WINE WORK & PASSION EPISODE 5 – Michael Cerio – Distinguished Vineyards

Michael Cerio Pic In this Episode, Karen Wetzel speaks with Michael Cerio, VP of Operations for Distinguished Vineyards & Wine Partners. Michael will share his experience and knowledge of the wine industry from a “back of the house” perspective and talk about the many jobs that fall under this umbrella. Michael will close out the interview with actionable insights to follow this path to enter the wine world and what is it takes to land a job.

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Karen Wetzel: Today, I’ll talk to Michael Cerio, vice president of operations for distinguished vineyards and wine partners. Michael will share his experience and knowledge of the wine industry from a back-of-the-house perspective and talk about the many wine jobs that fall under this umbrella. Be sure to stay tuned until the end when Michael we’ll close out the interview with actionable.

Karen Wetzel: To follow this path to enter the world of wine and what it takes to land the job. And now, let’s get to our interview.

Karen Wetzel: welcome, Michael. Thanks for joining me today. Could you please tell our audience who you are and what exactly do you do in the wine industry? I’d

Michael Cerio: be happy to thank you, Karen. And thanks for having me on this morning. I really appreciate the opportunity. So my name is Michael. And I’m the vice president of operations for distinguished vineyards and wine partners.

Michael Cerio: And I’ve been working for this company for about four months. Yeah.

Karen Wetzel: One thing I wanted to ask you before we get into your stories so that people know who distinguished vineyards are. So you’re a supplier. You have a catalog of wineries that the company represents. Could you give us a couple of names that people might know of?

Karen Wetzel: Some of the brands you

Michael Cerio: represent? Sure. I’d be happy to. We’d like to say that we represent a collection of. Wineries from prestigious wine regions around the world is the tagline. So some of the wineries that the names that may be familiar to your listeners would be Markham and Saint Alena across the, and Sonoma.

Michael Cerio: We also own the Argyle winery up in Oregon. And then some of the other brands that we represent are dough wines, as well as Texas. From New

Karen Wetzel: Zealand. Oh, that’s great. Well, I was just at Markham. I did a little visit there with some friends the other day, and it was wonderful. And actually, at Danette valley wine academy, we use the textbook Cabernet as one of the wines in the wine kits we send out for our WSET courses.

Karen Wetzel: So I’m very familiar with some of your brands, so that. Let’s start off at the beginning. Really? How did you get into the wine industry? What’s your story of your wine journey, I guess, of your white career?

Michael Cerio: So I did not intend to get into the wine industry. When I first got out of college back in the nineties, I really didn’t have any clear idea about what it was.

Michael Cerio: I wanted to do the economy wasn’t that great at the time. And so I jumped into some restaurant work, doing a little bit of substitute teaching, even considered law school at that time. And it fell into completely by accident—the commercial baking.

Karen Wetzel: From lawyer to baker,

Michael Cerio: I’ve got a diverse set of interests, I guess you could say.

Michael Cerio: So. Yeah. I just fell into this role working for a company that was at the time baking the bonds for McDonald’s on the east coast. So I got really interested in the sales and service side of the business. Initially, that was where my role was focused. But as I got deeper into it, I got really curious about how do you make bread and rolls?

Michael Cerio: And what’s the science behind that. And so I find myself. The American Institute of Baking and the company agreed to pay my way in terms of expenses to go to Manhattan, Kansas, for four months and learn how to be a baker. Wow. So yeah, I learned all about fermentation science and cereal chemistry and production management, and it was a really fantastic experience.

Michael Cerio: It’s a globally known organization, and there were literally people from around the world. They’re from Japan and Jamaica and South Africa and places you just wouldn’t know. After moving on from that course, I came back, and that’s where I cut my teeth and operations. They figured I was now too knowledgeable to back out in the field with customers, and they brought me inside, and I started managing bakeries.

Michael Cerio: So I did that for a few years, moved on, to work in the spice business for McCormick and company in Baltimore. And then, in 1999, I moved to the west coast with McCormick. They transferred me from Baltimore out to Selena. And I worked there for a couple of years from McCormick on the west coast. And then, when my wife and I decided to get married, she was living in San Francisco.

Michael Cerio: I’m down in the central coast, and she’s a city girl. There was no moving south. I decided to move north. And I got a call coincidentally from a head hunter, and the head hunter said, Hey, I’ve got this role. It’s with a beverage alcohol company turned out. It was the largest beverage alcohol company. I went to work in their spirits division initially and then moved into their wine business in 2005, long story short.

Michael Cerio: When I got into the wine business, I enjoyed for beverage alcohol, but when I got into the wine business, I finally felt like I had found my home. It was a business where it’s very interesting and complex. There’s the supply-side dynamics, and the demand-side dynamics and sort of everything in between wine is such a complex compound.

Michael Cerio: You can learn everything that there is to know about wine, and still you haven’t learned at

Karen Wetzel: all. Well, there’s always another vintage around the corner, right?

Michael Cerio: Exactly, exactly. But what I really love about the wine business and what I do today is working with. People who work in the wine business are passionate about what they do.

Michael Cerio: It’s a business where everyone loves to come to.

Karen Wetzel: Yep. In the opening statements of this podcast. I always say the greatest thing about working in the wine industry is that it’s not just a career. It’s a lifestyle. And that’s really where my passion lies is. That’s why the podcast is to help people follow that their passion so that they can enter.

Karen Wetzel: Wonderful lifestyle too. I’ve made a note, as you were talking, what I love about the whole McDonald’s funds and learning about baking. You mentioned fermentation, and I would guess that when you were learning about fermenting bread and using yeast, you probably never thought it was going to apply to your future world in the wine industry, but it’s such a great connection.

Karen Wetzel: It really is not that different really in a lot of ways. I thought that was pretty interesting.

Michael Cerio: Yeah. It is something that I rely on from time to time. I’m not a winemaker, and I don’t pretend to be a winemaker, but I do have an understanding, a basic understanding of fermentation science. And so I’m able to have at least somewhat educated conversations with winemakers about what they do.

Michael Cerio: So,

Karen Wetzel: yeah. And didn’t you tell me previously that you also worked for Thomas’ English muffins?

Michael Cerio: Well, we did make some English muffins. Yes. And I didn’t work directly for Thomas’, but we did make some English muffins under our own brand as well as under contract. Oh, gotcha.

Karen Wetzel: That’s so interesting. I loved when we first met, and like I said, that’s kind of what this podcast is all about is to.

Karen Wetzel: Introduce people who are interested in the wine industry and open up their eyes to the really multiple ways to enter when you least expect it. There is no recipe for a set path to get in and. Say you never know what’s around the next corner and where either you’ll discover something or something will discover you.

Karen Wetzel: And that’s how your story goes. So would you start it off at the beginning? What did you discover that you really liked when you started working for Diageo? What was that moment when you went, oh wow. This is like you said; you felt like you were home. What happened, or what was that moment? Like what drove that thought in your mind?

Michael Cerio: The hook for me, honestly, Karen was one of, I remember walking into the store. During harvest, my first harvest and we were fermenting Chardonnay and barrel, and it reminded me of being in a bakery when you were in a bakery. And I worked in a bagel plant for a period of time in the morning, we always ran cinnamon raisin bagels, and that place just smelled so wonderful.

Michael Cerio: So I related that immediately to the smells of the cellar with Chardonnay fermenting, and I just fell in love with it. And then it’s sort of other things that you build on top of that experience, that olfactory experience that keep me interested in it. It’s not just that, but it’s, as I mentioned, the people and the complexity of the process to make great.

Karen Wetzel: And it’s funny because the fermentation process using the yeast, stirring the yeast back into the wine, the lees battle, lactic fermentation, that does conjure up a lot of those baking bread, aromas, and flavors. And we talk about those autolytic flavors and aromas all the time when we teach. So that’s pretty interesting.

Karen Wetzel: I mean, that is such a unique connection. So you’ve said you’re on the operations side. Can you paint a picture of it, cause that’s a pretty, it encompasses a lot of roles. Can you give us an overview of some of the roles that fall under that opera or maybe what your specific role is, but then some of the things that fall under operations that might not occur to the audience.

Michael Cerio: So I guess as a start, Karen, I think of it as everything from. To bottle. I have responsibility for vineyard operations. Grape-growing, we either own or operate under lease about a thousand acres between Oregon and California. So we have some third parties that farm for us. So that’s the management of the third parties.

Michael Cerio: We’ve got our own crews in some areas. So there’s the management of those crews. And so growing degree, Then we’ve got three wineries that we also work with a couple of third parties that produce wine for us. And so it’s the management of that winemaking process and all of the operations that are related to that crushing fermentation, the maturation period, and then packaging, and within all of that, there’s the quality aspect.

Michael Cerio: There’s the lab work. Each one of our wineries has. And it’s their staff with people who are familiar with lab work and enologists typically, or people who have a chemistry background and then the packaging. And then we ship off to a warehouse that’s managed by a third party, and then distributors come and pick the product up.

Michael Cerio: So it’s really everything from that. Great. All the way through to the. And in

Karen Wetzel: your role. So you oversee all of that in your role about how many people. So I would say distinguished vineyards in my experience. It’s like a mid-sized supplier, right? They’re not the big Diageo or constellation or Gallo, but they’re also not a single winery supplier either, you know, in a mid-sized supplier.

Karen Wetzel: How many people are under your umbrella? Do you think how many employees are it’s

Michael Cerio: about 60. Okay,

Karen Wetzel: that’s good. And you’re, I was jotting down some of the positions that you talk about it. I mean, certainly wine production. The winemaker has to know a lot about wine, but having spent some time in a winery myself, there’s a lot of positions in the winery that don’t necessarily require.

Karen Wetzel: Y knowledge per se, it’s moving product from what? The tank to a barrel or a barrel to a bottle where it’s not so much about the why knowledge out of the 60 employees that you employ. How many of those roles require previous wine experience?

Michael Cerio: I would say wine experience is necessary for winemakers, certainly, but I don’t think that really there are any other roles.

Michael Cerio: Within my structure where wine experience is a specific requirement. So if you think about folks who work in the vineyards, it’s important for them to understand, but it’s not critical for them to be hired. And I view that as a situation where they bring the functional skills that are required to do the specific job that they do, and we can educate them about it.

Michael Cerio: And I think that it’s important to teach all of our employees an appreciation for the product that we produce. So making that connection as part of building a really strong team, a highly functioning thing. But I would say winemaking is the only one in my view where it’s a requirement that it has someone.

Karen Wetzel: Exactly it, like you mentioned, you have laboratory employees, so for their, the lab experience or at least the lab education, the chemistry and, and all that is, I would assume is probably a lot more important than how it necessarily relates to wine because chemistry is chemistry. That’s where you can teach the wine part of it, but they have to come with some skills or knowledge or experience, but not necessarily revolving around wine, or if you want to be what we do.

Karen Wetzel: Finally referred to as a cellar rat, not a complimentary term, but I think some of the guys like being called that, where they come from production in some other facet, maybe having nothing to do with wine. And I like to highlight that because, again, I think it’s helpful for people to understand that you can get into the wine industry with a lot of the skills.

Karen Wetzel: If you’re working for a packaging company, we need people to work on the packaging side or the bottling lines or all of that type of thing. I think it’s helpful for people to know that. Yes, of course. If you have wine experience, there are jobs for you, but there’s winemaking, or wine production is the same as every other kind of production.

Karen Wetzel: All those jobs that are at any other production facility are used in the wine industry to some degree, right. Transportation and all of that. Yeah, I think that’s

Michael Cerio: an interesting. I’m actually just to pick up on that point. Karen, I’ve mentioned this to you in prior conversations. I think that the wine business is doing a great job right now of focusing on diversity in our business.

Michael Cerio: And I think that one of the ways that we can encourage diversity is to bring folks in from businesses that are not. From either consumer packaged goods or even outside of other consumer packaged goods segments. And the reason for that, I think, is that it introduces a new set of ideas. And I think it challenges us as an industry, as a business, to do things differently, to do things better, to find ways to adapt and grow as we adapt.

Michael Cerio: That’s one of the great things about life and about finding a career. It’s that you don’t necessarily have to have all of the answers or all of the experienced to get started. You can learn a lot of it. It’s just, what are the basics that are required? I mean, if you have a passion for.

Karen Wetzel: When you say diversity, you’re talking about diversity of experience of ideas, but also culture, just various things beyond just the experience.

Karen Wetzel: But I think culture plays a lot into it. Even your geography, where you’re from, and what just your life experiences bringing that into the wine industry. I think, I mean, we see it more and more on, thank God we’re seeing a big shift, and I think it’s a wonderful thing. It becomes so much more inclusive and opens so many more doors for.

Karen Wetzel: People for work, but also for people to enjoy wine because they see people like themselves working more in the industry. And I think that’s just really important. You mentioned bringing in people from other areas outside of wine. I’m going to ask you, you came from outside of wine, and when you started, did you feel like you could see the wine side of it with fresh eyes and maybe coming at it from a different point of view?

Karen Wetzel: And were you able to make an impact

Michael Cerio: because of that? Yes, absolutely. I did look at things differently. We tend to be a bit. And our approach to running the wine business, I think as an industry, and we tend to think that, well, that person doesn’t have wine experience, so, therefore, they’re not qualified, but the reality is you have to find your experience somehow in some industry.

Michael Cerio: And so unless there’s a specific skill that’s required to do the job, I’m very old. So hiring folks who have experience from other industries because it does bring a different perspective. And I found that certainly there were times that I asked the embarrassing question because I didn’t

Karen Wetzel: understand.

Karen Wetzel: Right.

Michael Cerio: It’s exactly right. And if you’ve got the courage to do that and maybe look foolish, occasionally you’ll learn a lot along the way. And there are some sacred cows in our industry. And I think that that’s important that it’s okay to have those. But I do think also it’s important for us to challenge ourselves, and a great way to do that is to bring in people with a different person.

Michael Cerio: Yeah,

Karen Wetzel: I agree. I think that’s great. So in your world, what would you say are the opportunities? So once you get in, let’s say we mentioned you’re working in a winery. You’re moving wine around. You’re maybe just sweeping the floors or stirring the tanks or whatever you’re doing the physical work of making wine.

Karen Wetzel: Under the tutelage of a winemaker, or you’re in a vineyard, or you’re in the supply side, whichever, what are the opportunities for advancement? Do you think under all the categories or under some of the categories that are under your umbrella? I

Michael Cerio: I personally think that you can go as far as your dreams will take you.

Michael Cerio: I really do believe that there are plenty of stories in our industry of folks who started out working in the seller as a seller. As we affectionately call them. It’s not a great reference, but folks who started at the very bottom of the ladder and have worked their way all the way up to being the winemaker and have educated themselves along the way and whatever way that they needed to in order to reach that goal.

Michael Cerio: And so I really do think that there is no ceiling for folks who are really motivated and have a passion for. But typical sort of advancement most of the time seems to happen within the function. So if it’s vineyards, perhaps it’s somebody who came in as a field worker and moved their way into, say, a machine operator, maybe then they became a supervisor managing crew.

Michael Cerio: And then next thing you know, they’re off and running their own vineyard management company. There are a lot of stories about people who’ve done things like that. Winemaking I think the same, you can start in the seller. And then work your way up the ladder; as long as you’re learning the process and learning what you need to know as a winemaker, you can do that.

Michael Cerio: I think that, so again, there are some areas that are functionally very specific, very technical, and require some education, but the limit is only created by the end.

Karen Wetzel: Yeah, I’m fortunate enough that around for as long as I have, I’ve met a lot of winemakers, a lot of vineyard managers, and I find sometimes you could certainly become a winemaker by going to UC Davis and getting your analogy degree and all of that.

Karen Wetzel: And that’s wonderful. And it’s great. It’s a great foundation, but I’m always surprised by how many award-winning winemakers. By their bootstraps, like you say, started just volunteering to pick a wine at a vineyard or as an intern or a part-timer and got the bug and just worked really hard at it. And ultimately came to be head winemakers that really some of the most prestigious wineries here in Napa and Sonoma, really around the world.

Karen Wetzel: So hands-on training, I’m a hands-on trained person myself. And I think that that is something. It can really pay off in this industry if that’s the path that you want to go on. So I’m going to ask you a few questions about when you’re hiring somebody, and I want to know a little bit more about what qualifications you look for.

Karen Wetzel: So, can you tell me where you’re hiring? Is it technical skills? Is it personal skills, a little bit of everything? How much does personality give me an idea of what it is? And I assume that it varies by position, but just generally. How, what do you really look for when you’re talking to a perspective?

Michael Cerio: I look for someone who is going to fit culturally first.

Michael Cerio: Karen, I think that that’s always important. Culture’s about behavior and what’s important to that person as an individual; what are their values? And I searched for that. I searched for enthusiasm for the work and for learning. I think that that’s important. And if those basics are there and they have the technical skills, Then it’s really an easy decision at the end.

Michael Cerio: I don’t rely only on technical skills. I can say for certain usually it’s I start with that cultural match and the attitude, I guess, the ability to work well within teams also because there are functionally many different teams. And a winery. You’ve got the seller team, you’ve got the vineyard team, you’ve got the marketing group, you’ve got the sales group.

Michael Cerio: And so all of these teams have to work well together. So the ability to communicate really well with others to work well as a part of a team, not just a functional team, but an extended team, is also an important thing.

Karen Wetzel: That’s interesting; as you were talking about that, it reminded me of my second job in the wine industry.

Karen Wetzel: So I had gotten into sales with a distributor back in Ohio, and I did well, but it was a long time ago. And most of my products were things like Bartels and James and Gallo jug wines that made it. Wasn’t a very lucrative position at that time. Gallo’s very different now, much more diversified, but I wanted really wanted to work for this fine wine house in Ohio.

Karen Wetzel: And. Years earlier submitted a resume. It was immediately circular filed. Cause I had no experience that I really didn’t have any real wine knowledge. And about four years into actually maybe a little longer than that, maybe eight years into my wine career. With the first company, I happened to run into the owner, and he says, you know, we have a position, and I’d like you to come in.

Karen Wetzel: And I went in for an interview. The one thing he said to me, which meant so much as he talked a lot about those things that you mentioned, the values, the enthusiasm, the hard work, the work ethic, he says, we’ve been watching you. And we know you have all of that. What you don’t have is why knowledge for fine wine.

Karen Wetzel: He says, but we’ll make you a deal. You teach us about sales and relationship building and work ethic, and I’ll teach you about it. And that was really the beginning of a really long career. I mean, I’d been in the business for a while, but not really to the level I was about to enter. And when you were talking about that, you were ticking off the things that you really can’t teach somebody it’s very hard to teach that work ethic, that enthusiasm, that drive for learning that you either have that, or you don’t, and you can teach someone a skill.

Karen Wetzel: You could give somebody knowledge about. But those other things you can’t teach and they’re so important. And when I help people write resumes in my coaching sessions, that’s something I really, when it comes to the skill list, the little checklist everybody puts on their resume for skills. I like to put those toward the top because I think it is important for an employer to see what you’re bringing to the table beyond why knowledge or a particular credential or.

Karen Wetzel: So, I’m glad you brought those things up. I want to ask you, as a hiring manager of 60 people, is your hiring cycle seasonal.

Michael Cerio: Yes, there is some seasonality to it. We bring in interns typically around the harvest time period. And we typically bring those interns into the vineyard management structure and the winery operations structure.

Michael Cerio: And it may be someone who’s out and helped me sample grapes might be somebody to help out in the lab. I think it works two ways. One is it gives, and they’re often students or people who have just graduated. UC Davis or from somewhere else where they have a degree in biology or viticulture, and they want to gain some experience.

Michael Cerio: So interns, yes. We also hire a lot of temp employees around the harvest time. There are some unskilled roles that we need extra help with. And sometimes it’s just moving grapes around on the crush bat, going hoses and the like there’s also that. Aspect. So there are the temps. There are interns beyond that.

Michael Cerio: There’s not much more that seasonal. Occasionally, if you need some winemaking support, so you might bring in a winemaker on a temporary basis. There are plenty of contract winemakers out there that you can bring in to give you a hand. So that’s one that occasionally we may tap into, but those are the seasonal hires.

Karen Wetzel: When you mentioned interns or temps, do those jobs ever turn into a permanent employees?

Michael Cerio: Yes, they’re trying you out. You’re trying them out too. You want to see how, okay. Does this person fit the culture? And it is kind of, and it isn’t away. And I think it works out for both parties. In those instances, when you get the chance to actually watch someone work, it really gives them everyone’s passion.

Michael Cerio: It doesn’t come out in the same way. Some people, it comes out verbally. Sometimes it comes out in their facial expressions, but when you watch them doing the work, and you can see how intense they are and how happy they are. Then, you know, that there’s something there,

Karen Wetzel: right. Attention to detail and all of that.

Michael Cerio: Yeah. So I think that that can work out definitely. And I’ve seen it happen both, you know, temporary employees who come in and say working in the cellar and they turn into a cellar worker, and then they advance as their ambition dictates. And then similar with.

Karen Wetzel: That’s awesome. So I think we’ve done a good job or that you’ve done a good job of really outlining some options, some possibilities of a big picture if you will painting a big picture.

Karen Wetzel: So before we wrap things up, though, I always like to play this little game at the end of our podcast. So I’ll play the role. And my question for you is a fine seeking a job right now under your umbrella on the operations side of the wine industry. What are a few things that I can do now? To prepare me so that I can make my resume look attractive enough to get the interview and also maybe land on offer.

Karen Wetzel: So what are some action items I could

Michael Cerio: do? I think to be inquisitive and to learn all that you can is important in this business, it is complex, and it is interesting. So get out and learn what you can, and it’s not all out of a book. So if you need to find a job somewhere as an intern or as a temp employee during harvest or otherwise, Be inquisitive and learn all you can.

Michael Cerio: I think it’s important to know what you want. Also. I think it’s important to, if you want to be a winemaker, then what do I makers need to know? And sometimes, it’s what’s hidden. It’s not necessarily just the technical stuff. Winemakers typically lead teams, some small teams, and some large teams. So what sort of leadership skill do you need?

Michael Cerio: So understanding what it is that you want and what do you need to get there? Set some goals for yourself. And then the last thing I’d say is. The wine business tends to be a little bit closed in the sense that if you’re not in it, then it’s difficult to break in. That’s very true. Yeah. Developing a network and it really serves you in a couple of ways.

Michael Cerio: The way that I view it, one is it connects you with people, and when those opportunities come up, then they think about you. You’ve been networking and talking with them. You’ve been inquisitive. You’ve demonstrated your passion for the business, and you’ve wanted to learn. So it’s very positive and that way, and then.

Michael Cerio: It gives you an opportunity down the road, as you’re thinking about new and different ways to do things. The bigger that address book is, the more people that you’ve met, then the easier it is to tap into that. As a resource for answering questions and solving problems. Yeah.

Karen Wetzel: I think that’s so important, and we forget about it.

Karen Wetzel: And yet I feel like today it’s easier. I think to network, even if you’re outside the industry, you don’t know somebody necessarily personally that’s working in the industry, but there’s LinkedIn. There are all kinds of social media attended tasting, go to a winery and have a tasting and ask questions. As, Hey, this is the winemaker around.

Karen Wetzel: Can I say hi? I just want to pick his brain. You’d be surprised how to open winemakers or production people can be. You just have to start to ask the right questions and following people, the right people. If you have a particular wine or you’re interested in, follow the winery on LinkedIn, follow the winemakers or the principals, the hiring bodies on LinkedIn.

Karen Wetzel: And look for those opportunities. Send your resume. Don’t wait for a job posting. Send your resume and follow it up with either a phone call or show up at their doorstep and say, Hey, I sent you a resume a couple of weeks ago. I really want to talk to somebody. Can you point me in the right direction?

Karen Wetzel: And maybe you get a personal name of somebody that you can contact. So. Get out there. I think we think today with LinkedIn and indeed and all the job boards that it has to be a posted job. I don’t think that’s true at all. And by the way, I did do a search before our podcast today. I did get on indeed and also on LinkedIn and on wine jobs.

Karen Wetzel: Even more importantly, wine jobs, doc. And all I did was type in my zip code and the tr of course, now to be an intern in a winery, you have to be where wineries are, but I just typed in my zip code and expanded my zip code a little bit and typed in the word intern. And lots of them came up with some, for harvest, some for labs.

Karen Wetzel: So you just have to kind of know what rocks to look under.

Michael Cerio: I think, I think that’s absolutely correct. Very well said. Get out there and get to know people, ask questions, and winemakers. Love to talk about what the. Absolutely.

Karen Wetzel: Well, don’t we all? We all like someone picking our brains, right? It’s fun. And, of course, winemakers are particularly passionate about what they’re making.

Karen Wetzel: So they love sharing those stories and sharing their passion with people. Good. Well, Michael, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your experiences, your expertise. This is a side of the industry that when I’m talking to a student, and I say wine industry, they’re thinking wine educator, suddenly a, maybe a sales rep.

Karen Wetzel: They don’t necessarily think of the back of the house. Which is kind of what I refer to operations as, but having had some experience with knowing people who work back in the house, that can be a pretty exciting part of the industry too. And the good thing is, like we pointed out, you don’t necessarily have to come into it with specific wine skills.

Karen Wetzel: So it’s always something good. For people, even if you’re in person, you don’t have to be a wine person to get in the wine industry. Right. We need it, people. So anyway, I run. I really want to thank you for all the planning we did to create the podcast and for being such a great guest and giving our listeners so much insight into your world.

Michael Cerio: Yeah. And thank you as well. Karen soup, great opportunity to talk about what I do and what a lot to do, and really.

Karen Wetzel: Yeah. And for those who are interested to learn more about distinguished wine and vintners partners, know

Michael Cerio: distinguished

Karen Wetzel: partner, where can they find more information? What’s your web?

Michael Cerio: They can look up any one of the wineries that I mentioned, Markham, Argyle McCrostie, or they can just look up distinguished.

Michael Cerio: Perfect.

Karen Wetzel: Very good. Yeah. And I’m assuming you have a job board there, like most other companies do. I would guess I, that I didn’t check. That’s a good place to start. Well, thank you Michael so much. I really appreciate it. I’m so glad to have met you. I have a new friend in the wine industry.

Michael Cerio: Thanks Kara.

Michael Cerio: Very good. Thanks a lot. Take care.

Karen Wetzel: Thanks so much for joining me today on wine work and passion. I hope our show has inspired you to follow your passion for wine and find a job in our dynamic industry. Our goal is to make this podcast all about you. So we’d love to hear your suggestions for wine job related guests or. You can submit your ideas by emailing [email protected] as always.

Karen Wetzel: If you enjoyed the program, we’d appreciate a good review on iTunes and feel free to share wine work and passion with anyone that could benefit from it. Thanks again for listening and we’ll see you again. Next time.



Karen Wetzel

Karen Wetzel

Karen Wetzel is a highly regarded, experienced Wine & Spirits Industry professional and a well-credentialed Wine & Spirits Educator. With over 30 years in the industry, she has experience in most every aspect of the distribution and supply chain and her expertise can help you jump start or advance your career. Starting as a sales rep, Karen has held key positions within the distribution and supplier network including Category Manager, National Accounts Manager, Director of Sales and Director of Wine Education. She has helped countless others advance their careers through mentorships and best-in-class sales training courses. She has also developed wine & spirits education programs for employees, distributors and restaurant/retail trade partners with the goal of helping them thrive in our industry. Karen is a WSET Certified Educator, has her WSET Level 3 in Wine & Spirits and WSET Level 2 in Spirits and holds expert certifications for Napa Valley, Rioja and American wines from the Napa Valley Wine Academy. Today, Karen teaches at the Napa Valley Wine Academy. She also develops career development content and coaches Wine & Spirits Industry Professionals.


Cancellations of confirmed in-person course enrollments and workshops are accepted up to 60 days before the start of the course. An administration fee of $50 plus the full cost of the study materials and exam fees will be deducted, and the remainder of the course fee refunded to the payee. Separate WSET exam cancellation/transfer rules apply.
Transfers of a confirmed enrollment to another course are accepted 60 days before the course start date with an administration fee of $50.

Cancellations less than 60 days before the in-person course start date or course no shows forfeit any refund/transfer options unless students can provide medical documentation. If medical documentation is provided, students can be transferred to a later course. No refunds will be applied.

Course Transfers cannot be carried forward to the next academic year (which commenced on January 1).

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Flamingo Hotel Las Vegas

Your WSET Level 3 exam will take place on

February 12, 2023 at 10:00 AM (Pacific)


3555 Las Vegas Blvd

Las Vegas, NV 89109


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Mariott Santa Ynez

Your WSET Level 3 exam will take place on

April 23, 2023 at 10:00 AM (Pacific)


555 McMurray Road

Buelton, CA 93427


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Art Hotel Denver

Your WSET Level 3 exam will take place on

March 5, 2023 at 10:00 AM (Mountain)


1201 Broadway

Denver, CO 80203


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Aloft Nashville

Your WSET Level 3 exam will take place on

February 12, 2023 at 10:00 AM (Central)


1719 West End Ave.

Nashville, TN 37203


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Epicurean Hotel

Your WSET Level 3 exam will take place on

March 19, 2023 at 10:00 AM (Eastern)


1207 S Howard Ave,

Tampa, FL 33606


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Street View of HQ

Your WSET Level 3 exam will take place on

January 22, 2023 at 10:00 AM (Pacific)


2501 Oak Street

Napa, CA 94559