I got a degree in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis. I worked multiple harvests abroad and in the US, before landing my first full-time job at a vineyard management company in CA.
I wake up at 5 am, grab my truck and ATV and go to my first vineyard. I spend the day scouting various ranches for pest, disease, nutritional deficiencies, and water stress either on foot or with my ATV.
I love that I get to spend most of my day outside, walking around vineyards in beautiful places. A lot of my job seeing problems in a vineyard and finding creative solutions. I love identifying insects, plants, and diseases. There is always more to learn. I literally get to run around outside and play with bugs for a living! I also get to work independently, my hours are flexible, and I have little oversight. Most of the day, I am on my own in the vineyard.
Free wine. Being in the industry gets you a lot of free tastings and a 20% discount on wine.
If you don’t like manual labor, this isn’t the job for you. It is a lot of walking and heavy lifting, and 2+ months out of the year, you have no social life during harvest. Depending on your company, you may be required to work 6 days a week, year-round. If you become a vineyard manager, you are basically married to your vineyard, and taking even a week off can be risky.
In my first job, I made 60K, and 2.5 years later, I am making 90K. The salary cap is around 150K for a Viticulturist, and from there, you can become a General Manager, President, etc. and make 200K+.
First, work a harvest. They are a couple of months long, and you will get a feel if it is the right job for you. If you like it, get your QAL and PCA licenses, and learn Spanish. I was able to get a job with just a QAL, but down the line, in your career, all three are essential if you want to progress.
A bachelor’s degree in Ag helps but isn’t essential. Getting a QAL and learning Spanish will get you the farthest. Learning how to drive a tractor and getting forklift certified helps also. A PCA license will help you progress in your career and is essential if you are advising on other people’s vineyards. Learning the basics of ArcGIS is a huge plus also.
It is a white male-dominated field. I have been the only female at most of the jobs that I’ve had in the industry. Culture is very “work hard to prove yourself,” and safety can be an issue at times. I don’t love the way vineyard workers are treated in general, but that is a whole other issue.
Wine sales are up 400%, and I just got a raise. This is a great business to be in right now. I didn’t take one day off during COVID and am by myself most of the day, so I feel safe despite the pandemic.