Brett Jones

CENTRAL COAST WINEMAKER AT DELICATO FAMILY WINES

FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to the AgSnacc Podcast where we take a look at careers in agriculture and the journey toward those careers. I’m your host, Erin Gorter, and we hope you enjoy this tasty AgSnacc.

 

Erin Gorter:

So today we're here with Brett Jones, central coast wine maker at Delicato Family Wines. How are you today, Brett?

 

Brett Jones: 

I'm doing good. How are you?

 

Erin Gorter:

Fantastic. Fantastic. So we always start off here with Ag Snacc with a little description of what you do and what the typical day in the life looks like of a central coast winemaker at Delicato Family Wines.

 

Brett Jones: 

Yeah, so, you know, a typical day for me, kind of changes, you know, during harvest, and is different with non harvest. So, as of right now, you know, in the mornings, we meet with the production team, so the cellar and barrel room, kind of discuss what activities we’re working on, you know, as far as what blends, what wines are being moved. And then from there, you know, looking at analysis is a pretty important part of my job. And that's, you know, we’re just making sure the wines are safe and are happy. You know, we're looking for trends, if you know, the VA's are spiking, you know, we need to act on that quickly before the wind goes bad. And then in the afternoons, you know, we spent a lot of time tasting those wines and just making sure they're tasting and are looking really good and how we want those blends to look.

 

Erin Gorter:

So you just used VA’s. What is that?

 

Brett Jones: 

So that's a volatile acidity. Basically, the natural state of wine, if you let grapes hang out in the wild, they will turn into vinegar. And so that's basically what we're fighting in the wineries. We don't want the wine to turn into vinegar, just because then it's not going to taste very good.

 

Erin Gorter:

No, no it will not. So tell us a bit about what your high school experience was like. Were you involved in any sports, extracurricular activities, what type of classes you took?

 

Brett Jones: 

Yeah. So I grew up in the Bay Area. And I, you know, I played football, I did wrestling. I took a lot of science classes. I really enjoyed science. And that's something I wanted to pursue as a, kind of after high school. I just didn't know, kind of, what there was to offer in science backgrounds. And I didn't want to be in an office all day long. But yeah, I grew up kind of in a rural town, a small town. Lot of agriculture was around us. So I knew I kind of wanted a balance of agriculture and science. I want both of those.

 

Erin Gorter:

Besides sports, football, wrestling, were you involved in anything else? Or is that pretty much it?

 

Brett Jones: 

That was pretty much it, yeah. Yeah, I was pretty involved in sports.

 

Erin Gorter:

That takes up a lot of time.

 

Brett Jones: 

Yeah, exactly.

 

Erin Gorter:

Yeah. When you were in high school, what did you want to be when you grew up?

 

Brett Jones: 

That's a good question. You know, I think it has got, you know, I wanted, part of me wanted to maybe do construction because I had an older brother that worked construction. And, you know, as a younger brother, you always want to kind of follow and your brother's footsteps. And so I kind of, that's kind of what I was kind of leaning towards. But of course, he kind of didn't want me to do that. He wanted me to do something else, something that I wanted to do.

 

Erin Gorter:

So then after high school, what did you do? Did you go to school? Did you go to work?

 

Brett Jones: 

Yeah. So after high school, I was lucky enough to go to Cal Poly. So I went to Cal Poly and I was a wine and viticulture major. And I was kind of hesitant at first because I wasn't sure if I wanted to pursue that. But you know, I took a couple classes and the professors at Cal Poly really kind of, they described winemaking and winemaking passion that was a, it was a, it was kind of art and science blended together. And it really intrigued me. And I think one of the great parts about Cal Poly is you have to do an internship before you graduate. And so I was looking into an internship in Napa. And that's really when it kind of just set me off, that you know what, this is what I want to do. You know, I really love the atmosphere of a winery. I love that, you know, there is, you know, there's science behind winemaking, but at the same time, there's a lot of art and kind of, you know, that fluff that goes with it, you know, to make a wine. And I was really intrigued by that.

 

Erin Gorter:

So then after Cal Poly Where did you end up landing your first job?

 

Brett Jones: 

Yeah, so I graduated Cal Poly in the winter, which is probably the worst time to graduate for a winery because harvest is already over. But I was you know, I had some friends in that the southern hemisphere is actually opposite seasons of the US. So a lot of people said go to Australia or New Zealand. So I actually went to Australia, worked harvest there, which was really a great experience. It was a large winery, and Australia is very, the difference is that they are very mechanical. So it's a lot of machines, a lot of automation. So I learned a lot about, kind of, the machines and the equipment they use in a winery. And then I came back to the U.S., just kind of hanging around here and then did another internship in New Zealand in Marlboro, which is really a well known wine region for Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. And so after that internship, I knew I really want to kind of focus on cool climate varietals, which is Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir. And Monterey is kind of a sweet spot for that. So that's when I knew I wanted to come back to California. I wanted to kind of work in the Monterey region. And I was able enough, I was lucky enough to get a job with Delicato in their Monterey facility.

 

Erin Gorter:

So how long have you been with Delicato?

 

Brett Jones: 

So I've been with Delicato for about eight years. And I started off as a knowledgist, which is basically, you know, they kind of oversee the day to day lab results, kind of the playing of the lab samples and just making sure that the samples are being ran and doing a lot of quality control aspects of winemaking. And then I was promoted to assistant winemaker. And then during that time, you know, our head winemaker left and I got more responsibilities. And I was able to be promoted to winemaker to such a close winemaker now.

 

Erin Gorter:

Awesome. So I think that's pretty cool how you went to college, kind of not quite sure. And then had an internship and it really instilled it, and you got the chance to travel internationally, which I think is awesome.

 

Brett Jones: 

Yeah. You know, if people ask me, one of the great thing about winemaking is that if you want to travel the world and make some money, it's a great thing to do, because you can go back and forth between the Southern Hemisphere in the Northern Hemisphere.

 

Erin Gorter:

That's awesome. So when you were growing up, how are education and work life viewed in your household?

 

Brett Jones: 

You know, growing up, education was very important in my family. My mom was a first grade teacher. So at a young age, you know, school was, you know, the most important thing. If you didn't get good grades, you couldn't play sports. And, you know, I love playing sports, I want to play football and do wrestling in high school. So if I didn’t have the grades I couldn't play. So at an early age, it was really instilled in us that, you know, hey, you're gonna go to school, you're gonna get good grades, and you need to pay attention. And that was kind of the foundation of school for me.

 

Erin Gorter:

So thinking about your current job now, what is your favorite part about your day at work?

 

Brett Jones: 

Oh, you know, probably my favorite part about work is working harvest. You know, every harvest is different, you know, this last harvest, there was a lot of fires in Monterey that really threw a lot of curveballs to us. And the COVID was another curveball where we, it was, you know, a lot of distance working and social distancing with the people you work with closely with. And so I think that's the best part about it is that every harvest is different, it has new challenges. So you know, you're not doing the same thing every year. It's not the same routine, it's always changing. And you always have to be on your toes and get to be able to adapt, which, you know, I love because I never, I need to be always doing something. And if I get bored, I kind of, you know, lose concentration. So that's what I love the most.

 

Erin Gorter:

What's the hardest part about your day?

 

Brett Jones: 

You know, I would say the hardest part of the day is, you know, you put a lot of effort into making wine and it starts in the vineyard, and goes over to the finished product. And, you know, a lot of things can go wrong during that time. And one little thing can go wrong, it can really made that wine change a lot. And, you know, you put so much effort into making a great one and one little thing happens. And that wine is just not as good as it was. And it's really hard to see that happen. And once it goes into the market, you know, you'll get one chance with the consumer, if they taste that wine once and it doesn’t taste good, they're probably never going to buy that brand ever again. So that's probably the hardest part.

 

Erin Gorter:

Yeah, I have some friends that work in the industry that say that, you know, the plants do all the work, and it's just our job not to mess it up.

 

Brett Jones: 

Exactly. Exactly.

 

Erin Gorter:

So, in the business of managing, producing and marketing food, what is your favorite ag snack?

 

Brett Jones: 

Yeah. So you know, I live in the Salinas Valley. And the Salinas Valley is known as the salad bowl of the world. And so I would say that my favorite snack is like, you know, broccoli and leafy greens. You know, driving up and down the 101, you get to see all these, all this farmland and all this, all these crops growing, and it's cool to be living here and seeing that, okay, well, you know, that little plant right there goes into the grocery store and gets produced. And it all comes from the Salinas Valley. So, you know, that's really cool to see, I think. And that's really something special that we have here is that we have all these leafy greens and broccoli

 

Erin Gorter:

I love it when I'm traveling to other states to look in the grocery stores and see produce from the Salinas Valley. 

 

Brett Jones: 

Yeah, it's crazy, right?

 

Erin Gorter:

It's like, wait, I've been there.

 

Brett Jones: 

Yeah. You drove through there.

 

Erin Gorter:

Yeah. So I know this is a little bit more challenging with the wine industry, and so maybe it's not specific internship opportunities, but can you think of any types of opportunities that high school students could take advantage of to gain more experience if they wanted to become a winemaker?

 

Brett Jones: 

Yeah, you know, it is tough because it is obviously a, it's an alcohol industry. So you got to be 21 to drink. But I think there is lots of jobs in summer kind of summer jobs that wineries and vineyards that, you know, where it's a couple weeks that they need help, and you can kind of do different things, you know, is that if it's from, you know, picking grapes, to helping out reading, you know, different analysis in the lab during harvest, and just kind of getting yourself familiar with the wine industry kind of seeing, okay, what's this all about? What are people really doing in there and kind of getting a good idea. I, you know, we do a lot of internships here, and we push those internships because I think, like for myself, you don't really know what you want to do until you actually get into it. And it's one of those things where, until you actually do it, and see it how it actually is, then you really realize like, okay, you know what, yeah, this is a lot of fun, or, you know, what, this is just not for me, I don't this is not what I want to do, you know.

 

Erin Gorter:

It's good advice. Do you, what do you see kind of changing in your industry in the next 20 years that somebody could kind of gain more skill in now that would make them really valuable in your industry 20 years from now.

 

Brett Jones: 

You know, I think labor is going to become a big issue for us. And I think, as an industry, then we need to start moving to more mechanisms. And I think people that have skills with computers, building programs, you know, having a good understanding of the computer technology, basically, it's going to be a huge advantage, I think in the future for us. Especially in California, you know, labor is always going to be an issue. And as we get it to get more expensive to hire people, you know, we have to cut costs somewhere, and where do you cut costs, you probably cut cost on labor. And so if you don't have the people to do it, you need the machines to do it, or the mechanical engineering to do that. And I think that's gonna be the next big push for the next 10 years in the wine industry.

 

Erin Gorter:

So, if you can reflect back, and if you would go back and tell 16, 17 year old Brett Jones the biggest piece of advice, what would you tell him?

 

Brett Jones: 

Yeah, you know, that's a great question. And I think I would have told myself to be more involved with leadership classes, you know, ASB, you know, kind of those kinds of things. Because I think, as you move up in your career, learning how to lead people with different views is a challenge, you know, and getting everybody on the same page, to get one common goal is, is, is a hard thing. And you know, you don't you don't learn those in school, you know, so I would tell myself to be more involved with leadership classes and getting more involved with just you know, the aspects of school and everything going around you. Even if it’ll have nothing to do with what you're going to do in your life. You know, at some point in your career, you're going to be a manager or you're going to be a supervisor, and you're going to need those skills.

 

Erin Gorter:

Great advice. Great advice. Well, thank you for your time today. Again, this was Brett Jones central coast winemaker at Delicato Family Wines. Thank you, Brett.

 

Brett Jones: 

Thank you, Erin, so much.


Thank you for listening to this AgSnacc, a production of the Brock Center for Agricultural Communication at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in collaboration with the South Coast Region Agricultural Education Consortium. For more information, please visit our website at www.agsnacc.com. That’s www.a-g-s-n-a-c-c.com.