Known for hits like “Wherever is Your Heart” and “The Story,” Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter/producer Brandi Carlile is beloved for her collaborative spirit and the philanthropic energy she pours into every project. In 2019, she channeled both characteristics to cofound a venture with her wife, Catherine, and friends Amy and Jeri Andrews, centered on something she loves: wine.
The membership-driven wine club, called XOBC Cellars, is based in Carlile’s home state of Washington, a place she likens to “Napa in blue jeans.” It taps Sean Boyd, winemaker of Rôtie Cellars, to produce a selection of wines name for Carlile’s wife and two daughters, among others. All sales benefit her nonprofit, the Looking Out Foundation, which helps fund a variety of arts, education, health and civil rights organizations.
On the heels of XOBC’s newest release, a sparkling rosé launched at the site at the end of 2020, we checked in with the Carlile and company to learn more.
Virginie Boone: Brandi, do you see a connection between creating a memorable song and making a memorable wine?
Brandi Carlile: Absolutely. Both require time, contemplation and imagination. A song can never be heard the same way by two people just as great wine is never described consistently.
VB: Do you think your musical contemporaries have similar interests in wine?
BC: Yes, I see more enthusiasm around wine in general. I think wine gets kind of a stuffy, bougie rap sometimes…But there’s a whole vibrant community of winemakers integrating exciting everyday experiences into drinking wine. I personally love nothing more than to drink a crisp rose, like our Evangeline, out of a Yeti in front of a campfire. Wine is for everyone. I take it fishing.
VB: How do you think the wine world can better reflect that diversity?
BC: I think that showcasing, growing and investing in LGBTQ winemakers, women and, perhaps most importantly, people of color in the community, is essential…We are hearing more and more about these marginalized groups making their way into the conversation and lifestyle. It’s important that we create seats at the table for these winemakers, business people and enthusiasts. It can only make things better.
Jeri Andrews: Historically, the wine industry has been pretty exclusive. We felt compelled to create a beautiful family of wines with a team that represented the things that are important to us and our people: connection, experience, authenticity and accessibility.
VB: The wine club’s motto says, “raising a glass can make a difference, too.” Can you talk a little about that?
Catherine Carlile: XOBC Cellar’s commitment to donating a percentage of proceeds to the Looking Out Foundation has been an absolute lifeline…We have managed to raise $250,000 towards our Racial Justice Campaign and assist over 200 families in need through our Covid-19 Relief Program.
VB: What else does wine have the power to do?
BC: Wine brings people together. I hope I don’t sound pious, as I acknowledged that in the past wine has maybe been something that makes some folks feel isolated…Either they can’t afford it, or it’s been such a white upper-class heteronormative construct that folks have looked at it as a “country club” concept. There are certainly elements of that that still exist, but…I think we need to bring people into community over wine and into conversation by intentionally seeking out and showing love to minority winemakers making a difference in the world.
Amy Andrews: I think the four of us, as gay women, are particularly sensitive to what it feels like to be on the outside. In our creation of XOBC Cellars, we aspired to design that which is antithetical to this concept…Wine did bring [our] community together, but we have evangelists throughout the world that are equally part of the actualization of and commitment to our same tenets of inclusivity, kindness and generosity.
JA: This last year has been transformative in demonstrating the need for connection. If we can help people, including those who may have felt that they weren’t invited to the wine culture party, have a meaningful experience through sharing lovely wines…then we have succeeded.