We absolutely love wine tasting. You get to try wines from across the globe and learn about your palate, which is how you individually identify characteristics of a wine through sight, smell and taste — while also spending time with your partner, friends, family or all of the above. We consider wine tasting elevated day drinking and it’s fun to do at home. You can dress up all fancy, try different wine varietals, set up a delicious spread and enjoy the day. With incredible weather, sunny beach days, and ideal outdoor temperatures, summer is the perfect time to throw a wine tasting party!
You don’t have to be a wine expert to host a wine tasting party. To simplify the process, we have provided you with a guide to everything you need to have an exciting self-hosted wine tasting event. Pro tip: Invite those you enjoy drinking with the most!
Party Tips & Tricks
One of the key ingredients for a successful wine tasting party is preparation.
- Store white and rosé wines in an ice bucket or fridge to ensure each wine is served at its optimal recommended temperature. But don’t serve them too cold or the aromas and flavors will be muted.
- A classic clear wine glass is the best glass to use as a default, if every guest is given one glass each. Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson’s The One is designed to suit red, white, rosé, and bubbly - a must for our next wine tasting party!
- It’s important to always have snacks at a wine tasting table for the hungry guests, but also to help cleanse your palate between wines. While the guests are snacking, ask them to take note of which snacks pair well with which wines and compare after the tasting!
- For snacks, a cheese board is always a good idea. Have each guest bring their favorite cheese, charcuterie and fruit and build the ultimate cheese board.
- Other fun snacks to try: Caprese skewers, hummus plates, sliders, chicken wings, popcorn or other snacks are a great go-to — more recipes and ideas below!
- Embrace the seasonal colors and decorate the space with summer flowers and unscented candles to highlight the accents and set the mood.
- Welcome tip: When guests arrive, set the party mood by handing them a surprise glass of white wine when they walk into the party. Once all the guests have arrived, ask everyone to guess which wine they are drinking. A small gift goes to the winner!
The Wine List:
You'll want at least one white and one red for your event but ideally, it’s great to try to have two whites, two reds, a rosé and a sparkling wine in order to taste them all side by side.
- Our most highly recommended wine tasting set of wines is our McBride Sisters Collection Reserve Wines. This California Reserve Wine Set includes our Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Reserves are single vineyard wines from the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey County. This gift set is perfect for your smaller and more intimate wine tasting party. These wines are complex and express their terroir beautifully.
- For the larger wine tasting parties, look no further than our McBride Certified Tasting Pack. This 9 bottle pack of wines includes an array from our collections to give you the full line up. We recommend starting with the Sparkling Brut and ending on the Zinfandel.
- Plates and utensils to dig into the canapes!
- A discard bucket to use if someone chooses to not finish their wine.
- Water to rinse out the glass and keep everyone hydrated between glasses.
- Pen and paper for each guest to take notes on the wines being served.
Themed Party Ideas
It’s always fun to add a unique element to a wine tasting by creating a theme for the night! Try some of these different theme ideas to make your wine tasting one to remember:
- Cool California Classics: When all the leaves are green and the sky is golden, California dreamin’ becomes a beautiful reality. Make a playlist of Californian bands and arrange the tasting around Californian wines. Try our sophisticated California Reserve Wine Set (Chardonnay & Pinot Noir) and pair with Californian canapes, such as this California-style shrimp cocktail, which will complement our Chardonnay perfectly.
- A Summer’s Night in Tuscany: Transport your guests to the romantic hills of Tuscany, where beautiful architecture meets fresh produce and breathtaking scenery. Create an Italian playlist, an all Italian cheese plate complete with olives, and decorate the area with vines to really set the mood.
- Show & Storytelling: Ask each guest to share a story that corresponds with their favorite glass of the night, this could be a story the wine reminds them of, a drinking experience that they just can’t forget or maybe their dream destination to be enjoying the glass of wine. Alternatively, for a more educational experience, ask each guest to prepare 1-2 facts about the wines of the night and have each share their facts while sipping the corresponding wine, this would require telling them the wines in advance!
- Guess the Price: A variation of blind tasting, this game focuses around guests guessing the price of wines being served. Have everyone taste each wine and rank them in order of low to high, along with their reasons for choosing so. This fun game will work well with our California Reserve Wine Set, which is on the higher end, in comparison to our McBride Sisters Collection Black Girl Magic Trio, our most popular, but lower in price point than the Reserve Wines.
Wine & Food Pairings
Light whites with fruity or vanilla hints and floral rosés make the ideal summer drink, but we can’t forget about a vibrant and opulent Pinot Noir, or a cherry plum Red Blend. The perfect summer wine can be based on cooling you down in the hot climate, or it can come down to pairing with your favorite dishes - the choice is yours!
For this wine tasting party we’re exploring untraditional and elevated food pairings to match our prestigious California Reserve Wine Set and McBride Certified Tasting Pack. Open the tasting with some truffle popcorn, and save the rest of the food until after the tasting activities to ensure a clear palate. If guests get hungry in between tastings, you could also have a cheese board to snack on. Check out our cheese board guide here.
Pear, Pancetta and Pecan Puffs
Image and recipe via Taste of Home.
The perfect combination of savoury and sweet, these pear, pancetta and pecan puffs will be delightful with aromatic and refreshing McBride Sisters Collection Black Girl Magic Sparkling Brut with the perfect balance of lush fruit and delicate tart bubbles — available in the McBride Certified Tasting Pack here. Is your mouth watering yet?
Salmon Mousse Canapes
Image and recipe via Taste of Home
The contrasting textures and refreshing flavors of these salmon mousse canapes are only topped by the stunning presentation. Smoked fishes such as salmon are a match made in heaven with Pinot Noir. Get fancy with your snacks for your summer wine tasting and pair this dish with our McBride Sisters Collection Reserve Pinot Noir available in our California Reserve Wine Set, it's the pairing you may not expect but then you've eaten the whole plate and your glass of wine is gone! Thank us later.
Image and recipe via The Wicked Noodle
So simple, yet so impressive, Oysters Rockefeller will step up your wine-tasting party to the next level. This delicious dish pairs perfectly with our McBride Sisters Collection 2020 Marlborough New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc available in our McBride Certified Tasting Pack here.
Wine Tasting Key Vocabulary
Impress your guests with some of our wine tasting key vocabulary words below, it’s a great way to teach your wine loving guests more about the wine tasting process and give them the chance to become an expert as well!
- Palate: The sensory experience that you have individually while the wine is in your mouth. Understanding your palate is more than just the flavor of the wine in your mouth, it's the physical sensations (acid, sweetness, astringency, etc) of the wine after you take a sip.
- Aroma: The sensory experience of smelling and sniffing the wine, aroma also contributes to the flavors you taste when the wine is in your mouth. Aromas of a wine can also change the longer it is exposed to the air, oxygen so be sure to go back and smell the wine multiple times throughout the tasting.
- Terroir: The natural environment where a wine is produced and the grapes are grown. This includes the soil where the vines are planted, topography, climate and other factors that influence the composition and characteristics of the wine.
- 5 S’s of Wine Tasting: See, Swirl, Sniff, Sip, Savor — the 5 S's are the 5 steps to tasting wine in order to activate your senses and identify the different characteristics of the wine. The 5 S's are steps to understand the wine's characteristics.
- Single vineyard: A wine where all of the grapes that go into the winemaking process for a wine come from a single vineyard. This can be from different vineyard blocks or even all from the same vineyard block. Single vineyard wines are not blends from multiple vineyards and are considered representative of the terroir of where they are grown.
- Vintage: The year that's present on the wine label, this is the year the grapes were harvested from the vines to begin the winemaking process.
To optimize your wine-tasting experience and provide the most enjoyable event, consider these final tips.
- Keep in mind the order of tasting. Not an absolute must, but aim to follow the order of wines to taste, starting with sparkling then working your way from lighter to heavier.
- To take things to the professional level, share the 5 S’s of wine tasting with your guests prior to taking your first sip. See, swirl, sniff, sip, and savor.
But most importantly, enjoy yourself! Wine tastings can often be intimidating, but we’re here to break the rules. It's time to drink the wine however, whenever and wherever you want. Cheers!
We’re celebrating Black History long after the month of February. Through Juneteenth, we are #TracingOurRoots through the African Diaspora by highlighting different cities, countries and regions. For each region we focus on, Robin & I are hoping to celebrate the traditions, culture and cuisine that have been influenced by the routes of migration of African peoples. For our next stop, we’re on the beautiful island of Barbados, located off the Southeastern coast of the United States in the Carribean. A one-of-a-kind region, Barbados is a country with a unique history that contains traces of a multitude of ethnic influences. It also happens to be where my husband is from, please enjoy our photos from the trips we’ve taken back to his home.
Since the 13th century, the island has been inhabited by the Kalinago indigenous people, and other Amerindians after. It was then invaded by Spanish settlers in the 15th century, followed by the Portuguese Empire who abandoned it in 1620. Less than ten years later in 1627, ships from England colonized the island to became the first permanent settlers and they brought the African slave trade along with them.
Through its complex history, a strong and incredibly vibrant culture has emerged, resulting in unforgettable cuisine, arts and style that people from all over the world travel to experience. Pack your bags and join us as we hit the easy breezy Carribean island of Barbados, one delicious glass of wine at a time.
Image via wikiwand.com
An Island of Traditions
Barbadian, or Bajan traditions are a fusion of West African and British practices that have resulted in a range of electrifying festivals, intricate arts and crafts, and extravagant performances.
Landship is an inherent part of Bajan culture, with origins dating back to the 1800s. It is best described as a theatrical group that performs complex dances reflecting the passage of ships traveling through rugged seas and the adventures that occur onboard.
The performers wear costumes similar to those worn in the navy and the dance is based around the structure of the British Navy but they are performed to an African rhythm that is typically accompanied by a Tuk band, another intrinsic part of Bajan culture.
Image via Nationnews.com
The Crop Over Festival
The Crop Over Festival is an exciting, vibrant 200 year old festival that marks the end of the sugar cane season. Rooted deep in the colonial history of Barbados, when sugar cane ruled the island, this festival is now all about celebrating creativity from indigenous art and crafts to flower and folk performances. Lasting for three months starting in August, the finale of the festival marks the most exciting day of the year when you will hear Bajans say: "Crop Over it sweet fuh days!" This gives us a reason to stay in Barbados for three months, you coming?
Dancers at the Crop Over Festival. Image via theglassmagazine.com
As a small island with an incredibly vast culinary heritage, get ready for a melting pot of incredible flavors from India, Africa and England that combine to create a range of unique, varied dishes that intrigue all the senses.
With an abundance of fresh produce, local Bajans produce an array of tasty dishes including macaroni pie, fish cakes, bakes, cassava pone, salt bread, rice and peas, conkies, coconut turnovers, and of course, the national dish.
Ask any Bajan what to eat in Barbados and they point you towards the national dish - flying fish and cou cou. Flying fish is a native fish and is so important that it’s featured on the country’s national currency. Barbados, at one point in history, was referred to as the “island of the flying fish” due to the abundance of flying fish that inhabited the waters. The fish tastes great on its own, steamed with acidic lime juice or fried, however, with cou cou, which is similar to grits or polenta in texture, it’s a dish you’ll never forget.Fried flying fish image via trip101.com
Flying Fish & Cou Cou
You know we love the iconic flying fish, however, it’s time to share the wonders of cou cou. Made from a combination of cornmeal and okra, cou cou is a warming comfort dish that you will come across at many restaurants in Barbados. Tasting like a savory porridge, cou cou pairs perfectly with spicier Bajan dishes too. If you want to follow Bajan tradition, prepare this dish on a Friday or Saturday, or throw it together mid-week for a delicious work day indulge. Your tastebuds will love you for it.
The Wine Pairing
Flying fish is a mild white fish, with a firm, tender texture, similar to cod or haddock. If you’re able to fry your fish at home we’d recommend pairing it with a chilled glass of our McBride Sisters Collection Black Girl Magic NV California Sparkling Brut as the bubbles will balance the delicious greasy fried fish and complement the diverse flavors in the dish.
If your fish is grilled or baked, this medium-textured fish would pair beautifully with an aromatic white wine with high acidity. Sound familiar? Pair this traditional dish with our McBride Sisters Collection Black Girl Magic Riesling, the aromatics will complement the fish and the high acidity will travel to the end of every bite of the fish and cou cou.
For the Cocktail Lovers
Being the birthplace of rum, it goes without saying that we absolutely must include a rum-based recipe. We’ve taken this Barbados Rum punch recipe and given it a twist with our McBride Sisters Collection Black Girl Magic NV California Sparkling Brut, since you already have the bottle open from the wine pairing above! Enjoy, and as the Bajans say, time flies when you’re having rum!
What we're making: Barbados Rum Punch
2 ounces aged Barbados rum (such as Mount Gay)
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce rich simple syrup (2 parts sugar, 1 part water)
1 dash Angostura bitters
McBride Sisters Collection Black Girl Magic NV California Sparkling Brut
Nutmeg and lime wheel, to garnish
Image and original recipe via liquor.com
Add all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake.
Strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice.
Top up with McBride Sisters Collection Black Girl Magic NV California Sparkling Brut
Garnish with a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg and a lime wheel.
Robin and I have loved taking this trip to Barbados with you. From vibrant food to mesmerizing performances and strong traditions this is a country we believe should be on everyone’s bucket list. Now, for our next and final stop… we’re heading to NOLA!
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?
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)!
Saka-Saka (Cassava Leaf Soup)
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
- 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.
- 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
- Stir in peanut butter or groundnut paste, then add stock about a cup cook for another 5 minutes.
- Throw in the drained cassava leaves and continue cooking for about 5 more minutes.
- Finally add shrimp (if using) - cook until shrimp turns pink about 3-5 minutes
- Adjust seasonings (chicken bouillon, salt, soup consistency with water and oil) to taste
- Serve warm over rice
Sisters Grand Sangria Rouge
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
- Fill your glass with ice
- Add in 1.5 oz Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
- 3 oz Black Girl Magic Zinfandel (Or Red Blend)
- 2 oz fresh squeezed Orange Juice
- 2 oz lemon-lime Club Soda
- Mix well, serve immediately
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.
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.
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.
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.
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