Internships Span Borders, Build Bridges, Benefit All

Aug 4, 2021 | Business, Education, Enology, Marketing, Viticulture

Nancy Rodriguez is a chef and freelance writer. Originally from California, she graduated from culinary school in Portland and pursued a career in the wine industry. Having worked with wineries throughout the Willamette Valley and most recently in the Umpqua Valley region, now you will find her at the Rose Hill Bed & Breakfast in Lorane, Oregon, creating a culinary and wine experience for those who are traveling on the wine trail.

The wine industry is a global one with resources around the world, from a myriad of countries and regions. It encompasses the well-known regions from the Old World, the Rioja of Spain, Bordeaux in France, Tuscany in Italy and travels across the globe to the New World, to regions as varied as the varietals they produce. Winery internships are an integral part of the business and provide real-world experience to those seeking the opportunity to learn about the wine culture of a region or country. Internships require a wide range of responsibilities, the ability to be flexible and adapt to new situations and the willingness to take on challenging tasks.

Most internships share commonalities in the types of work requirements—ability to do physical labor, operate equipment, work long hours in all kinds of weather and be a team player. However, with the ever-expanding industry, new categories are created to accommodate opportunities for students interested in marketing and learning the intricacies of navigating the way through the business of wine. Interns also represent a diverse group with backgrounds and experience as individual as their expectations. What they can expect from an internship is the benefit of working under the tutelage of wine professionals and preparation for a career in the wine industry. This experience not only builds bridges from country to country but from education to real-world experience. Abacela Vineyard

Traveling to the New World and arriving in the Pacific Northwest, we find the Ababcela Winery in the Umpqua Valley AVA. Umpqua Valley is part of the larger Southern Oregon AVA—and it’s a larger valley comprised of 100 small valleys centered around the Umpqua River. Abacela’s 76 acres of vineyards stretch out in undulating rows, catching sunlight and rain under an endless sky. The founders, Earl and Hilda Jones, chose this location for their winery after an extensive search for a region and climate in which to grow tempranillo. The Rioja region of Spain was the inspiration for their quest to produce Iberian varietals in the Northwest. Their winery has distinguished itself in the pioneering of Tempranillo in the US and has been deemed the most interesting vineyard property in Oregon.

What will a student experience as an intern?

Abacela Wine Interns

The 2019 crush crew (l-r): Jason Farmer, Earl Jones, interns Ignacio, Marina and Paolo; Andrew Wenzl, Truell Doyle and intern Phillipine. Ignacio and Marina were from Rioja, Spain; Paolo was from Martina Franca, Italy, where capocollo is made; and Phillipine was from the Champagne Region of France.

In the vast macrocosm of the wine world, Abacela encapsulates a microcosm of what experience an intern will find at a winery. Each new season, as the vines grow on the trellis and increase their reach, so too does Abacela extend a welcome to the international community of hopeful viticulturists and winemakers. They have hosted students from around the world from France, Italy and Spain,  and closer to home from UC Davis, California Polytechnic State University and Cornell. In doing so, they have created an international family with interns returning to visit, or the patriarch and matriarch of Abacela visiting the families on their trips to the countries the students call home. Invitations to the parents are also always open to visit Abacela. The kitchen table at the home of the Jones’ is another place memories are made in the sharing of food and wine with a toast to the success to all who partake in their hospitality.

Abacela offers two types of compensated internships, a Viticulture/Enology Internship, and a Winery Internship. There is cross-over in the skills required—especially those where stamina and strength, not just of character are a premium. Above all, a strong work ethic is a priority. Like wine in the bottle waiting for its time, the intern learns to grow along with the life in the vineyard, the ebb and flow of seasons, from bud break to harvest, crush to bottling and all part of the experience for the intern. As the characteristics of wine develop complexity and become evident with time, internships provide a deeper understanding of the science and art of grape growing. Hilda Jones described the care of the vines as being akin to caring for her children. The interns also become a part of the Abacela family and are recipients of not only an education but a compass that will guide them through to a successful career.

Internships benefit all parties involved

Hilda Jones

Abacela’s Hilda Jones

The meaning of Abacela, translated from an ancient dialect of the Iberian Peninsula is “they plant a vine,” but what the interns will take away from their time spent here will last far beyond the distance traveled from the vineyard. “It is a cross-breeding of ideas; we learn, they learn, it’s a wonderful experience,” muses Hilda Jones.

Mirroring those sentiments, winemaker Andrew Wentzl adds,  “I always enjoy our international interns because they bring so much passion to the process. Sometimes I feel like I learn as much from them as they do from me and Abacela. The wine culture is so entrenched within the European culture that they think of things in a different way.”

Please visit the Abacela website for details regarding the qualifications needed for the internships and the application process.

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