Getting a Leg Up in the Wine Industry

By Lonny Wysard Posted Mon, 07/17/2017 - 15:37

The School of Management’s Beverage Management course offers opportunities to get hands-on experience in the wine business, thanks to USF’s academic alliance with the Trinchero Family Estates winery.

Consider a class where you not only get to taste fine wines but also get hands-on management experience. This would be the BUS 387 Beverage Management course where students have the opportunity to learn from Trinchero Family Estates, a winery in Napa County that USF has an academic alliance with.

According to associate professor and course instructor Thomas Maier, this class offers various opportunities for students such as a tour of the winemaking process, education on vineyard viticulture practices, and even wine aroma training. Students in the course also work on a business project that “includes food and wine pairings, marketing messaging, and social media analysis” that is presented to Trinchero executives at the end of the semester, explained Maier. “The collaboration with Trinchero provides unique access to the wine industry and the various enterprise management concepts associated with a global wine producer,” said Maier. Also, it “provides access for student internships and career placement opportunities upon graduation while deepening their understanding of wine making, menu planning, sustainable practices, and marketing distribution.”

Another great opportunity is the Trinchero-sponsored training to become a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW). “The CSW is offered through the International Society of Wine Educators,” Maier said. “Trinchero provides the study guide, a two and a half day workshop and training on CSW contents, a full eight hour review session, and testing fee,”--a value of $12,000, available for free to School of Management students who participate. Students are also provided with “overnight accommodations at the estate in their trade relations facility working with wine experts and the culinary team to prepare for the exam.” This year, 12 hospitality students from the School of Management were chosen to join the program, Maier said.

Recent alumna Hope Pinelli BSBA ’17, was one of the handful of students who was chosen to be sponsored by Trinchero to become a Certified Specialist of Wine when she took the beverage management course her senior year. “Having them sponsor me for this certification is a huge benefit. Without them, I probably would not have been able to afford taking the certification myself for a year or so and may have lost out of potential job opportunities because of it,” she said.

Looking back, her first collaboration project with Trinchero “was researching for them the trends of sweet wines for millennials and how sweet wines pair with spicy foods.” She explained the class worked on this project together and later presented it to Trinchero executives Barry Wiss and Susan Smith. Her favorite activity with Trinchero was playing interactive wine-related games, one of which was called “tongue fu.” The game involved there being four altered wines and one control wine, “you had to determine which wine had a higher level of sweet, acid, tannin, alcohol and which one was the control / original wine.” She said “the knowledge from the games they taught solidified what I knew about wine and its aromas and flavors. As well, the CSW book has a lot of knowledge that is important to know for the industry.”

Pinelli said “[Trinchero has] shown me potential career options in the industry other than the traditional tasting room manager, winemaker, and sommelier roles,” and that what she is taking away from this experience are “the many possibilities that a career in wine can lead to.” She said “Trinchero is a great connection for me to have down the road. She said she found Trinchero executives Barry Wiss, Susan Smith, and Margo Treweek “to be great mentors along the way. I know that if I have questions in the future I can easily reach out to any of them and they will be there to help.”

She currently works as a production assistant for the winery Heitz Cellars, describing it as her "dream job."

Alumna Jensen Bogan BSBA ’17 was also a student chosen to be sponsored by Trinchero. “Our three day stay with Trinchero was an experience I will never forget,” she said. “Our days were filled from sunup to sundown with lectures on different grape varietals, geography lessons, and blind tastings--only taking short breaks to scarf down an incredible meal made by their estate chef,” Bogan explained. “By the time we went to bed we were almost too tired to indulge in a complimentary glass of wine for ‘fun.’”

Bogan said one of her favorite activities with Trinchero was playing Aroma Wheel of Fortune. “Our group broke into two teams that took turns spinning the Aroma Wheel, which featured 50+ aromas that can be found in wine,” she explained. “Some of the more obscure examples would be: mushroom, quince, barnhouse, or tobacco. The arrow would land on a blank aroma and we all had to guess what we thought it was. It was a great way to exercise our developing sense of smell and work together as a team.”

While Bogan enjoyed the games, she emphasized the impact Trinchero had on her career path: “USF's collaboration with Trinchero is where my passion for wine flourished and was the start of what I hope to be a very long journey in the wine industry,” said Bogan. “It was a networking opportunity, it was a learning opportunity, and it was also an amazing bonding opportunity with my fellow hospitality peers.” She said Trinchero “gave me exposure to a very valuable sector of the hospitality industry at just 21 years old. I believe it has helped jumpstart my career post-graduation.”

Since she graduated in May, Bogan landed a job as a dining room manager at the esteemed San Francisco seafood restaurant Waterbar. “Waterbar takes great pride in their award-winning wine program, and the knowledge I gained from working with Trinchero will help me during my management experience.”