Napa Valley, Uncorked
Stern’s Cellar club makes first trip to wine region; eight vineyards in three days
Published: Monday, February 27, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 18:02
This past Presidents Day weekend, 44 MBA1s, MBA2s and Langone students traveled to Napa, Calif., for the Cellar club's first trek to the West Coast.
As with most MBA events, the trip began with an ice-breaker.
The group was asked to describe their personality using an adjective that's typically used to describe wine. Suffice it to say, our classmates are complex, spicy, robust and leggy (among other things!).
During our three-day trip we tasted wines from eight different vineyards and learned about the growing wine industry in California.
The tour kicked off at Caymus Vineyards, a family-run establishment that has been in business since 1906. The owner, Chuck Wagner, told us about the history of Napa Valley and the surrounding wine-growing counties. He spoke about the emerging trends in the wine business, such as how Hollywood revived Pinot Noir through the movie "Sideways," and also the challenges and benefits of running a privately-owned winery. A highlight was lunch in the barrel room (which houses over 6,000 barrels) and the opportunity to sample 12 different vintage wines.
The next vineyard on our list was the exclusive Knights Bridge Winery, where the principal partner taught us the appropriate way to taste wine and how to spit, and how to develop a relationship with a wine before your first sip. He also emphasized the importance of the millennial generation to the wine industry and noted that an educated demographic is key to maintaining growth in the industry.
We also visited Beringer Vineyards and the picturesque Stags' Leap Winery — both owned by Treasury Wine Estates, a large publically-traded company.
We began our day at Berginer with a food and wine pairing that debunked the myth that only white wines can be paired with fish and poultry. We were also taught that a large Cabernet Sauvignon doesn't always mix with dark, creamy, chocolate flavors.
Stephen Brauer, Managing Director of Treasury Wine Estates, explained the strategy of managing several labels, talking specifically about the vineyard's three-tier distribution system and the challenges of maintaining distinct luxury branding and target audiences for the reserve labels alongside Beringer's infamous White Zinfandel.
"The trip to Beringer hit the MBA educational sweet spot," said Brett Baptist, a MBA1 student on the Napa trip. "We gained insights into Beringer's brand strategy and received helpful tips for pairing wine with food."
Stephen Brauer was engaging throughout lunch, and he was especially impressed with the group's questions on emerging market growth and the similarities between traditional consumer packaged goods and Beringer's more affordable wines.
While a wine tasting trek to Napa is especially fun, an education in wine is going to be invaluable as we move into the next stage of our careers. The next time any of us is asked by a client, colleague or boss, "Which wine do you prefer?" none of us will simply reply, "Red."
A very special Thank You to Cellar board members Jessica Shanken and Marisa Rosenthal, both MBA1s, for planning a comprehensive trip and establishing the Cellar Trek legacy; it will be remembered for a long time.
Vineyards visited on the Cellar Napa Valley Trek: Caymus Vineyards, Pine Ridge Vineyards, Andretti, Beringer, Stags' Leap, Cakebread Cellars and Peju Province Winery.
Here are some tips to keep in mind for the next time you're handed the wine list:
If you see ceviche, a fish taco, or any appetizer that is citrus-based, go with a Sauvignon Blanc.
Are you eyeing that good-looking salmon dish drizzled in lemon? Well, it's totally appropriate to order a large Cabernet Sauvignon.
At dessert, you're not required to always serve a sweet dessert wine. Instead, choose a buttery Chardonnay to pair with your chocolate cake, key lime pie or soufflé.