you describe the region you're working in and what makes it so special?”

Diana: “There is no place on earth like Aotearoa New Zealand. That’s not hyperbole, it’s quite literal. There are animals here that are found nowhere else.  There are breathtakingly gorgeous landscapes, and the earth’s crust is so thin that there are unique geologic features (think Yellowstone) and tons of sleeping volcanoes (think Hawaii). The temperatures here never get too hot or too cold because of the Pacific Ocean and Antarctic currents. The soil types are also quite varied, and the winemaking culture so young that there’s still so much to explore. So, I find the region really exciting because of that – there are infinite possibilities.”

Andréa: “If you could describe your job in one word, what would it be?”

Diana: “Making it happen!”


That’s our foursome, that’s our winemaking team. Bold, discerning women. Different ages, nationalities, cultures and backgrounds, all united by a common mission: to transform the industry, lead by example and cultivate community, one delicious glass of wine at a time. Cheers to the #WOMENCRUSHINGIT!

Xoxo,

 

Time Posted: Mar 3, 2021 at 7:00 AM Permalink to The Women Behind The Wine Permalink
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