Drink: Sisters of Dionysus, Andréa and Robin McBride

  • By Peter Lawrence Kane
  • Wed Mar 16th, 2016 6:00pm
  • DiningEat

At Sips with Soul, an event for African-American winemakers last month at 1300 on Fillmore, there were about a dozen wineries present, and Chef David Lawrence had created Southern-inspired pairings for each. Many of them — L'Object Noir, Sharp Cellars, Brown Estate — had sizeable lines of people waiting for a pour and an explanation straight from the vintner. But the longest line of all belonged to Robin and Andréa McBride, who'd recently released the 2015 Central Coast Rosé for their label Truvée. (It was there for the sampling, along with blackened, skillet-fried catfish with pickled okra and a red eye aioli.)

At only three weeks old, the wine is still changing a lot, said Andréa McBride, noting the slight creaminess, great acidity, and notes of strawberry, raspberry, and Meyer lemon.

“This rosé is so stunning,” she said. “We're a little bit nervous, watching the transition of how it develops. In the last two weeks, it's come into its own.” She went through a period, after the initial bottling, where she was anxiously tasting it every couple of days. “Now it's exactly where you want it to be, and even a little bit better. People find rosé seasonal, but we don't. We drink it all year round.”

Even when accounting for the fact that they're black women in the wine industry, the McBride sisters have a unique backstory. They're technically half-sisters, raised an ocean apart — in the wine regions of Monterey, Calif. (Robin) and New Zealand (Andréa) — who had no means of contacting one another's families following the death of their shared biological father.

Meeting as adults in 1999 revealed similarly discerning palates, and they eventually went into the wine business together, creating two labels: eco.love and Truvée. Derived from the French word for “to find,” Truvée's philosophy is that wine and food shouldn't be separated into discrete categories and guarded over by the purity police.

As such, Truvée's products are blends. Andréa McBride is justifiably proud of the 2015 rosé, because when I asked her what's next — in the sense of the tasting lineup for Sips With Soul — she heard it as a “yeah, yeah, what else you got?” and took mock offense.

“You can't be like, 'What's next?'” she said. “It just came out! It only took two years to put together.”

But there was something next, and it was equally terrific. The McBrides have crafted a red blend with Grenache and Syrah grapes sourced from across the Central Coast, from the Edna Valley to Chalone, a unique inland AVA of shallow, limestone-heavy soils approximately 1800 feet in elevation, with a terroir most frequently compared to that of Burgundy.

“The Syrah is kind of grouchy,” McBride said, using a term I mentally filed away for the next time I have to bullshit my way out of a corner by deploying an authoritative-sounding adjective. “We have to pair it with a Grenache, which is much rounder and softer.”

The McBrides drink it with everything because, unlike a Cabernet that might need time to calm down, the blend is sufficiently versatile early on. There's a refreshing lack of pretense to their approach — snobs might note with disdain that their wines straddle Old World and New — which extends to adding a glossary on their main website for newbies to consult, along with a wine-and-candy pairing blog post from last Halloween.

These are just the latest in a string of successes. The McBrides describe Truvée's 2013 Red Blend — composed of Syrah (35 percent), Merlot (34 percent), Zinfandel (21 percent), and Grenache (10 percent) — as an “accidental masterpiece.” However they developed it, there's still a rigor to their methodology. They're reluctant, for instance, to rely too much on white oak barrels. (Andrea called them a “spice rack.”)

The sisters have even created their own barbecue sauce recipe — another mutual passion revealed. It's red wine-based, naturally, and made with blackberries, brown sugar, and chipotles in adobo sauce (among other things) so that you can slather it on a number of different foods. Knowing how some of the best barbecue sauces incorporate humble ingredients, I asked the rarefied New Zealander if hers contains any ketchup.

“No, I'm not a ketchup girl,” McBride said. “You better stop with that!”

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