Student Focus

Winter Internships at Bin to Bottle, California

By Marin Cherry

Student Focus
Bin to Bottle interns Patrick Commane '16 and Emily Oetting '16.

Trading in textbooks and final exams for tanks and barrels, two undergraduate Viticulture & Enology majors spent their winter breaks in Napa Valley, California, leaping into the world of custom crush facilities at Bin to Bottle.   

Bin to Bottle is a premier custom crush facility in Napa, California.  It is designed as a client-first operation, seamlessly taking clients from grapes to ready-to-ship wine with state of the art facilities.  Since 2012, Bin to Bottle has offered Cornell V&E students the opportunity to gain firsthand experience in this unique setting for three weeks during winter break.

This year, Viticulture and Enology students Patrick Commane ‘16 and Emily Oetting ‘16 spent time at Bin to Bottle’s Napa Valley facility, working on a variety of winemaking tasks and projects.  As seniors, both focused on Bin to Bottle’s unique business model, which provides valuable insights that will be useful as they enter the workforce.

Student Focus
Photo by Emily Oetting.

Both Oetting and Commane were drawn to working in the Napa Valley, surrounded by world-class wineries and facilities.

“It was an amazing experience to work in northern California, and observe the ways that their winemaking practices are different than those practiced in the cooler climate of the Finger Lakes,” Oetting said.

“I really wanted to experience wine making on a larger scale. Bin to Bottle’s custom crush facility is a great environment to gain that experience,” said Commane. “Plus, I wanted to see Napa and Sonoma Valley.”

Student Focus
Barrel cleaning made easy.  Photo by Patrick Commane.

Experiences at the winery varied widely, and surprised Oetting. “I was expecting to be topping off barrels and bottling, since that is typically what winery staff perform in the off season,” she said. “But I also spent a lot of time with projects like fermentation restarts, racking, cold stabilization, and fining.”

Their day-to-day tasks required both Oetting and Commane to learn new techniques throughout the entire wine making process.  Daily challenges in the Bin to Bottle facilities pushed them to acquire new skills that will transfer back to facilities at Cornell and beyond into the professional world.

“The hardest part was being presented with new challenges. For example, setting up pumps and lines for different tasks,” Commane said.  “Ask questions and take on challenges you know little about.  This is the best way to learn.”

An organic vineyard at Frog's Leap Winery, which was started by Cornell alumnus John Williams.  Photo by Emily Oetting.

Both students agreed that the Bin to Bottle staff went out of their way to make sure each student had the best opportunity to learn about winemaking.  According to Commane, the Bin to Bottle team members were knowledgeable and effective teachers, and also showed each student the greater Napa region.

After three weeks of challenging work, both Oetting and Commane would recommend the experience to any student studying viticulture and enology at Cornell.

Commane also recommends taking the experience beyond the winery – “Get out there and experience California wine country!”

More information about these internships can be found on the Cornell VIEN interns blog:  http://blogs.cornell.edu/vien-interns/

Marin Cherry is an undergraduate program coordinator for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Food Science.