The University of Dry Creek
|I'm feeling a little blue. The office next to me is vacant for the first time in|
10 years. My assistant is gone and I continue the search for a top notch
replacement. It's been a frantic couple of weeks as we tried to dump everything from her brain into other's, just as I had done from mine to hers over our many years of working together. In her characteristic style, she managed to handle the transition with grace and ease, for which I am very grateful.
But change, especially when a beloved employee moves on, can have a positive effect too. It encourages new ways of thinking and allows people to inherently grow in their roles and responsibilities. And, the newcomer often brings talents and expertise far beyond the required skills of the job. So, I continue on the recruitment path with several possible candidates coming in for more interviews.
We've had some amazing people come through our cellar doors over the years. People who started out very humbly and later went on to become famous winemakers, winery owners, etc. In fact, Dry Creek Vineyard could really be called the University of Dry Creek! Just a few weeks ago, I ran into Dan Karlsen. He worked for my dad in the 70s. He had no wine experience and nothing more than a beat up old van, long hair and a dog. But he had just arrived in Healdsburg and was itching to get in the wine business. Lucky for him, he came knocking at the right door. Despite his lack of experience, Dad immediately hired him saying Don't worry, I can teach you everything you need to know. He went on to become General Manager and Winemaker at Chalone Wine Group, and just landed a similar job at Talbott Winery in Monterey County.
Those were the golden days, an era when people like my father were breaking ground in an entirely new industry. Kind of like the gold rush of the mid 1800s or the dot com era of the last decade. It didn't matter how much money you had, or where you went to college. What mattered was having a vision and being passionate in the pursuit of dreams. This euphoric field of dreams mentality lasted well through the mid 90s. A perfect example is Miro Tcholakov. Miro was a Bulgarian student who came to work the 1992 harvest for us. He was shy and hardly spoke English. Yet, he embodied the American spirit of work ethic, dreams, and moxy. We eventually promoted him to the position of Cellarmaster which he held until 1999. Later, he went on to become Winemaker at neighboring winery, Trentadue while starting his own brand, Miro. (Along the way, he also became fluent in English and very outgoing!)
Many names come to mind as I reflect on the University of Dry Creek. Jeff McBride, Winemaker from 1998-2003 and now General Manager for Stimson Lane's Conn Creek Winery, Phyllis Zouzounis who started in our tasting room and later became the first woman to work in our cellar. After many years here, she became Winemaker at Mazzocco Winery, and started her own brand Deux Amis. And there's Susan Lueker, a quiet intellectual who was our Assistant Winemaker under the guidance of Larry Levin, Dry Creek's Winemaker from 1981-1998. Today she's Executive Winemaker at Simi Winery, the historic property owned by beverage alcohol conglomerate, Constellation.
Occasionally, I run into DCV alum who beam with pride as they tell me their story. Yea, I worked for your dad in the 70s. When asked how they got the job, it's generally something like I ran into Dave at the post office and we just got to talking
Sadly, those days are gone. Now it's all about meticulously screening applicants, asking thought provoking questions and interviewing for hours on end until just the right candidate emerges. Because it can be painful if I don't get it right!
Besides, the office next to mine is too darn important to fill with someone who doesn't fit into the University of Dry Creek.
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