AAAV Paths to Success: Wine Brand Founders

AAAV members Robin and Andréa McBride (Founders, McBride Sisters Collection), Theodora Lee (Founder and Winemaker, Theopolis Vineyards) and Malek Amrani (Founder and Winemaker, The Vice Wine) join in a discussion of their personal paths to owning and/or distributing their wine brands.



What attendees will learn:
This event will highlight three AAAV members and how their paths, while very different, all led them to success with their own wine brand. Each of the panelists has a uniquely interesting story to tell.

Why you should attend:
This is a great opportunity, in a time when our nation is striving for equality, to highlight African Americans in the wine industry and be inspired by their stories. We believe this is part of the conversation that needs to be ongoing.

Original Webinar Date/Time: Wednesday, October 28 @ 3 PM EST / 12 PM PST

Duration: 45 minute panel plus a 15 minute Q&A session

Hosted By:

Photo courtesy of Spencer Christian

Spencer Christian
National Television Personality and Wine Aficionado, ABC7 KGO News

Spencer Christian joined San Francisco’s ABC7 News team in January 1999, as weather forecaster for the weeknight newscasts at 5, 6, and 11 p.m. He moved to ABC7 after nearly 13 years with Good Morning America — based in New York — where he did the national weather reports in addition to traveling throughout the United States and abroad reporting on a wide range of topics from current events to human interest stories.

Spencer Christian’s time in New York actually spanned 22 years, including 13 years at GMA and nine years at WABC-TV, the ABC owned station in New York, where he served as weatherman and sportscaster from 1977 to 1986. For a brief time, Spencer also hosted WABC-TV’s Good Morning New York.

A wine enthusiast and collector since 1977, Spencer at one time maintained a private collection of more than 1,600 bottles of fine wine. From January 1995, to December 1999, he hosted Spencer Christian’s Wine Cellar, a lively and informative program which aired on HGTV (Home and Garden Television) and on the TV Food Network. Spencer continues to be a serious wine enthusiast and visits California’s wine country regularly.


Photo courtesy of McBride Sisters Collection

Robin and Andréa McBride
Founders, McBride Sisters Collection
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McBride Sisters Collection is a story of two sisters and our passion for wine. Though continents apart, we were raised in the wine regions of Monterey, California and Marlborough, New Zealand; independently growing up in and around vineyards and developing an appreciation for the craft of fine winemaking. Living across the world from one another, we had no idea the other existed for nearly half our lives. Despite the 7,000 miles that separated us, we eventually found our way to each other in 1999.

Upon meeting, we quickly discovered we shared the same passion for wine and had remarkably similar upbringings. After spending time traveling to wine regions around the world to fine-tune our craft, we created McBride Sisters Collection, uniting our parallel lives and passions. Now the largest African-American-owned wine company in the United States, our collection of wines represents a genuine sense of place. Both the New Zealand and Central Coast of California wines are true expressions of each region’s terroir and our signature style; a blend of old-world elegance and new-world finesse.

Photo courtesy of Theopolis Vineyards

Theodora Lee
Founder and Winemaker, Theopolis Vineyards
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Ms. Theodora Lee, a senior partner and trial lawyer at Littler, founded Theopolis Vineyards in 2003. In the wine world, Ms. Lee is known as Theo-patra, Queen of the Vineyards. Her passion for wine began upon her arrival to San Francisco from Texas in 1987, primarily due to the influence of her law firm mentors, many of whom owned vineyards. This led Ms. Lee to take several viticulture classes at UC Davis, before deciding to develop her own vineyard. In 2001, Ms. Lee purchased sheep land in the Yorkville Highlands of Anderson Valley, and began developing her vineyard. This process was quite complex from clearing land, doing soil tests, obtaining permits to remove some trees, drilling an agricultural well, and terracing the property. Finally, in 2003, Ms. Lee planted her 5-acre vineyard. Ms. Lee adopted her Greek name from pledging Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and established Theopolis Vineyards.

In addition to practicing law and making wine, Ms. Lee is a settlement commissioner, Early Neutral Evaluator, AAA certified arbitrator and mediator. Also, she is a contributing writer to numerous employment law publications and regularly appears on TV and Radio, including NPR and PBS, speaking on various employment topics.

Photo courtesy of The Vice Wine

Malek Amrani
Founder and Winemaker, The Vice Wine
Facebook   Instagram

Before he became a Master Sommelier, entrepreneur and triathlete, Malek Amrani first left his home in Morocco on a plane headed to New York City. He arrived with $150 in his pocket and was homeless for six months before he saved enough working in restaurants to get a place to live. He tried every position from bus boy to bartender and eventually became a Level 3 Master Sommelier. He then transitioned to beverage director and was soon leading sales for the two largest liquor suppliers in the world; Moet Hennessy and Diageo.

Malek turned his focus to winemaking and founded The Vice Wine in Napa Valley in 2016. The first year, he made 500 cases of wine. As of 2020, The Vice Wine has made more than 20,000 cases, producing more than 16 different types of wine.



A Message from AAAV: It is our goal to pave paths for young Americans of color to successful careers in an industry most of the founding and current members were not aware of as young people. We hope to create a more diverse canvas of color across all categories of the wine industry.


Connect with us:

@AfricanAmericanVintners   @AfricanAmericanVintners

@WineEnthusiast    @WineEnthusiast  #WineEnthusiast  @WineEnthusiast

Published on October 1, 2020