Sean McBride and Juliana McBride didn’t start out in the wine industry, in fact, they were employed in diverse fields far from that business. Sean was a New York City lawyer turned TV industry veteran and Juliana was engaged in book publishing. After transplanting their family, consisting of their twin daughters and their beloved Australian Shepard, Kobe, they moved to Sonoma, California. Their love of wine and family led them to open the boutique winery, Crosby Roamann. The family’s mission is simply to reflect the soul and substance from which they [the grapes] came. Consequently, today, the winemaking duo, located in the Crusher Wine District of Napa is dedicated to creating wonderful, drinkable wines of which they can be proud of. Swig Contributor Kristen Oliveri sits down with them to learn more about their story, as well as to find out what’s on their agenda for this year’s Valentine’s Day.
Q: You both came from different paths that had absolutely nothing to do with wine. Why did you decide to get into the wine making business?
A: We both grew up in households that had a unique appreciation for good food and wine, so from the beginning it was an early fit, but obviously neither of us grew up in winemaking families. In fact, I grew up in Manhattan and my closest connection to the wine industry was a vineyard in upstate New York that I used to drive by with my family. I still remember that picturesque vineyard in Clinton Count and I credit it with implanting the seed of my fascination with wine. I worked at a wine and cheese shop in college and it was there that I actually started to think about the philosophy of wine. Soon, that little seed started to sprout and the idea became the intention to make wine, somehow or somewhere, if I ever could.
Q: How did you get the winemaking process started?
A: In 2009, I had the opportunity to make wine at a boutique vineyard and winery in Napa, White Rock Vineyards, where a number of winemakers have gotten their start over the years. At the time, we were still living and working in New York City, but with that one opportunity, we now had one foot on the West coast and started to imagine how we might make a life change in the near future.
In 2010, we picked up sticks: sold the Brooklyn co-op, loaded up the old Volvo station wagon with our baby twin daughters and drove west. We never looked back. I continued to make wine at White Rock, branching out to make some wine at two other facilities in Napa, over the next six years. In 2014, we bought a warehouse in the Crusher Wine District that had been abandoned since the Great Recession. We converted it into a winery and had our first harvest under our own roof in 2015.
Q: In your opinion, what makes a truly great wine?
A: Great grapes. I learned that from the winemaker at White Rock Vineyards where we started out and it is singularly true. But then it is also hard work, patience and beneficent neglect.
Q: What are your thoughts on sustainability?
A: Sustainability is important to us and comes into practice in a variety of ways in our daily lives. First, in the vineyards, we only work with sustainable and small, family-owned vineyards (at the very least) – those are vineyards that are farmed without the use pesticides or herbicides and generally in an environmentally sound fashion, but which have not been certified “organic.” Many of the vineyards we work with are certified, however, and some are certified Demeter or biodynamic.
Second, as a part of our winemaking practice, all our winery wastewater is recycled and re-used for vineyard watering. Lastly, we also believe that what we put into the wine should be considered sustainable and that our wines should be made in as close to a non-interventionist methodology as possible. For that reason, we eschew the use of additives of any kind whenever possible, with the exceptions of slight additions of yeast or yeast nutrient, when required, and the judicial use of sulfur dioxide (SO2) for stability.
Q: The all-encompassing Valentine’s Day is coming up. Are you doing anything at the winery to celebrate the occasion?
A: We have put together a special “Crosby Roamance” special – a term our twin daughters came up with a few years back and we’ve stuck with for its sheer brilliance and whimsy! This year, it’s two bottles of our 2014 Pinot Noir, two chocolate truffles from local chocolatier Kollar and a handmade Valentine card.
Q: You work with other local growers to pick grapes. How do you pick the right partners that produce the best grapes?
A: We like to work with small family farms. Finding the right partners is incredibly important to us – and it’s a difficult task. We are constantly on the search for new vineyards to work with. First, there needs to be a meeting of the minds about the production of the highest quality grapes – and wines – possible. The vineyard must be farmed by hand and the vineyard needs to have a sense of greatness about it. This seems impossible to put into words but the equation must be a unique combination of great location, beauty, availability of light and water, planted to the appropriate variety for its location and aspect, preferably with a slight slope facing east, south or southwest. When you see the right place, you just know it; you feel it.
Q: You just opened a new tasting room. Tell us about it.
A: Our space is unique. We like to think of it as “industrial chic,” not the usual bucolic scene. You experience something special and different when you walk through our doors. You’re greeted by the vintners. First, you’re handed a glass of wine. Then we embark on a brief tour of the space, sample wines out of the barrel and head back to the tasting room for a seated wine tasting paired with artisanal cheese, charcuterie and crackers. It’s a memorable and elevated experience.
Q: What is your favorite food and wine pairing with one of your wines?
A: I guess the obvious ones: meat and fowl with the reds; fish and shellfish for the whites. If we had to choose one, it would probably be Juliana’s father’s famous roast duck with red cabbage slaw and garlic mashed potatoes. The recipe is on our blog.
Q: When you aren’t drinking wine, what’s your favorite guilty pleasure beverage?
A: Juliana prefers dark beers, particularly Deshuttes Black Butte Porter. I prefer local Sonoma County vodka martinis!
Q: If you weren’t winemakers now, what would you be doing?
A: Juliana might still very well be a book publishing executive or she’d have found herself owning and operating a bookstore/café, a place where creative people could come together to share the great mysteries and passions of life. For my part, I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life!