Meet Andie McKinnon, Assistant General Manager at Foxcroft Wine Co. SouthPark. Read more about Andie’s journey to the wine industry through apples, a valuable lesson she learned the hard way, and more!
What got you interested in wine?
What sparked an interest in wine was actually… apples. And then cider, and now wine. I took a life-changing course my senior year in college that was a research seminar about old southern apples. A man named Lee Calhoun made it his life’s work to find old southern apples, chart them, chart their history, and talk to families with old apple tries on their property. He donated all of his research to our library so we went through and transcribed it all. It was really cool! I was a food studies major. As I was approaching my senior year. I was thinking about my next move. I loved that class and thought about an industry similar to what we studied and because cider is so niche, I was able to dive into the world of wine. I started working toward wine certifications as I finished up school to prepare for a job in the wine industry.
I could talk about apples forever. Apples are cool because the only way you can reproduce a certain type of apple is by grafting. Planting a seed of a Honeycrisp apple will not result in a honey crisp tree. You would have to take the wood from a Honeycrisp tree and graft it onto a rootstock. Each seed is an apple is 50% the mother plant and 50% whatever pollinated it. Every time you plant an apple seed you’ll end up with a whole new
tree. So many people across the south have their own unique tree and had stories about it. We had binders and binders of letters from people telling their stories. Grapevines are also grown similarly through grafting.
The relationship between history, people, culture, food and drink is what interests me the most in wine. How food and wine is so connected to all aspects of life. Wine fits into different parts of our lives, special occasions, dinner at home, or a regular weeknight. I think It’s all so interesting and beautiful. It tells a story about humanity.
If you weren’t working in the wine industry, what would you be doing?
I think I would be a florist. I worked for a flower farm for four summers. It was the hardest work I’ve ever done – I mean it’s straight-up farming – but it was so much fun! They would send me home with buckets full of flowers that didn’t sell at the farmer’s market and I loved taking them home and arranging them.
Tell us about a memorable bottle of wine. What was special about it?
It was a pricy bottle of Darioush Cabernet. I was opening it outside in front of a table. I took the cork out too forcefully so the wine splashed up and spilled all over my tan shirt. And the whole table was like “ohhh”. But I had to act cool and then ran to the boutique next door to buy a new shirt. But that taught me a life lesson about how to properly and carefully pull out a wine cork. I got a new shirt and a life lesson that day.
What about a bottle you got to drink instead of wear?
I recently went to Sardinia. So right now I am enjoying their wine because it brings back fond memories (even though my luggage was lost the whole trip). It was my first experience being in a place and really thinking about the wine and thinking about where it’s from and how it reflects the place where it’s grown. Terroir, as they say. I had a Vermentino that was salty. I’ve read tasting notes on wine and heard of the note salinity but never really experienced it first hand. When I tried that wine from the Mediterranean island I was like “wow this really is a salty wine” I fully understand what that means now.
What’s your approach to trying a new wine?
When I sit down and open a bottle of wine, I try to give it an equal opportunity. I can’t say I have a favorite grape yet or favorite wine. I’m trying to be impartial and think about the wine itself instead of my opinions on it. I try to always appreciate it for what it is.
What do you drink at home?
I like to bring a mix of things home. My boyfriend complains that I never bring home the same bottle twice. So he likes a bottle and then never sees it again because I’m wanting to try new things. (laughs) Mary Taylor is one of my go-to.
What is something you recently learned about wine?
I’m learning all the time about wine. There are so many layers, there’s no end or beginning to it, I’m always learning. I’m always trying to learn what customers what and what they mean when they ask for something. I try to interpret their requests and help them find something new they might like. I try to explain how a wine taste or where it’s from in a simple way. I’m always trying to refine how I interact with customers and make it more beneficial for them and straightforward.
Tell us about a memorable guest interaction?
Yesterday, I had a mom and daughter come in looking for a bottle of pinot grigio, and I pulled one for $30 and one for $17, both from Alto Adige. They asked me for an honest opinion on which to choose, and I chose the cheaper one because I really thought it was a good value for what it is and great for the price. They really appreciated that I didn’t try to sell them on the more expensive bottle. They kept thanking me for my honest opinion. I always try to be candid and honest in my recommendations. It’s not about the price it’s about the quality. It’s more about what they are looking for.
What’s your mantra?
It’s my goal every day to make customers feel heard, to make them feel comfortable to ask questions, and for them to be able to trust me. I want to meet them where they are and help them on their journey to whatever bottle that may be. I like to think about who I would want to help me pick out a bottle and I try to be that person.
I’m passionate about making wine more approachable for everyone! There’s no time for an in or an out crowd there are just wine drinkers, and that’s it. We can all enjoy wine and benefit from it.
What’s your take on the relationship between food and wine?
You can’t talk about food and wine without talking about culture or a place. Terrior, again. What grows together goes together. I think it’s unique and interesting that food and wine that have historically been produced together in the same geographical place complement each other so well. Americans think very differently about wine than the Old World. Lots of American wine is designed to be enjoyed on its own and that’s fine too. Just like a lot of Italian wine is designed with food in mind. It’s just a different experience.
What two bottles of wine do you recommend from SouthPark?
OOP – Other People’s Pinot by Masion Noir Wines founded by Andre Mack. I really like that he’s an approachable down to earth guy but he is also prestigious in the wine industry. His wines are at an affordable price point and a great value! His branding and label show a little bit of his personality. This is a great everyday Pinot Noir made with “other people’s grapes” growin in Willamette Valley Oregon.
Clos Rougeard Cabernet Franc from the Lorie Valley, France. Right now I’m having a Cab Franc love affair! The grape is delicious and beautiful – its often used as a blending grape but can really shine on its own especially in this bottle.
What are some of your hobbies outside of work?
I love going to farmers’ markets. I love to cook. I love to explore Charlotte neighborhoods. I especially like walking in nice neighborhoods and looking at all the pretty houses.