Long-lost sisters break into male-dominated wine business

Breaking into the wine business isn't easy, especially if you're a woman or a minority
Breaking into the wine business isn't easy, e... 05:23

This piece originally aired July 2, 2015.

Breaking into the wine business isn't easy, especially if you're a woman or a minority, but two half-sisters who hadn't met for the first halves of their lives did just that after uncorking a crucial part of their past, reports CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller.

Andréa and Robin McBride have a personal story as unique as their professional one. They're black women in a field dominated by white men. In 2010, they started the McBride Sisters Wine Company.

"When we started, it was a bit of an old boys' club," Robin said.

She said they faced pushback and a "lack of recognition."

"Like, 'What do you girls know about wine?'" Andréa said.

Ninety percent of the wine produced in the U.S. is made in California, but only 10 percent of the state's wineries are led by a female winemaker.

Seeking to buck that trend, the sisters have assembled a team that's 80 percent women, including their head winemaker and vineyard director.

"We have this vision, and we have this goal, and everybody is passionate about it and wants to get behind it and see it be successful," Andréa said.

McBride sisters

For the McBrides, success is not just about selling wine, but also creating a sort of sisterhood among their mostly female staff. After all, sisterhood is what makes their own story so remarkable.

"We didn't know about each other at all when we were growing up," Robin said. "Both of us were growing up thinking we were only children-- completely, you know, opposite ends of the Pacific Ocean."

The story of their journey starts with a man, their shared biological father, Kelly McBride. Andréa grew up in New Zealand with her mother, Pauline, until she died of breast cancer. She was placed with a foster family at the age of 6. Robin was raised by her mother, Karen, more than 6,500 miles away in Monterey, California.

Their father wasn't around for most of their lives, but before he died of stomach cancer in 1996, he asked his family to try and connect the two girls. They were in touch with Andréa, but had no idea where Robin lived.

"No Facebook, no Google searches," Robin said.

"The catalyst was one of his brothers, our uncle, was in his living room, watching an 'Oprah' episode, and she featured private detectives on how you find people that owe you money ... or how you find displaced loved ones," Andréa said.

Based on the show's recommendation, the family pulled the records of every Robin McBride listed at the Department of Motor Vehicles and started writing dozens of letters. Finally in 1999, Robin received a note from her father's sister.

"She wrote on the letter 'I'm your aunt, and I'm sorry to tell you that your dad has passed away, but you have a little sister,'" Robin said.

She said it was "very shocking."

"I remember being just so excited. You know, I was 16, and I have a big sister," Andréa said.

McBride sisters

The sisters met in New York's LaGuardia Airport one day after Robin received the letter.

"I'm walking down the jetway, and I see what I think is my reflection at the end of the jetway in a mirror. And as I'm walking and thinking, I'm realizing that the reflection isn't moving as I'm walking. And so the realization hit that that was the first time that I'd seen my sister, who happened to look a lot like me at that time," Robin said.

That story made Andréa tear up.

"I'd lost my mom, and, you know, we'd lost our father, and, you know, that was-- it was my sister," Andréa said.

As the two got to know one another, they discovered a shared passion for making wine, something they each developed growing up in the major wine regions of New Zealand and central California.

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"We had these dreams and had we not met, we probably wouldn't be in the wine industry, but we kinda felt like the stars lined up," Andréa said.

So 16 years later, their banner now distributes wines to major grocery chains throughout the country. For Andréa and Robin, the company's success feels like the culmination of their journey as sisters.

"The world brought us together; we're invincible, we can do anything," Andréa said.

And for that, they are both grateful to a father they never really knew.

The sisters launched their newest brand in February. It's called Truvée, which is derived from the French verb "to find" and reflects their personal journey finding each other. They said it's also important to them that their wines are affordable. Each one retails for under $20.