There is no question that serious classes and formal wine education, whether you want to be a General Manager or Winemaker, will be of value to you as you solidify your place in the industry or add the final touches necessary for an irresistible resume. But it's the quotes below, gathered from experts with many years in the industry, who will help you most in this final step.
If you’re ready, and in it for the long haul, consider the infamous program at UC Davis, where many successful people have gone to jump start their careers. There are programs all over the world and from NYU to San Diego State and everywhere in between. Many seem to think it’s UC Davis or bust, but I highly recommend the programs at the Culinary Institutes of America (CIA), especially CIA St. Helena as you’ll be surrounded by soon-to-be colleagues and industry insiders. You also can’t go wrong with local schools like UC Berkeley, San Francisco State and the schools recommended below.
We hope that this field guide helps you find your dream job or provides impetus to take the next step in your career. If you have something to say on the matter, or have more questions, please leave a comment.
Here's what the experts have to say:
"For those with a passion for wine and people-get some wine business marketing classes done thru either Sonoma State University or Santa Rosa Junior College or Napa Valley College wine business programs. For those with a science background and interested in Viticulture or Enology and ‘dirt’ look for internship abroad programs where many wineries in Australia, Italy Spain etc. offer work training programs. Read copiously! Pick up trade magazines such as Vineyard and Winery Management and continue your education throughout your career"
“Most of our adult students take classes at the CIA’s Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies as a way of getting a jump on the competition when they start looking for a job in the industry. By the time a student leaves us, he or she has a really well-honed palate, lots of experience, a solid foundation in wine factually, a slew of important contacts and connections, and, best of all, the confidence to get a great wine job.”
Karen MacNeil, Author of The Wine Bible and Chairman, Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies, Culinary Institute of America.
"Get Educated. Develop a skill set specific to what you want to do (sales, winemaking, etc.). Commit to working hard and striving for excellence. Leave your ego behind. Then, finally, network like your life depended on it… The wine industry isn't for everyone, but once you get in, you'll likely stay awhile."
–Ryan Wycoff, Sales Manager, Brix Chocolate (chocolate for wine)
"Put the time and dedication into finding a spot with a emphasis on education. The best companies have great people leading and educating their staff, during service hours and beyond. I also suggest becoming involved in the community, sommeliers guild, bartenders guild, and tasting groups."
–Ken Luciano , Director of Bar Programs, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants
"The field of wine is so wide that it has no boundaries or limits. That is one of the many reasons for the attraction for wine is that it is a fine balance between science and art and since nobody can totally master them, we cannot control all the different parts of the equation."
–Jean Hoefliger, Winemaker-GM, Alpha Omega Winery
When it comes to interviewing and getting a job in this industry, it's not just about knowing wine or having a degree. It's about fitting in with the culture of the company and understanding the wine business. Avoid the word "passion," it's way overused in this business.
Ariana Peju, General Manager, Peju winery
"Taste - Taste - Taste - and Read - Read - Read and never stop Learning. Develop your own understanding of wines and how you interpret them rather than relying on propaganda. Find an area or varietal you love and study it to exhaustion. One person's interpretation or example of a wine will be vastly different than anothers. Take bias and ignorance and throw it out the door when tasting wines
If someone is getting into the industry because they think it's glamorous... think again, it is hard work and usually for very little pay - it is a true labor of love."
–Ceri Smith, Owner, Biondivino