At Home With Christina Stembel
Have you ever scrolled through endless flower options online only to be disappointed when a lackluster bouquet was delivered? Christina Stembel was, too. That's why she founded Farmgirl Flowers in 2010, from her one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. Since then, the female-founded company has grown to become a nationwide flower delivery service, known for its signature burlap-wrapped bouquets made from donated coffee bags and plant arrangements sourced from the best U.S. and international growers.
But Farmgirl Flowers is more than just a flower company. As part of its With Heart program, it partners with nonprofits and donates to various causes, contributing almost $1 million since 2016.
Farmgirl Flowers is a primarily women-run e-commerce flower company, dedicated to sourcing from other women-owned or women-run businesses when possible. The company's team of mostly women carefully curates beautiful arrangements that they themselves would want to receive. Offering a range of gorgeous options, including specialty tulips and garden roses, So why settle for lackluster flowers when you can have a one-of-a-kind Farmgirl bouquet? Read on to learn more about Christina’s inspiring story and the impact she's making on the floral industry and beyond.
Hello, Christina! Welcome to the McBride Sisters Collection “At Home With'' series, where we raise our glass to individuals who inspire us, toast their outstanding accomplishments, and get to know each other in true McBride Sisters fashion - over intimate conversation and a nice glass of wine. We are so happy to be here with you!
First of all, thank you for having us over to the Farmgirl loft, right here in our own backyard in Oakland, California! What can we pour you today?
Thanks so much for thinking of me for this series, and for doing this series in the first place! My passion is supporting other females in business, especially entrepreneurs who happen to be female for the simple reason that success comes harder for our gender for so many reasons. Not to mention the fact that we’re socialized to compete with instead of support each other, so anything I can do to change that narrative, I’m here for – even when there isn’t delicious wine involved, but not going to lie, I’m super excited that there is today! My go-to is a big red wine (usually a cab) although I do enjoy a glass of champagne every now and then.
Farmgirl Flowers is the only large-scale, female-founded and predominantly female-run direct-to-consumer e-commerce flower company in the business. And, just like us, you too have been called the black sheep of your industry. Cheers to that!! Of course, these are things we can truly appreciate and would love to hear more on how you got here. Was it always a priority for you to do things differently, from the start?
SO much yes to the black sheep!! I think I’ve always been that from a very young age, so it just makes sense that I would be in business too.
I had the idea to start my own business long before I actually started Farmgirl. I’d just moved to San Francisco and it was 1999 - the middle of the first dot com bubble. I say all the time that it felt like a business plan was to an SF entrepreneur (and for context, there were usually at least four of them in line waiting next to you anywhere you went) what headshots were to aspiring actors in Los Angeles. Start-up culture was a thing you could feel, and, personally speaking at least, it felt revolutionary to me. And that feeling was one that I wanted to feel personally, so I didn’t want to just take someone else’s idea and tweak a tiny part of it - I wanted to swing for the fences and change up an entire industry. Which is a lofty goal, and partly why it took me many years to figure out what industry and idea I wanted to take the leap with.
For context and more specifics - there were a few things that led to the idea for Farmgirl, but the moment I knew this was the idea I could build into a big business happened back in 2010. I was researching the e-commerce floral space and found that the industry in general was ripe for disruption. One of the very problems that had led me to our first business model (i.e. the endless scroll I had to navigate on so many giant e-comm flower delivery company’s websites when sending flowers to my mom back home in Indiana) was also a problem I found was shared by so many other consumers.
While deep diving into research, I discovered that the online flower space was actually shrinking for customers in my age group at the time, and this was at a time when just about every other industry was growing by leaps and bounds online. And that was the key. With just a few major competitors in the space who weren’t appealing to consumers like me, and with a market size of billions of dollars, I knew the idea of Farmgirl had the potential to build into something big - and checked the box of creating something completely different.
As Founder and CEO, you launched Farmgirl Flowers in 2010 with just one daily arrangement. Since then, you have fully bootstrapped what has grown into an international organization, shipping hundreds of thousands of flower bouquets each year. No doubt, you’ve seen your fair share of hard work and challenges. What keeps you going?
That’s a question I get asked a lot, and I’m not really sure what the most accurate answer is. Maybe it’s a combination of all of them really. First, my parents raised me to know what it is to work hard and to respect the outcome of that work. They weren’t giving lessons in entrepreneurship when I was little per se, but there’s nothing like having to mow the entire back forty to teach you the meaning of resilience.
There wasn’t ever a conversation about what it took to get the job done - it just needed to be done. So it felt like, while I was developing this sense of persistence and grit there wasn’t space for a conversation around motivation. The work itself was/is motivation - the want to get it done. I think that’s served me almost every day since starting Farmgirl. There are very few instances where I have to set up specific circumstances to get a certain task done or to get through a day. Just like it’s always been, it’s one foot in front of the other. Then repeat. But the other thing about me that I’ve found to be far less common than I thought was the fact that I believe in myself. That may sound narcissistic or self-centered at best, but I promise, that’s not what I mean. I definitely have my fair share of insecurities like everyone, but I’ve always had an inner voice that has told me that I can do what I set my mind to. I think if more people had that, they’d be far less scared of failure and be able to be more courageous in every area of their lives.
All that said, I’ve definitely had my fair share of difficult days, and when I feel like I’m getting knocked down more than I can get up (which happens more often than I ever thought possible), I do what I need to do to clear my head and get back in the game. I love to move when I’m feeling stuck in a problem - do a Peloton ride or a Pilates class. I’m also a prolific white boarder. When a million and one possibilities are flying around my brain it helps me to get them all down in front of me and sort them in terms of priorities right then and there. And resting is key, too. For me that usually means spending time at the water.
We think you have a great sense of humor and simply exude positivity. Have you ever had a “laugh out loud, but also how did I get here??” moment feeling beside yourself in the midst of everything you have going on?
Haha, well thank you! I feel like I could write the book on these moments! They happen almost weekly if I’m being honest. A particularly funny one just happened a couple months ago during one of our biggest holidays, Valentine’s Day. I was in California making bouquets at one of our partner facilities and then needed to fly out on Monday, Feb 13th for a speaking engagement I had booked for Feb 14th. That’s another story why I said yes to speak on our second busiest day of the year, but it made sense, promise! ;) So, after making bouquets for probably 16-18 hours a day that week, I went to check in to my hotel the night before the flight at midnight, and there was a snafu with my hotel reservation (which was at the Best Western, not the Four Seasons to give you a glimpse at how we travel) via Hotel Tonight (because that’s how I roll) and I couldn't get into my room until they sorted it out with the front desk agent which required him to reboot his entire computer system which was taking a pretty significant amount of time. I hadn’t had time to go to the hair salon and my roots were in dire need of some covering, so I did what every self respecting CEO does, right? I bought an at home kit and planned to do it from the hotel room prior to the event, and this was the last chance I had before the speaking engagement but the stars were definitely not aligning for me. I was watching the clock on my phone keep getting later and later and with it my anxiety level was too. So after waiting probably 20-30 minutes, I asked the front desk agent where the hotel bathroom was and if he had a towel (he did!) and proceeded to dye my hair in the sink of the lobby bathroom at the Best Western at almost 1am in the morning. When I came out the front desk agent thought I was nuts, but had my room ready for me so I could get a few hours of sleep with newly dyed roots before hopping on a plane for Texas. I swear, you can't make this stuff up!
You put the “Farmgirl''in Farmgirl Flowers, because you were actually raised on a farm in Indiana. We imagine this is how you developed such a stellar work ethic. Your grit. What was childhood like for you?
I grew up in a very traditional home. I was expected to go to church, marry a man (ideally from said church) and have children who I would then raise in the church as well. My parents meant the very best, and still do - they are, hands down, the two nicest people I will ever meet, period - but that life was just never for me. What I found, then, when I moved to San Francisco was what it felt like I’d been looking for my whole life.
Ever since I’d left home I always ended up turning a 40 hour/week job into an 80 hour/week one - there was always something left to do or to make better. Suddenly being immersed in start-up culture, the idea of being an entrepreneur, and putting all those OT hours in for a business I was building myself made sense in a way that nothing else had before.
I also have to say, I don’t know if that light bulb moment would have been as bright had I not had (and have) the work ethic I do. To that 80 hour/week job tendency, my parents raised me to know what it is to work hard and to take pride in that work - whatever it was. I worked so many wage level jobs in my teens and twenties, from fast food, to coffee shops, retail and hospitality, and each one taught me that there are no shortcuts to doing the work. So while SF was the spark that lit the kindling, the particular mix of variables that helped make me (and Farmgirl) what it is today very much started with my parents back home in Indiana and all the wage level jobs that taught me how to do mundane tasks for long periods of time – which is Angela Duckworth’s suggestion of how to build grit (from her book by the same title). And, while I wasn’t super grateful for that “education” at the time, I am forever so now.
With Mother’s Day just around the corner, which is the busiest time of year for Farmgirl (you’ve been quoted calling it “the Superbowl of the flower business”), do you manage to send your own mother flowers for the holiday? If so, what does her bouquet look like?
Despite the busyness of Mother’s Day, I always make sure to send my mom flowers. My mom is the OG farm girl, and the kindest and hardest working person I know, so I want to make sure she knows how much I appreciate and love her. I tend to send her flowers throughout the year because moms do so much and deserve to be treated more than once a year. I usually send her our gerbera daisy bouquet (the Whoopsie-Daisy) because those are her favorite flowers, but for Mother’s Day I’m sending her our fully designed Force of Nurture because I designed it with her in mind. She loves to garden - I swear she’ll be gardening into her nineties at least, and this arrangement feels like an English garden, which is something I know she’ll love!
Are there any particular memories of your mother that have resonated with you the most?
The term labor of love always comes to mind with my Mom. She’s the most selfless person I know who will always choose to give instead of receive. She used to always come help for holidays - even Mother’s Day when she should be on the receiving end of the celebration. But in true Beth Stembel fashion, she would be the first in and last out on those really long holiday production days - even though she’s physically challenged and probably shouldn’t be on her feet even a fraction of the time needed to get through a peak day.
A story I’ll always remember happened on one of those holidays when she came out to CA from Indiana to help - and that she did. Back then we used to cut burlap by hand with very heavy industrial scissors (which makes it especially challenging for me when people complain about having to use the much easier equipment we grew to finally have!), and to say it was the worst job in the workshop would be a gross understatement. We would limit that duty to one hour increments because it was so dirty and laborious and, frankly, not fun. I asked my Mom to cut some burlap first thing that morning so I could get the rest of the team going on their tasks and then had about five level ten fires arise back to back all day, which (please don’t judge me too harshly!) caused me to forget about my Mom in the back of the warehouse cutting burlap. Probably 8-10 hours later, I finally remembered to check in on her, wondering where she was, and found her still at that cutting table – with literal burlap bandages wrapped around her hands to cover the blisters, covered in burlap dust and probably sweat, but still cutting burlap. I don’t think anyone on the team had ever endured more than a few hours of cutting time, but my 60+ year old, physically challenged Mom not only did, but had figured out a way to cut them more efficiently so it would stretch longer (b/c we were short a few hundred pieces that holiday) - and never complained once about the blisters, burlap dust, exhaustion, or boredom. And once again, proving she has more grit and resilience in her little finger than most of us have at all.
If you could drop everything for a “Spring Break” and travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? Who would you bring? What would you see? What would you eat!?
Oh wow, that sounds amazing! It’s been a while since I’ve been able to drop everything and truly go on vacation. Most of my trips are 99% work, 1% play time. I think the last time I went off the grid was a couple years ago to Bora Bora for a quick 3 day Thanksgiving trip with a couple of my closest friends - and even though it was short, it was literally a bucket list trip. I’m so lucky to have friends who have let me be their 3rd or 5th wheel and act like they’re winning by having me along.
I’m hoping to get more time to put the computer down and enjoy being in the now more in the near future. There are so many places I’d go for a spring break trip - back to Italy which is one of my favorite places in the world, or a new bucket list place like Iceland, Greece, or Africa, which are all on my short list. Italy and Greece would be for the food, wine, and views. Africa for the experience, culture, and wildlife. Greece for the natural beauty, views, and design. But my list is really, really long. I’m hoping after Farmgirl that I can take an extended spring break of sorts!
What area do you spend the most time in, in your home? Do you have a space that you would consider a retreat?
The water is my retreat and I just moved to a house on the water in Washington State which is literally filling my soul. The life of a CEO/bootstrapped company doesn’t come with a ton of downtime and I spend a lot of my time working so my office location is crucial. I set up my desk right in front of a window facing the water so I get to enjoy the views while I spreadsheet, zoom, whiteboard, and everything in between. That’s my version of balance. The water not only calms me, but when I’m challenged with a problem I’m not sure how to handle, it provides focus and grounds me in reminding me how small and really insignificant I (and my problems) are in the grand scheme of things.
How do you prefer to enjoy your wine? Over dinner with friends, while cooking, out at restaurants? Do you have any wine-drinking rituals, personally?
I’m definitely a social drinker. I rarely ever drink at home by myself, as I think it makes it even more special to enjoy it over dinner with friends. Although I will sometimes pour myself a glass while I arrange flowers - I’m pretty sure there’s a few Sunday DIYs on Instagram where I’ve done this, but then I feel like I’m with friends while chatting about flowers with our followers who feel like friends!
What are you looking forward to, personally and/or professionally?
Hmmm…so much! I’m really looking forward to the economy rebounding in the next year hopefully (fingers crossed!) which has been especially tough for us this year professionally. I’m also really focused on what my next chapter is right now - and I’m not sure if that’s because it’s my light at the end of what has seemed to be a very long tunnel it feels like we’ve all been in since March 2020 with the pandemic, or if it’s because of my age (being in my mid-40’s officially now). Whatever it is, I know I want more in my life than continuous 100-hour work weeks so I’m working to hopefully create space for more diversity in my day-to-day life. I don’t like to really call it balance because we all have choices of how to fill our 24 hours each day, and I’ve made the choice to fill it mostly with professional goals, but now I’m working to make different choices to hopefully allow for fulfillment in other ways as well. I’m not there yet, and hope to be in the near future!
We can't wait to see what Christina comes up with next as she continues to bring joy and beauty to her customers' lives. For more information and to order an arrangement, visit the Farmgirl Flowers website and follow them on Instagram: @farmgirlflowers.
Wine and flowers is a match made in heaven, in celebration of amazing women-owned business, enjoy15% off any order of flowers or wine with code BLACKSHEEP from now through December 31st 2023! Cheers!
Terms and Conditions: Discount is valid on purchases made from Monday, May 1, 2023 12:01a PT to Sunday, December 31, 2023 11:59p online at farmgirlflowers.com and mcbridesisters.com. Discount applies to products only - not gift cards, applicable taxes or shipping. Offer cannot be combined with other discounts and is not applicable to arrangements, plants or other merchandise in the Sale or Free Ship Shop categories at farmgirlflowers.com. Offer cannot be combined with other discounts and is not applicable to gift cards, gift sets, shipping or taxes at mcbridesisters.com. No adjustments on previously placed orders will be given. Promotional offer is subject to change without notice. To use, enter promo code BLACKSHEEP at checkout.
Breaking Down Barriers and Making Magic: A Chat with LU KALA
Next up in our Magic Makers series, we’re celebrating a rising star and absolute icon, LU KALA. The fiery-haired powerhouse of a woman first captured our attention with her glam style, raw honesty, powerful voice, and honest lyrics that speak to the soul. And did you know her first language is French?
Born in Congo, and raised in Toronto, LU’s resilience, determination, and unapologetic vulnerability have propelled her to success. Over the past few years, she’s gained a large following with a dedicated fanbase that just keeps growing.
LU's music is a reflection of her struggles and triumphs, as well as a powerful statement on body positivity and self-love. Through her music, she seeks to dismantle the divisive barriers of the music industry and pave the way for more diverse representation in the pop genre. Her EP, “Worthy,” released during the height of the pandemic, is a reminder to everyone that we are all worthy of self-love, acceptance, and happiness.
2023 has already been shaping up to be a big year for LU, with her track “Lottery” with Latto debuting at #83 on the Billboard Hot 100. We’re excited to see what else the year has in store for her – read on for more.
Meet LU KALA
First off, will you please tell us a bit about your Congolese-Canadian background, what it was like growing up with such internationality, and how you got into music?
I was born in Congo and raised in Toronto, Canada. It was cool living in two different cultures, a Congolese culture at home and a very multicultural one outside of my home as most of my friends come from different backgrounds. It was a bit difficult at times when I was younger living in two worlds as no one wants to be different but now I appreciate my background so much more because all of that makes me who I am.
I’ve always known I wanted to do music, I’ve always written songs, even from a very young age. I started performing locally and then traveling to network with people in the music industry. I never knew how I was going to make it but I knew that I would somehow and I was relentless in my approach.
You have been labeled as a pop singer. Would you define yourself this way, and what or who has most influenced your musical style?
Yes 100% I am a pop star through and through. It’s taken a lot of work to attain that title and I am glad people are finally seeing me for what I am.
Many different artists. Some of my favorites are Rihanna, Sia, Katy Perry, Destiny’s Child and Aretha Franklin. A bunch of strong women who set the bar.
Your music is emotional and real. So real that you tied a mental health campaign to the launch of your EP, Worthy, covering the cost of therapy sessions for 12 people. Your lyrics cover topics of self-love and acceptance. Do you have a favorite song, or one so personal you keep it closest to your heart?
It's a toss up between (DCMO) Don’t Count Me Out and Love Shit. DCMO was the first song I ever released and it’s about feeling counted by this world and being told you aren’t good enough. I feel like I entered the industry swinging saying F that I am good enough and worthy of being here. Love Shit is my baby because I wrote it at a time where I felt like I was ready to love and worthy of being loved.
How do you continue to find new creative inspiration?
All my inspiration comes from living life and whether I’m writing a song about what’s going on at this current moment or about something that happened 3 years ago, every song I write is about my experiences.
What have been your proudest accomplishments to date? Biggest challenges?
Having my songs charting on radio in the US and Canada, moving to LA, I heard Lottery for the first time on the radio the other day in my uber in LA with my cousin and we were both freaking out! Pretty Girl Era and Lottery are both currently in the Top 15 for Top 40 radio in Canada so I’m really proud of that. Working with some of my idols these last few months & releasing my first project independently. Getting billboards from Spotify, TikTok and Amazon Music in different cities like New York City, Toronto, and LA.
Being a black woman in a plus size body in pop music comes with too many challenges to name. Especially having to fight to be labeled as a pop artist but I know I will break down the barriers for more artists to follow after me.
What artists and songs do you currently have on rotation right now?
People by Libianca featuring. Arya Starr & Omah Lay, Trustfall by Pink, Die For You Remix by the Weeknd & Ariana Grande, Heart Wants What it Wants by Bebe Rexha, Heaven by Niall Horan & Cuff It – Wetter remix by Beyonce, Worth It by Raye, Special by Lizzo and Sza, Low by Sza.
If you could create a record with any musician throughout history, who would it be?
Rihanna – that’s my girl, an absolute icon.
Do you have any favorite Black Girl Magic Wines?
Black Girl Magic Rose and the Black Girl Magic Bubbly Riesling.
What does “Black Girl Magic” mean to you?
Black women being able to be any and everything they want to. Black women working on their craft, black excellence, not being afraid to be yourself and do what you love. Supporting and celebrating other black women. So many of us have that magic, it’s a matter of letting it out.
What can we expect next for LU KALA?
Lots of new music, a project coming this year and more performances.
Celebrating Sisters in Business: Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.
As we continue to celebrate International Women’s Month, it’s the perfect opportunity to highlight inspiring women who have made their mark in various industries.
We are thrilled to share the story of our partnership with Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., a women-owned cheese company run by three sisters: Jill, Diana, and Lynn. In honor of this special month, and our passion for highlighting women-owned and operated businesses, we have exchanged products to find the most delicious cheese and wine pairings across our two companies.
3 Sisters, One Dream
Growing up on a dairy farm, the Giacomini sisters never would have guessed that they would one day be running their own cheese company. But in the late 1990s, when their parents – who had purchased the 720-acre dairy farm on Tomales Bay in 1959 – were contemplating retirement, they found themselves back on the farm and ready to take on a new challenge fulfilling their father’s true dream: making cheese from the Giacomini milk.
Despite having no prior experience in the specialty food industry, the sisters worked tirelessly to learn about cheesemaking, distribution, and marketing. They spent 18 months preparing before they even made their first batch of Original Blue cheese. And while that was the only cheese they sold for the first nine years, it became a huge hit that helped put Point Reyes Cheese Co. on the map.
Jill, Lynn, and Diana are the driving force behind Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. Each sister brings a unique set of skills to the business – Jill Giacomini-Basch is the chief marketing officer; Lynn Giacomini-Stray works as the chief operating officer; and Diana Giacomini-Hagan is the chief financial officer. As a result of their dedication, they have created a successful company that has won numerous awards and recognition for their delicious cheeses – they just scored seven medals at the prestigious World Cheese Awards.
Their ethos is centered around community, and the sisters have made a point of supporting other women entering the business. Today, they are proud to be a 100% women-owned and operated business, and as of 2020, over 65% of the company’s employees were women. In addition, they are also focused on the goal of preserving the land through creating delicious, sustainability-friendly cheeses.
Women-Owned Wine and Cheese Unite
We believe that wine and cheese are a perfect match, and we were excited to find the most delicious pairings with our McBride Sisters Collection Reserve Wines and Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. Our Head Winemaker, Amy Butler, was thrilled to participate in a wine and cheese tasting experience, and shared her favorite pairings.
Bay Blue: With a salted caramel finish, Amy's new favorite cheese, Bay Blue, is a rustic-style blue cheese that pairs perfectly with our McBride Sisters Collection Reserve White wine blend, "Abalone or Paua."
“I love a white wine - particularly this white wine, with its floral and stone fruit aromas and flavors - with a sharp cheese like this one. I feel that the fruitiness of the wine really complements the salty, earthy, pungent notes of the cheese.”
Original Blue: An award winner and favorite among foodies and chefs alike, Original Blue is The Golden State’s only classic-style blue cheese. For a classic pairing, Amy recommends pairing our McBride Sisters Collection Reserve "Cocky Motherf*cker"Pinot Noir.
“The wine's bright red fruit - like Luxardo cherry and fresh raspberry - really struck an amazing balance with the tart, earthy, and almost spicy character of the cheese.”
Quinta: Amy describes this silky-smooth Quinta as possibly the best cheese ever (she’s allowed to have more than one favorite!) and recommends pairing it with our McBride Sisters Collection Reserve Chardonnay "The Great Escape."
“I love the bay leaf, the spruce bark, and the sort of ritual of removing the top rind to get at the buttery goodness within. Kind of like pulling the cork on a long-anticipated bottle of wine. I loved, loved, loved this cheese with our McBride Sisters Collection Reserve Chardonnay "The Great Escape." I even wanted more: Quinta with quince or apricot jam, Quinta with roasted almonds, Quinta served warm and en croute like a brie...But always with the Chardonnay.”
Toma: Meaning in Italian, “wheel of cheese made by the farmer herself,” the Toma is a versatile cheese that can be paired with many wines. Amy loved this cheese and recommends pairing the original Toma with our McBride Sisters Collection Reserve "Cocky Motherf*cker"Pinot Noir.
Toma: Meaning in Italian, “wheel of cheese made by the farmer herself,” the Toma is a versatile cheese that can be paired with many wines. Amy loved this cheese and recommends pairing the original Toma with our McBride Sisters Collection Reserve "Cocky Motherf*cker"Pinot Noir.
“It was funny how the flavors added to the Toma to create TomaProvence and TomaRashi really changed the way the cheese played with wine. I wanted red with the original Toma, and our McBride Sisters Collection Reserve Pinot Noir "Cocky Motherf*cker" fit the bill perfectly, balanced on the edge of super-fruity and a little bit earthy. I feel like this is a cheese that really shows its terroir, just like the best Pinot Noirs do.”
TomaProvence: Full of savory Mediterranean herbs, Amy recommends our McBride Sisters Collection Reserve "Cocky Motherf*cker"Pinot Noir for a suitable pairing. For the ideal pairing, she says to sip with McBride Sisters Collection Reserve "Abalone or Paua."
“The flavors of Southern France (rosemary, thyme, savory) deserve the flavors of Southern France (Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier). I think the McBride Sisters Collection "Abalone or Paua" is a perfect pairing here.”
TomaRashi: This delicious cheese brings the heat with an addictive Japanese spice blend. Its slow burn made Amy turn to our McBride Sisters Collection Reserve Chardonnay "The Great Escape."
“I wanted Riesling, or a sparkler. From the Reserves, I would drink McBride Sisters Collection Reserve ‘The Great Escape’ Chardonnay with it, probably because it has enough bright acidity to stand up to the spice.”
TomaTruffle: Infused with black truffles from Umbria, Amy recommends pairing the TomaTruffle with our McBride Sisters Collection Reserve "Cocky Motherf*cker"Pinot Noir for a truly indulgent match.
“The truffle flavor is not subtle, and brings out the earthiness in the wine.”
Gouda: While Amy says this cheese is delicious, she recommends pairing this hand-crafted aged Gouda with a sessionable beer.
“One person in our group loved it with the Pinot Noir - the rest of us wanted a beer immediately. A nice sessionable beer with a creamy head and plenty of malt to balance the considerable hop flavor. Sometimes I just can't stay in my lane.”
The Spreads: Amy was delighted by the combination of the Blue Date Spread and our McBride Sisters Collection Reserve "Cocky Motherf*cker"Pinot Noir. The Pimento Cheese Spread was mind-blowing on its own, but could pair well with our white blend McBride Sisters Collection Reserve "Abalone or Paua."
“I also really really liked it [The Blue Date Spread] with both of the white Reserves, and with those I wanted a walnut levain toast to spread it on.
The Pimento Cheese Spread - do we even need wine? I could eat a bathtub of this in one sitting. It really does invite a refreshing white though, and for that purpose I would recommend the McBride Sisters Collection ‘Abalone or Paua’."
Our partnership with Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. was a natural fit. As women-owned businesses, we both share a commitment to uplifting women in business and creating exceptional products that reflect our unique terroirs. Our McBride Sisters Reserve Wines and Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. cheeses are both made with the utmost care, and we hope you enjoy trying out some of these delicious pairings in honor of International Women's Month.
Introducing Magic Makers with Brandice Daniel: CEO, Cliff Jumper, and True Magic Maker
Introducing the Magic Makers. Those who inspire us as muses and ultimately embody the spirit of Black Girl Magic Wines, with outstanding accomplishments and character across a range of fields and lifestyles. In this new series, we aim to shine a spotlight on these individuals and allow them a platform for their stories to be told. We love to see powerhouse women building, inspiring, and growing. And we want more. We want to see more women empowered, more women moving mountains, more women transforming the world.
So, we’re raising a glass to celebrate the achievements of magic makers like Brandice Daniels. As the founder of Harlem's Fashion Row (HFR), Brandice has dedicated her career to uplifting designers of color, providing them with the platform and opportunities that have long been out of reach.
Partnering with some of the biggest names in fashion and beauty – including Tommy Hilfiger, Gap Inc., CFDA, LVMH, Covergirl, Macy’s, Dark & Lovely, ESSENCE Magazine, and more – HFR has become a powerful voice in the industry, bringing new and diverse perspectives to the forefront. As a true magic maker, Brandice inspires others to break down barriers and create their own path.
Read on to celebrate the achievements of this remarkable woman and learn about her journey, from her early days starting HFR to her plans for the future.
Meet Brandice Daniel
Brandice Daniel is a force to be reckoned with. She is the CEO of Harlem Fashion Row and the founder of The Cliff Jump Course, a course dedicated to empowering women to take that leap of faith and make their dreams a reality. Partnering with some of the biggest names in fashion and beauty, HFR has become a powerful voice in the industry, bringing new and diverse perspectives to the forefront. As a true magic maker, Brandice inspires others to break down barriers and create their own path. This Women's History Month, we had the opportunity to learn more about Brandice and her role in reshaping the fashion industry. We discussed her path to starting Harlem's Fashion Row, her takeaway from New York Fashion Week last month, and what "Black Girl Magic" means to her, personally.
Long before inclusivity became a widely accepted goal across the fashion industry, Brandice Daniel founded Harlem's Fashion Row to champion and uplift designers of color. Since 2007, Harlem’s Fashion Row has provided a voice and platform to help these fashion designers reach the same opportunities and connections as their white counterparts, enabling them access to sell and present their collections to key leaders within the fashion industry.
HFR has worked closely with some of the industry’s brightest talents, such as Fe Noel, LaQuan Smith, and Dapper Dan, and has partnered with organizations such as Target, Tommy Hilfiger, Gap Inc., CFDA, LVMH, Covergirl, Macy’s, Dark & Lovely, Coca-Cola, ESSENCE Magazine, AOL, BET and more.
Brandice, you are a Magic Maker. Your role in helping to evolve the fashion industry with Harlem’s Fashion Row is unique and impressive. You have said, "Sometimes you find your purpose, and other times your purpose finds you." Can you give us some background on how this applies to your own path?
In 2007, the year HFR was founded, I did not have plans to start a business. I just wanted to create a cool fashion show in Harlem. Through research, I discovered that Black designers represented less than 1% of designers sold in major department stores. This bothered me so much so that I felt I had to do something about it. My purpose found me.
What have been some of your proudest moments and accomplishments with HFR?
My proudest moment with HFR was our first fashion show. To see this idea come to fruition was an incredible experience and accomplishment. Another proud and amazing moment came last year when HFR partnered with LVMH and presented the first Virgil Abloh Award to Issa Rae during our Fashion Show and Style Awards. That same night, we presented our Fashion Icon Award to Janet Jackson.
New York Fashion Week took place last month. You must have been busy! What were you up to and what were the highlights?
Yes, we launched a new book, Fashion in Color. To celebrate the book’s launch, Macy’s dedicated 5 of their display windows to designers featured within the book. HFR also hosted its 5th Annual Black History Month Summit. On top of all this, I spoke on multiple panels including a panel session at Dior Beauty.
Your fingers are on the pulse of emerging talent. What designers are you most excited about right now?
I’m excited about Nicole Benefield, Clarence Ruth, and Johnathan Hayden. They all have something so unique to offer that the fashion industry hasn’t seen yet.
Do you have any advice for aspiring designers looking to get into the fashion industry?
Develop tough skin. This industry is challenging and it will take a lot of tenacity to make it.
How would you describe your own personal style? Do you have a “uniform”?
I’m actually in the process of developing my personal style now. For so long, I was in the trenches building a business. However, my style is what I like to call ‘business cool’. I love pairing a blazer with the comfort of loose pants and sneakers.
When you aren’t working, how do you like to spend your time?
I love hanging out with my great girlfriends, talking and laughing about life, our kids, and sharing life advice.
Do you have any favorite Black Girl Magic Wines and how or where do you like to enjoy them?
Yes! I have 2 bottles of Riesling in my wine fridge now. I also love the Red Blend.
What does “Black Girl Magic” mean to you?
It means anything is possible for us as Black women! We don’t let anything stop us.
What’s next for Harlem’s Fashion Row? What “Magic" would you like to make next?
We just launched a book, so we will spend this year marketing Fashion in Color. We also launched a new website www.hfrandco.com which makes it seamless to shop designers of color sold in major department stores.
I would love to expand our work to the continent of Africa. We are in the process of making that magic happen so stay tuned!
The History of Sangria and Its Powerful Influence on Afro-Latinx Communities
It’s National Sangria Day and what better way to celebrate than with a cold glass of sangria!
The wine-based drink has been around for over 2,000 years and has evolved as it has spread throughout the world. As Latin American and Caribbean cultures continued to blend from colonialism and into the modern era, sangria continued to reimagine itself and is still enjoyed today.
Follow us as we go on a journey of how sangria made its way from Europe to the Americas and beyond, and its relationship to the Afro-Latinx community.
What Is Sangria?
We know sangria as a refreshing red or white wine punch we love to sip in the summer. Recipes around the world vary, but traditionally it was made in large quantities, using a red wine base with sugar and spices. This mixture was steeped for a few hours or several days. Over time, people began adding brandy, sparkling wine, and other sweetening agents like honey or orange juice, and serving it chilled.
Sangria Wine History
Where in Spain did sangria originate? Is sangria Portuguese or Italian? These are common questions with muddled answers. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where sangria came from, but we have a general idea of where its story begins.
Most of what people know about sangria comes from Spain and Portugal, but it actually dates back to the Middle Ages. Spiced wines were served after a meal as a digestif. These wines were called hippocras. Think of it like the grandmother of sangria. The name of the drink translates to “bleed” or “blood” in Spanish, referring to its deep red color.
In around 200 BCE, the Romans crossed the Iberian Peninsula to conquer Spain. In response to this, the Spaniards started growing grapes and making wine to have trade options. Wine was made out of necessity and not with the intention it is today, so adding fruit, spices, and sugar made it easier to get down. Soon after, it became the drink of choice for all ages. It was also safer to drink compared to water. Clean drinking water was scarce, and the alcohol in wine killed any harmful bacteria, reducing the chance of illness. Therefore, fermented beverages became the preferred choice for consumption.
Sangria gained immense popularity as it made its way to England and France in the mid-18th and 19th centuries. Instead of using Spanish wines like Tempranillo or Rioja, they began using French ones like Claret (the British term for “Bordeaux”). Cabaret Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc were also commonly used.
As colonialism spread, so did the drink. It eventually made its way to Latin America. From there, sangria landed in the U.S., making an appearance at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. The rest is history.
Path to the Caribbean and Latin America
Another form of sangria called sangaree is believed to have originated in the Caribbean by the British. As Spain, Portugal, and Britain colonized the Americas, they brought Madeira and port, which was the base of this version. Sugar, citrus, and at times rum was added, giving the wine a richer taste. It became a favored choice in Barbados and the Bahamas and soon spread to French and Spanish colonies.
Clerico, also known as “claret cup,” is Latin America’s version of sangria, influenced by British ex-pats who were said to have invented this drink in India in the mid-1800s. It has the same base as the one we’re most familiar with. People personalized it by adding various liqueurs like triple sec, club soda, and sugar. This is particularly popular in Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, especially around Christmastime.
Mamajuana or Mama Juana is a lesser-known version of sangria, made primarily in the Dominican Republic, but it is found in Haiti as well. Jesus Rodriguez created it in the 1950s for medicinal purposes. Tree bark and herbs are macerated in red wine, rum, and honey, giving it a flavor similar to port. The health benefits found in Mamajuana are what sets it apart from the sangria we’re most familiar with. It’s used to cure the flu, clean the blood, kidneys, and liver, and improve circulation and digestion (and that’s just to name a few!), making it a universal remedy for almost anything. It’s also known to be a powerful aphrodisiac for sexual potency.
Why We Love It
Afro-Latinx people have taken something from a period of enslavement and forced relocation and made it their own. The versatility of sangria has allowed them to make this drink with limited resources, turning it into a symbol of togetherness. Whether sangria is used for treating a headache, or at a celebration, it’s best enjoyed with your favorite people.
Besides being delicious, sangria is inexpensive and easy to make.
It is one of those cocktails where you can bend the rules and make it your own, adding ingredients of your choosing. Start with a basic recipe, and the rest is up to you! To be considered sangria, all you need is a wine base with some type of sweetener.
Throw whatever you’d like in it to spice it up. Because you’ll be adding other ingredients to bump up the flavor, using the best quality wine isn’t necessary. This makes it a great option for parties and large gatherings. Any fruit will work, but citrus, melon, stone fruit, and orchard fruit are commonly added.
Today, sangria is enjoyed in a variety of ways.
Red Sangria: the traditional way to drink it with red wine
White Sangria: swapping out red wine for white
Mulled Wine: has a richer flavor than traditional sangria from its addition of baking spices. Is usually served warm in cooler months.
What to Pair With Sangria
Sangria is highly versatile, making it a perfect pairing for many different foods.
The refreshing, fruity flavor of red sangria is a perfect match for spicy foods and grilled meats. Sweet and heat are always a win!
Sangria offsets salty foods nicely as well. Consider cured meats and nuts.
Wine and cheese is a classic pairing that can be turned up a notch with sangria. For red, choose cheeses with bold flavors like Manchego or Asiago. For white, go with ones that are more mild, like Camembert or triple cream Brie. Seafood is another great option with white.
Make Your Own Sangria
Has all this talk about sangria made you thirsty? We’ve got the perfect recipe for you! Try these at your next brunch, summer picnic, or birthday party.
Sisters Grand Sangria Rosé
What You’ll Need:
- 1 oz Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
- 3 oz of McBride Sisters Black Girl Magic Rosé
- 1 oz cranberry juice
Combine all ingredients over ice in a wine glass. Stir, sip, enjoy!
Sisters Grand Sangria Rouge
What You’ll Need:
- 1.5 oz of Grand Mariner Cordon Rouge
- 3 oz of McBride Sisters Black Girl Magic Red Blend
- 2 oz of orange juice
- 2 oz of lemon-lime soda
Stir the Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge, McBride Sisters Black Girl Magic Red Blend, and orange juice together. Top with lemon-lime soda and pour over ice in a wine glass. Garnish with an orange wheel.
Kill two birds with one bottle! Check out this Red Wine Braised Beef Skillet recipe that also uses our red blend.
Holiday Your Way: Celebrating the Diversity of Food with Chef Pierre Thiam
It’s our favorite time of the year – the holiday season! Celebrating the holidays means something different for everyone; whether it’s reconnecting with family and friends, indulging in comforting food and wine that warms your soul, or exploring a new place and its culinary offerings. Either way, we’re here to celebrate you choosing to holiday your own way. With that being said, we want to further spread the holiday spirit by continuing to share diverse stories of trailblazers in the food and beverage industry – inspiring creators who have done things their own way. Next up in the series is Chef Pierre Thiam, a world-renowned chef, cookbook author, and restaurateur.
Meet Chef Pierre Thiam
Born and raised in Dakar, Senegal, Thiam came to the United States in the 1980s to study chemistry. However, after getting a job at a restaurant in New York as a dishwasher he found his life moving on a completely different trajectory. He worked his way up to chef de cuisine at Boom and Two Rooms, where he introduced diners to African-inspired tasting menus. In 2001 he opened up his own restaurant in Brooklyn called Yolélé, which highlighted his passion for fusing traditional Senegalese flavors with modern cooking techniques.
Since then Thiam has opened several successful restaurants around the world, including Nok by Alara in Lagos, Nigeria and Teranga in New York City, both of which showcase the unique flavors and ingredients of Senegal through innovative and delicious dishes.
In addition to his successful culinary career, Thiam is also an accomplished author. He has written several cookbooks, including "Yolele! Recipes from the Heart of Senegal" and "Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes from the Source to the Bowl." In his books Thiam shares the rich culinary traditions of his home country and provides readers with the tools and knowledge to create authentic Senegalese dishes at home.
Thiam is known for his philanthropic efforts and his commitment to using his platform to make a positive impact in the world. In 2022 he started the non-profit L+P Foundation with his partner Lisa to “promote diverse, healthy, conscious food cultures across communities,” according to his website. He is also an advocate for the importance of supporting farmers and underutilized crops grown in Africa and promoting food sustainability. Through his company Yolélé, Thiam exports fonio – one of the oldest cultivated grains in the African continent – which has helped bring economic opportunities to the region in Senegal where the grain is grown.
As a true innovator and visionary, Thiam is dedicated to celebrating and preserving the rich culinary traditions of Senegal while also bringing them to the forefront of the global dining scene. His passion for farmer-sourced and sustainable ingredients, combined with his cooking expertise and dedication to social justice, make him a respected and admired figure in the world of food and beyond. We had to find out more about what inspires the culinary ambassador and the unique places that wine has taken him to. Read on for more.
Tell us about your background and what inspired you to become a chef?
What inspired me to be a chef is the fact that I grew up in West Africa, a region of the world with a rich and diverse food culture. At first, I didn't plan to become a chef. When I first moved to New York, my goal was to finish my degree in physics and chemistry. A set of circumstances landed me a restaurant job. Gradually, I fell in love with the type of chemistry that the kitchen was offering. As I climbed my way up the kitchen ladder, I saw an opportunity with the fact that New York City – the so-called food capital of the world – didn't have much of an African presence.
It then became my mission to find inspiration in the food that I grew up eating in Senegal and to bring that cuisine to a global table through Teranga (my NY fast-casual restaurants), my cookbooks, and Yolélé (my food distribution company).
Where are your family's roots and how has that influenced your cooking?
I was born and raised in Senegal, the most western coast of Africa. Because of its location, Senegal has been a port of entrance into Africa for many centuries. It's a natural hub with diverse communities, each bringing their food cultures, from neighboring West African countries to French, Lebanese, and even Vietnamese.
What keeps you the most inspired in culinary?
The quest to find myself through food.
Where has wine taken you? Tell us about the most interesting wine & food experience – who, what, where, when?
Interestingly, wine has always been present at the dinner table even while growing up in Dakar. Although Senegal is a mostly Muslim country, part of my family was Christian and it was expected to see wine at family meals. However, it's not until I moved to NY many years later that I developed an appreciation for wine. As a young chef working at Boom in Soho, my mentor and good friend chef Geoffrey Murray had designed an extensive wine list with a strong Italian influence – such as Barolo or Chianti – but also French Bordeaux, Burgundy, and even South African Pinotage and Chenin Blanc. During the mid-90s, Chef Murray and I were invited to Verona (Italy), to prepare a dinner for Vinitalia, Italy's largest wine Expo. That experience sealed my appreciation of good wines.
Which wine varieties or styles are most often on your table?
I am a big fan of Pinot noir, but I also appreciate a good Gamay. My favorite French regions are Burgundy and Bordeaux. I enjoy some great South African Chenin Blanc as is or with a meal.
Do you have a favorite McBride Sisters Collection wine and food pairing?
The McBride Sisters Red Blend 2019 was delicious with a Senegalese rice, and beef with vegetable pilaf also known as Thiebou Yapp. The Sparkling Brut Rosé from New Zealand paired particularly well with my fonio and Chocolate Pudding.
Holiday Your Way: Tis' the season with Claudette Zepeda
As a female-owned business we love celebrating female entrepreneurs, and when we think of powerhouse women, Claudette Zepeda immediately comes to mind. An award-winning chef who was born in the United States to Mexican parents, Zepeda’s food is a love letter to her childhood on the border between two cities – Tijuana and San Diego.
Spending summers in Guadalajara with her aunt, who owned her own restaurant, planted the seed of entrepreneurship in Zepeda. The creative visionary built a name for herself serving as an award-winning food and beverage consultant, owner, and chef.
From a pastry chef at El Bizcocho to Chef de Cuisine at the iconic Bracero in San Diego, Zepeda then competed on Top Chef Season 15 and Top Chef Mexico Season 2. In 2018 Zepeda partnered with Johan Engman's Rise & Shine Restaurant Group to open El Jardin in San Diego, where she held the title of Executive Chef and Partner. During her time leading the kitchen, Zepeda won the Eater San Diego and San Diego Union-Tribune’s Chef of the Year in 2018, and was a James Beard Best Chef West semifinalist in 2019.
After facing issues of conflicting creative visions with her partner of El Jardin, Zepeda parted ways with the restaurant in 2019. She kept building on her career as a chef, traveling around the world and breaking down cultural borders through food. In the spring of 2022 she founded Chispa Hospitality, which saw culinary spaces pop up in Australia and Mexico – Taqueria Zepeda recently opened its doors in Sydney on September 1, 2022, and a burger spot in Mexico City is soon to follow.
As a trailblazing Latina in the food industry, Zepeda has carved her own path through perseverance and adapting to different environments, especially when working as a single mother while breaking into the industry. Having experienced the hardships and difficulties that single working mothers can endure, giving back is of utmost importance to her. And so, in 2019 she founded Viva La Vida, which focuses on supporting single women in Mexico by establishing small businesses that can import their ingredients that were previously unavailable in the United States.
We were beyond inspired hearing of Zepeda’s story and had to know more. We were lucky to have Zepeda share with us her journey, her creative process, and the importance of sharing stories in beverage curation.
The Zepeda’s started in Santiago Ixcuintla Nayarit and by the time my father immigrated to Los Angeles in the 60s, my family moved to Guadalajara. As the only daughter (5 brothers) in a Mexican household, feeding the family and keeping the house affairs in order was my birth purpose, according to my father.
My first core memory from my childhood is cleaning dry shrimp with him to make his favorite botana (snack) when we lived in Tijuana. A dried shrimp and habanero aguachile – a memory I unconsciously tap into regularly when making tweaks to a dish to balance the acidity, salinity, bitterness, and textures.
After I was born, my family would load up our Lincoln Continental aka the “lancha” (speedboat), and take our annual road trip from Tijuana to Guadalajara, stopping at every beach down the Pacific along the three-day journey to eat. Through the years, once we got to Guadalajara I would assume my position at my aunt’s restaurant doing odd jobs that a 6-17-year-old kid could do.
A combination of the beautiful attack of my senses by the kitchens and roadside palapas in the central and border region of Mexico helped form a hunger for creative and culinary stimulation that I didn’t fully embrace until my son James was born when I was 18. By the time I became a mother I realized two things: feeding and then watching people say “yum” when eating my food fed me in a way nothing else did.
I, with the help of the fire that my son sparked in me, found myself applying to culinary school. Lasting a couple of semesters before being dismissed for lack of funds to cover tuition. Pivoting like I had become a pro at doing, I began looking for teachers and mentors in the industry. The last 22 years of my life in kitchens has given me some of my best and worst memories and life lessons that I am grateful for. From working as a pastry chef for 8 years to learning how to butcher and transitioning to the savory side of the kitchen.
Her Inspiration and Creative Process
In 2014, I took my first trip abroad. I left feeling defeated and like a live wire that was lost in a career that I didn’t seem to fit into. I came back with a vision of who I wanted to be in the world of hospitality. My connection to the divine feminine and ancestral Mexican warrior women has kept me on my true north and the destination was and continues to be Mexico, food and its women. I have traveled across my motherland over and over and each time I learn something new, I lock eyes with a new soul at the market who I feel called to know and ask her about her family and how she uses the new ingredients I run across.
My creative process is a bit unorthodox; my passions lie between food, fashion, music, and art. Fashion, music, and art – like food – are ever-evolving, but like clockwork gives nods to trends of the past with a current fingerprint.
I love spring collections because it reminds me of the produce to come, matching a hue on the runway with a vegetable and adding salt and acid to it has birthed my favorite aguachiles. Extra spicy and funky if said runway show is matched with a bit of punk rock and metal studs. It’s my purpose to show people through my plates that Mexican food is not bound by time nor ingredients. We are a cuisine of the world and what we know as Mexican cuisine is due to the hundreds of migrants who made Mexico home, shared ingredients with us, and we created a dish that married two worlds together – over a stack of tortillas.
Her Beverage Curation
In 2018 when opening my restaurant in San Diego I made it a mission of mine to be as thoughtful in the beverage program as I was in the food. Enlisting the best of San Diego to curate such a vision – Christian Siglin on the bar and Molly Brooks on the wine list. The wine list is where I truly fell in love with curating experiences and sharing stories. The people I chose to have on my list were just as important as the wine in the bottle. Women, people of color, LGBTQ, generational biodynamic vineyards, all in all change makers. The power in our purchasing has the ability to give these families hope and every dollar helps keep their doors open. I find it exciting to find a new winemaker, like Christmas morning excited.
Her Wine Selection
Molly has been helping me source the wines from around the world since. We sit, she tells me a brief on the winemaker, brand, and the varietal or blend we’ll taste. Keeping her [sommelier] terms like poker cards, she waits for me to be me haha, and starts connecting the dots with my food and ingredients.
At first sip my pallet acclimates and the second sip gives me a sort of tick where I start naming things the wine reminds me of, and we laugh as she and I jot down what I am saying. “This reminds me of a frozen gansito while sitting on the porch because the house is stuffy,” or “the tamarindo con chile lollipop with the saladito embedded in the middle of it. The sugar from the pop mixing with the salt on your face from sweating while running around.” Like I mentioned before, unorthodox.
I love bright wines, there are no rules in pairing that I follow. If I taste it and it tells me that it would work with a dish I am dreaming up, I’ll try it. The pairings that give my dishes that lace shawl it needed as the wind picked up at night, or the cooling magic on a hot summer day while people-watching in Rincon de Guayabitos, Nayarit.
Whether that’s a McBride Sisters Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand 2021 served alongside octopus al pastor that was grilled over white oak and accompanied by a cilantro and purslane slaw, and burnt carrot and passion fruit puree to cure any winter blues and put you on a beach with every bite. Or a bold and lightly chilled Black Girl Magic Zinfandel California 2018 to pair with a smoked lamb shank barbacoa with charred pineapples and a sweet and spicy salsa borracha (drunken salsa that is spiked with the same wine) served with saucey rice and black beans and fresh tortillas.
Apart from being a culinary master, Zepeda’s mission is to help free Hispanic women from generational poverty in the United States – a goal that we’re here to help amplify. Stay tuned with Zepeda’s philanthropic activities on her Instagram and culinary adventures on the Netflix show Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend.
Copyright © 2022 Netflix, Inc
Celebrating National Pasta Day!
Pasta lovers unite! It’s that time of the year when we come together to celebrate one of the world’s favorite foods – pasta. Whether you’re a fan of the corkscrew-shaped fusilli, or more inclined to a deliciously-stuffed ravioli, National Pasta Day has you covered.
Pasta is not only a staple comfort food, it is also a great source of nutrients and is incredibly versatile, with over 600 different types. Pasta also pairs well with a wide range of wines, making it one of our favorite accompanying meals for any occasion.
Falling on October 17th, one of the best ways to celebrate National Pasta Day is by preparing your favorite – or new – pasta recipes. So, we’ve put together a guide to the history of National Pasta Day, a few ideas on how to celebrate, and some delicious best pasta pairings with our wines so that you can indulge and enjoy pasta with a glass of wine.
History of National Pasta Day
Italy may be the pasta nation of the world, but the origins of the first pasta are widely debated. Some sources claim that Marco Polo brought it back to Italy from China, while others claim that pre-Roman tribes invented an early type of pasta. While the exact origin remains unknown, pasta made its way to America through English colonists who came across it during their travels to Italy.
National Pasta Day was formally established in 1995 as part of the World Pasta Congress, during which experts from all over the world came together to discuss the significance of pasta and the importance of spreading knowledge of its international reach.
So, Which Pasta and Wine Pairing Should You Try?
There is no singular right answer here – each pasta and wine pairing serves a different occasion depending on your mood, company, and craving at the time. We say try them all.
This is a sophisticated pairing, a true classic. Our stunning Black Girl Magic Merlot has the perfect notes of dark cherry, vanilla, and warm cocoa to ease you into the cooler months. And what better pasta to consume with the luscious sweetness of our merlot than a rich homely tomato-based lasagne such as this one. Slip into your coziest clothing and indulge in true comfort at its finest. Our tip: Store a second tray in the freezer and another bottle in the cabinet as this will go fast.
Like our Black Girl Magic Zinfandel, you know when the occasion calls for a little spice to shake things up. Fresh plum and dried cherry meets crushed black pepper and spiced vanilla for a fruity elixir with a slightly fiery hint. We recommend enhancing the spice and pairing fire with fire by choosing a chili-based dish such as penne arrabiata – it will have you warmed up from the inside out.
With vanilla, fruity, and peppery notes our Black Girl Magic Red Blend takes you on the journey of a typical Merlot at first sip and closes with the spice of a Cabernet. It’s complex, full-bodied, and made to be enjoyed by all. To balance out the boldness pair with a creamy-tomato based pasta dish, such as this creamy tomato pasta with chickpeas.
A true well-rounded wine, our Black Girl Magic Red Blend has character. With delicious cherry and plum notes that are complemented by a natural earthiness, this is the ideal wine to drink with any pasta dish such as this pesto ravioli with spinach and tomatoes.
National Pasta Day Activities
It’s no secret, pasta is adored by many. Did you know that Americans consume roughly 20 pounds of pasta per year? With that being said, celebrating National Pasta Day will be fun for everyone as it involves something we all love: eating pasta.
Throw a Pasta Tasting Party
What could be more fun than eating one type of pasta to celebrate National Pasta Day? Sampling a range of different pasta dishes! Tell all guests to prepare their favorite pasta dish and bring an accompanying wine. You can lay out each dish buffet-style with the paired wine next to it so that guests can sample different wines and pasta dishes together.
Eat at your favorite Italian restaurant (and BYO wine)
If you’re not in the mood for cooking, reserve a spot at your favorite Italian restaurant, or the one you’ve been wanting to try. Whether you dine by yourself, or with a couple of friends, remember to bring your favorite bottle of McBride Sisters’ wine along with you.
However you decide to celebrate, join us as we indulge in a mouthwatering pairing of food and wine! Mangiamo – let’s eat!
Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrating Dońa Vega's Sonya Vega
Hispanic Heritage Month may be coming to an end, but we’re expanding the celebration beyond the month by continuing to share the diverse stories of female founders of Hispanic descent in the food and beverage industry. Next up in the series is Sonya Vega, founder of Doña Vega – an authentic, organic mezcal with a modern twist.
Sonya’s journey into mezcal began in 2011 when she was introduced to the smoky cousin of tequila at a friend’s wedding in Mexico She was immediately obsessed with the taste and wanted to find out more. As she noticed the spirit began to appear on drink menus more frequently, she had a vision of growth which further fueled her curiosity.
As Sonya continued her investigation into the world of mezcal, she began to explore her own Mexican heritage on a deeper level. During a trip to Oaxaca with her grandfather, she found out that his mother and aunt started a small business where they would resell items such as soap, sewing kits, and mezcal to make a profit and support the family. Discovering her family’s connection to mezcal was a sign that she was on the right path.
Three trips to Oaxaca, 22 farm visits, and over 70 recipes later, what started off as a passion project evolved into a full-time career for the entrepreneur. Sonya left behind her high-profile PR career of 17 years and officially launched Doña Vega in November 2019.
The process began in Santiago Matatlán, a small town outside of Oaxaca, where Doña Hortensia Hernández Martínez and her two daughters run La Curva – a farm that has been in the family for five generations. Handcrafted by a female mezcalera – an uncommon practice in the mezcal world – authenticity and representation lay the foundation for Doña Vega.
Despite facing distribution challenges in the male-dominated alcohol industry, Sonya has kept persevering. Last year, her hard work was rewarded when Doña Vega Mezcal won a double gold medal at the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Now, you can find Doña Vega stocked at a number of distinguished hotels and restaurants throughout the country. Sonya
believes that women can move mountains and hopes that she can inspire other women to join the industry and persist as she has.
As a fearless female entrepreneur in the alcohol industry, Sonya is breaking barriers and rewriting the rules. We had to find out more about what inspires the founder and the unique journey that wine and spirits have taken her on. Read on for more.
Meet Sonya Vega
Tell us about your business and what inspired you to start.
In a past life, I ran a PR agency, launching and scaling new brands for a diverse set of clients. Eventually, I knew I wanted to do something of my own, and it was around that same time that I noticed mezcal was becoming a growing category. Being a mezcal lover and a businesswoman that embraces new challenges, I saw an opportunity to bring the two worlds together - my Mexican heritage and creative ability to launch a brand in a different space. I started Doña Vega as a passion project and as a way to share my love of mezcal with the world!
Where are your family's roots and how has that influenced your work now?
My grandparents are from Los Mochis, Mexico. They came from a small village, where everyone in their family had contributions to the household to make ends meet. This work ethic was passed down, and even more so instilled a drive in me.
What keeps you the most inspired in wine and spirits?
It’s the wins both big and small that keep me inspired, whether it be seeing our bottle on the back bar at a new place, or getting a nice message about our product on social media. Nothing, however, compares to the feeling of seeing someone’s face light up and perceptions change when they finally experience the unexpected taste of Doña Vega.
Where has wine taken you? Tell us about the most interesting wine and food experience. Who, What, Where, When?
Wine has taken me to discover new places, such as Napa and Bordeaux. A food & wine experience I recently recall was a picnic last fall in Aspen where we had the picture-perfect backdrop of the yellow fall leaves, a group of 10 good friends, and food prepared by a local chef. We enjoyed delicious food, fun conversation, and of course, good wine.
Which wine varieties or styles are most often on your table?
We seem to drink wine more so in the summer, and usually with Sancerre, Riesling, and Rose.
Do you have a favorite McBride Sisters Collection wine at the moment?
I'm currently loving the McBride Sisters Collection Sauvignon Blanc! It pairs beautifully with seafood.
If you’re a mezcal virgin, Doña Vega Espadin is the ideal introduction to the mezcal world. Made from Espadín Capon – a higher grade Espadín which has been left to mature for 8-9 years, yielding a natural sweetness with undertones of dried fruits and hints of vanilla and cocoa – the final result is a mezcal with subtle smoke and a remarkably smooth white pepper finish. It’s exquisitely traditional, yet approachable, making it the perfect combination.
Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrating Agua Bonita’s Kayla Castañeda
It’s Hispanic Heritage Month, an essential time to recognize and celebrate the contributions of the Hispanic community in the United States. As a female-founded company we are proud to highlight diverse stories of female founders of Hispanic heritage in the food and beverage industry. We’re kicking things off with Kayla Castañeda, founder of Agua Bonita – the first ready-to-drink aguas frescas.
Meaning “beautiful water” in Spanish, Agua Bonita serves its namesake well. Containing 50% real fruit juice, still water, and no added sugar the juice and water blend is vibrant, refreshing, and beautifully bold. And let’s not forget about the flavors. From the more traditional agua de jamaica and pineapple cucumber to the contemporary mango habanero and watermelon chile – flavors that are inspired by culture – we love them all.
The demand for an alternative to high-sugar, processed drinks is growing, even more so for those run by minority business owners. In September of 2020, Agua Bonita became the first-ever Latina-run beverage startup to raise more than $1 million in funding – just under a year after its launch. What a trailblazer.
Coming from a family of Mexican migrant farm workers, Kayla grew up in the main valley of California where they grow 60% of the nation's produce. Her grandfather would often come home with extremely ripe fruit that he didn’t want to see wasted, so it would be made into delicious aguas frescas for her entire family.
When Kayla lost her job mid-pandemic as a result of mass shutdowns, she embarked on a journey to create something that was reflective of her culture, her family, and her grandpa’s doctrine of never letting food go to waste. And Agua Bonita was born.
As a pioneer in the beverage industry, Kayla is standing out and carving her own path. We had to find out more about who inspired the founder, how she is rewriting her own rules, and what SHE CAN represents where she is in her career now.
Meet Kayla Castañeda
Tell us about your business and what inspired you to start.
My family is what inspired me to start my business, specifically my grandpa. I wanted to create something that was reflective of my culture, myself and my family – when I took the time to consider the options against what consumers are looking for, aguas frescas fit the bill. Growing up, my grandpa would bring home ripe fruit from the fields for the family to enjoy and make aguas frescas, so I followed in his footsteps with Agua Bonita.
Who inspired you to break the rules or think beyond them as a woman in your industry?
One person who inspired me to think beyond the rules and boundaries as a woman in business is Dany Garcia. She is such a powerhouse across industries and breaks glass ceilings everywhere she shows up. That's how I strive for my career and life to be – the best I can give, at whatever it is, every time.
In your space, what were / are the rules? How are you rewriting your own rules and defining yourself in this space regardless of the status quo?
In this space, there are a lot of antiquated processes of doing things – even as simple of a decision as putting non-carbonated drinks into cans like we do was seen as taboo. Or having cans that each have their own unique design. We are shedding those ways of doing things and building a company and product we want to see for all the right reasons.
Let’s play the name game! Name a SHE CAN wine cocktail right now that represents where you are at in your work right now? What would be the ingredients in your cocktail using She Can Wines as the base?
The Fresh White x Pineapple cucumber cocktail is where I'm at in my work right now. Fresh, cool, but still a bit of spice coming at you.
What’s your favorite SHE CAN flavor?
My favorite SHE CAN wine flavor right now is Coastal Berry! It feels perfect for that transition from late summer into early fall.
With 1% of every Agua Bonita purchase going toward helping migrant farmworkers via non-profits, the company using rescued produce where possible, and the cans being made from recyclable aluminum, Agua Bonita is the mission-driven, planet-friendly elixir you can feel good about – inside and out.
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we've teamed up with Kayla and the Agua Bonita team and first generation, Mexican-American mixologist, Adilenny Becerra, to craft 4 cocktails to help you celebrate all month long!
Meet the Mixologist
Adilenny Becerra, is a first generation Mexican-American located in Salinas, California, along the Central Coast of California. Her mother is from Michoacán, Mexico and her father from Guanajuato, Mexico. Through culinary, food, and wine, she has been able to express her love for her culture and heritage and is constatnly learning about new ingredients through her mother who works as a chef. She works with her family to create beautifully crafted wine and tequila cocktails at their resteraunt, Villa Azteca, where they specialize in traditional mexican food with an innovative twist.
(Instagram: @_adilenny, @villa_azteca)