Snowbird Students: Winter Internships at Bin to Bottle
By Marin Cherry
For the eighth year in a row, Cornell University Viticulture & Enology majors have fled the cold New York winter for a unique and challenging few weeks at Bin to Bottle, a custom-crush winery in Napa, CA.
Bin to Bottle is a premier custom-crush facility started by a team of partners including Cornell alumnus John Wilkinson ’79. They aim to produce high quality wine for their clients, providing all winemaking services beginning with the receipt of grapes and ending with wine shipment. Each year, a select group of V&E students receive the opportunity to intern at the facility, courtesy of John Wilkinson.
This year, it was junior Simmone Landau ’19 and senior Madison Marshall ’18 who found themselves in California for the three-week internship. The timing and duration of the internship made all the difference in their ability to participate. Marshall was drawn to Bin to Bottle partly by the unique timing. “It was the opportunity to work in Napa, without the time commitment of working a whole harvest,” she said. Landau also found the duration convenient, stating “I’ve always found that winter break is too short to find something meaningful to participate in…John Wilkinson must have also felt that way, because he crafted the perfect solution.”
Their three weeks were packed with chances to learn. According to Landeau, “We were at work from eight o'clock to four o'clock each day. We did everything from labeling and racking, to taste testing and wine analysis. The more questions you asked, the better.” Marshall agreed, “If there was any job in the winery we were curious about, we got the opportunity to do it and learn about it.”
When the work day was over, the experiences certainly weren’t. Marshall pointed out that some of the tours and visits to other wineries were a pleasant surprise. “I did not expect to get to tour wineries and meet with some of Napa’s best winemakers”, she said, “We were able to make the most of our time there.” “Extracurricular activities” ranged from private tours of local production facilities to exploring regional attractions and cuisine hot spots. As Landau put it, “We had many, many food places recommended to us by our co-workers, who were very happy to steer us toward fun things to do!”
Beyond the day-to-day in the Bin to Bottle facility and surrounding areas, both of the interns’ greatest takeaways focused on the people that they met. As Landau stated, “My greatest lesson was in perspective. There are so many hands and brains that it takes to produce a good wine, and it was a revelation to realize how many people care about a wine throughout its production.” Marshall reiterated the connection to the Bin to Bottle staff. “They were so willing to answer any and all of our questions, at the end of the internship I didn’t want to leave,” she said, “I loved how I felt like a part of the Bin to Bottle family.”
Marin Cherry is undergraduate coordinator for the Cornell viticulture and enology program.