The romance and excitement that swirl around wine and wine culture can make it frustratingly difficult to break into the industry. However, there are plenty of opportunities out there for those who truly love wine and food and are willing to do what it takes to break down the barriers. This is the first installment in a 3-step field guide, complete with advice from the industry leaders doing the hiring, that will help land you a job in this coveted trade.
Step 1: Get Out There
Get out there and start meeting people, networking, and learning. Spend time in the wine country, get to know the areas and wineries that you like, and figure out why. This is going to be fun and inspiring, but don’t start submitting resumes until you’ve got some trusted acquaintances or friends in the industry, and can hold your own in a conversation about wine (and food pairing if possible). Start by attending local classes at places like the San Francisco Wine Center, wine and cheese pairing classes at the Cheese School of San Francisco, creative wine events hosted by The Right Blend, or informative winemaker events at local boutiques like biondivino. Make sure to stay in touch with the instructors. Go to larger events like the Reserve Room SF and SF Vintners Market, where you can meet winemakers and people from every corner of the industry. Try and buy the wines, get business cards, follow up with comments and questions, and build relationships.
Here's what the experts have to say:
"The wine industry is notoriously tough to crack. You not only need good qualifications, you also need to get noticed. That means attending a lot of wine functions, going to a lot of interviews, and making as many connections as you can. It really matters whom you know, as much as what you know, so get out there and start networking."
–Paul Wagner, Agency Owner and President, Balzac Communications
"The restaurant and wine business are almost one in the same, and not just because they support each other, but because the work ethic is the same. You have to be into it enough to say: "I need to do this for myself, and I need to have my piece of this industry". If you're doing it for all the wrong reasons, like the lifestyle, you're in trouble... You have to truly love wine and food and the people who constantly and enthusiastically consume them, because the glamor fades and grime stays. But if you love it, you'll love the grime too. Most importantly, in this industry, remember the words of the Beatles: "You get by with the help from your friends." . It all comes down to relationships."
–Nick Floulis, founder, Pushback Wines
"The wine industry is really a small community that is by its very nature social, so it's important to get out and meet people early in your education and pursuit of a career. Internships, volunteering for charity events, working harvest, and going to tastings to network and learn -- these tasks should all be on your list of to-dos. And remember, this is agriculture. Your handshake means a lot, so be forthright and follow through on your word."
–Joel Quigley, President and co-founder, Creative Furnace