Ty Menane

TASTING ROOM AND EXPERIENCE COORDINATOR EDNA VALLEY VINEYARD

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:

Alright, so we are here today with Ty Menane, tasting room and experience coordinator at Edna Valley Vineyard. Hello Ty.  

 

Ty Menane:

Hi!  

 

Erin Gorter:

Hi! So, tell us what you do for a day. What does a typical day in the life of a tasting room and experience coordinator look like? 

 

Ty Menane:

Well, the fun part about my job is that there isn't necessarily a typical day. It's all over the place sometimes. You know, I handle a lot of reservations but, also the fun part about my job is that I get to craft and develop these experiences for our customers. So, our tasting experiences: whether it be a food and wine pairing or it be just your run of the mill, standard tasting, I am the one who is responsible for the stories that we tell about, not just Edna Valley Vineyard, but about our wines too and how we can connect our product with people in a variety of different ways. So, that basically no matter what interaction our staff has with our customers -whether they be just a general first-time customer, or they’re a long time, devote wine club member - we are always kind of implementing or inputting these stories and these ideas, ways that they can take our product and enjoy it outside of the tasting room - with their friends, with their family - to create those wonderful experiences. That’s the kind of super fun part of my job. I also work a lot with our member services team. So, with that, I help run, I guess in a sense, wine clubs for three different properties. At the moment we kind of are currently going through our company changing some stuff around - which properties are part of which divisions? But I do Bridlewood, which was based out of San Ynez, Edna Valley Vineyard - San Luis Obispo, and Talbott Vineyards, which is up in Carmel by the Sea. With that it's a lot of over the phone, email communication between our members, and a lot of kind of E-Commerce on that side of the things. Which is really interesting and it's a whole unique, different channel that I don't normally get to be a part of because I'm normally doing face-to-face, direct to consumer sales.  

 

Erin Gorter:

So, we like to find out a little bit about kind of like where you came from. So, share with us more about your high school experience. What you were involved with in high school? Extracurricular sports? Anything like that. 

 

Ty Menane:

Yeah! So, I went to Nipomo High School. I graduated in 2012. A lot of my time was devoted to FFA and being highly active in the Agricultural Department. I did do a lot of other stuff though too. I was a writer for the newspaper. I was part of student senate. One of the coolest experiences that I did have though, is that I was a Boy’s State delegate. So, I was it's kind of like a crazy week, that junior to senior year, or couple weeks, because I was up in Sacramento at Boy’s State, came back, then went to Regional Officer Leadership Conference, then came back home, and then went to Washington Leadership Conference. So, I was involved in a lot primarily with FFA. I was a chapter officer, regional officer, and had the very fortunate opportunity to be elected as a state officer for 2012-2013. So, those were kind of the big things. I wasn't a sports person, like by any means. My brother was always the athlete. I consider myself more the academic. And so, I was really just heavily involved in the Agriculture Department. In my senior I probably had five out of my six classes were ag classes, maybe four out of six. So, definitely involved with Department. That being said I did a bunch of different other stuff, and one really cool experience that I got to have is that working, as you know, president of the chapter and being involved in ag leadership, we also developed a really great relationship with our ASB. We kind of co-hosted events or fundraisers or canned food drives, whatever it may be to work with the entire school in unity. 

 

Erin Gorter:

Very cool. So, when you were in high school, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

 

Ty Menane:

When I was in high school, I wanted a completely different career path from what I have now. I wanted to be an ag teacher. I had a phenomenal ag teacher as you know, we both have had Miss Rosemary Cummings, but it was after my year of state office and within my first semester at Modesto Junior College, I realized teaching isn't necessarily what I want to do anymore. I still want to be involved in agriculture and I like this education side, but I think I have other areas that I want to go into. So, I definitely wanted to be an ag teacher, and I still think about it sometimes, about coming back to school. I think I would love to teach a little bit more collegiately, but also still bring in the aspects of communications that I work with, a lot more so in the hospitality wine industry. But how does that also intersect and interweave with agriculture?  

 

Erin Gorter:

Okay so you graduated from Nipomo High School and then went to Modesto Junior College. Can you elaborate a little bit more on your education experience after high school? And kind of your work experience up until this point? 

 

Ty Menane:

So, after state office, I went to Modesto Junior College with one of my former teammates. His dad was, is, a teacher there and I had a wonderful experience there. I was actually involved in student government as the Vice President of Legislation, which was a very unique role that I got myself into. And then, so, I always wanted to go to Purdue or Cornell and every time I would meet with Purdue or Cornell, it was “you’re great, you're wonderful, we want you to come, we love people from California, however we're not going to waive tuition”. And there wasn't a whole lot of scholarship opportunities that were kind of available at the moment. So, my grandparents had… my grandfather comes from a one like the first farming families in Santa Maria Valley a couple generations removed though myself. And they had always wanted someone, a grandchild, to go to Cal Poly. I am the youngest in my entire family, so it kind of came down to me. And so I was at Modesto Junior College. I was coming back home probably every weekend or so to help with coaching and exercising for someone from Nipomo who wanted to run for state office or helping with the team or just come by our friends that were actually going to Cal Poly. After a while you know the combination of “oh I do have a bunch of friends there”, my family kind of really wants to go there, and then sort of degree-wise Cal Poly just became the crystal-clear option of where I should be. So, I ended up actually having to do a year at Cuesta Community College just to do like some math classes, chemistry and then just completely transferred over into Cal Poly and I was so glad about the experience that I have there. Work experience I have kind of this very strange work experience background. So, in college I started actually working for California FFA as a Greenhand Leadership Facilitator, which wasn't something that I wasn't necessarily planning on doing. I actually got talked into it, and then at the first day of our conferences in Modesto I ended up not just being a team, but I ended up being a part of two teams. So, I was really involved with that which was awesome. Then I went on to our conferences with partnerships that we had with Nevada. So, did that in Reno and in Las Vegas and then I facilitated my favorite conference of all: Sacramento Leadership Experience, which was just a phenomenal thing to be a part of. And that’s kind of where I explored more the career interest of going into work for lobbying for food, hunger, and nutrition issues. And then while kind of doing that, I also had the fun retail job of working for Abercrombie and Fitch. And I have two requirements that I think everyone should have to go through is: one is that you should have to take, in high school, at least one agriculture education class, and two, at some point in your life you should work retail. Just because, although it was very strange, I learned actually a lot and you learn how to learn how to treat people.  

 

Erin Gorter:

I totally agree and I've had that conversation and some of those being retail, and the other one that I would like to throw in there is something in like food service or hospitality, like waitressing.  

 

Ty Menane:

Absolutely! A: you learn certain sales aspects at kind of a young age I guess you could say, but you also just learn how to deal with the public, and it helps you become so much of a better person. So, I did that and then I was living with a wine and harvest intern for Chamisal Vineyards, and after her harvest internship she ended up starting working like kind of, in the cellar, but also the tasting room, and then they needed someone else to help in the tasting room. So, I actually started, that's when I got back into wine. I've been around wine and viticulture in various aspects throughout my entire life. I used to babysit for vineyard managers and wine makers and was kind of just around. I come from Italian family so wine was always like the adults would have wine with dinner. It was just part of the part of life and that like hurled me back into being into the wine industry. So, I started working there part-time in college and then I actually worked for the company Crimson Wine Group straight out of college as their first ever wine ambassador, which was very interesting. I actually lived in New York for a little bit kind of traveling around and promoting the brand. 

 

Erin Gorter:

That’s a good story. A good story of how you got where you are now. I think you kind of already touched on this a little bit, about your favorite part about your day at work. Do you want to maybe share a little bit more about what is so exciting about customizing those experiences for people? 

 

Ty Menane:  

Uh yes. So, at Edna we have couple different tasting experiences that we do and some of them are seasonal. Like our demonstration vineyard tour, which is probably one of my favorites to work on because I get to combine my science side with my communication storytelling side. We have 14 different vines, all different trellis systems, different varieties of grapes, that are grown on there. And each row has like a, kind of a story about that that particular trellis system and why we do that and what varieties grow perfect that way or what it might be. So, you get to really talk through with customers and with people about this like super nerdy conversation that I love to craft and teach on it a little bit. And then you take them inside and you do a tasting, and you get to talk about more the chemistry processes of winemaking and aromas and flavors. And people will say “oh this has notes of blueberries for a pinot” and people are like “how did you get the blueberry in there?” and you're like “well you didn’t” or “we didn’t” but it's just these flavor profiles that you kind of associate taste like blueberry but it doesn't actually have blueberries in it. There's that and then we do a food and wine experience that changes seasonally. My favorite part about that is that I get to work with a local chef who, I can give just give him the wine and tell him have fun and he immediately like can smell or taste it and he's just like “oh we're going to do a like savory apple tart with this, you’ll bake it this way, we're going to do this with this wine” or all sorts of different stuff. So, really that is the fun part of my job too. I think my like some of the best moments within my career is when I am doing a tasting for someone who doesn't know anything about wine. They just know that it looks fun to go wine tasting and it is their first time. And I get to have all these conversations, whether they be like science-related about the wine or tastings, or all sorts of different stuff and get to see these people's faces just like light up and find a connection with our product. That is probably one of my favorite things: when I see that little lightbulb go off for people. 

 

Erin Gorter:

And in essence you're still kind of living back on that high school dream of wanting to be a teacher, because you are teaching people in a non-formal environment about wine, and about how grapes grow, and how it pairs with food and so you still get to be the teacher and that’s cool. 

 

Ty Menane:

Yeah, I get to be the teacher, but I also get to make a sale. 

 

Erin Gorter:

Best of all things! What's the hardest part about your job? 

 

Ty Menane:

I think the hardest part is kind of in relation it is the opposite end of the spectrum when I see that lightbulb go off. Like I said, work a job in sales in college, or in retail, or somewhere in the service industry because you get a good backbone from it too. For sure. There's sometimes instances and work where you have to remind yourself you can't make everyone happy and that you're just selling wine. You're not a doctor; you're not there to save someone's life. You're selling wine. It should be a fun experience and maybe you just caught someone on a bad day. That is kind of the hardest part of my job. I think the boring part of my job is inventory, which is just like, it's kind of like one of those things that’s just ripping off a band aid. Like, you just have to do it. Other than that, yeah, it's definitely you know I'll get off a phone call sometimes and I'm like, I'm going to go for a walk. And then pick up the next phone call and it's the greatest conversation that they've ever had before. So, that sometimes is the hardest part. 

 

Erin Gorter:

Very good. So, we're in the business of producing, managing, and marketing the distribution of food. What is your favorite commodity? 

 

Ty Menane:

I think the expected answer would be wine grapes. However, while they are one of my favorites because they are so unique, especially the combination of Vitis vinifera or Vitis labrusca. However, pork. I raised pigs when I was younger, so I love pork. I just had the best carnitas burrito from my favorite little Mexican spots, downtown. It was phenomenal. But yeah, I raised pigs when I was in 4-H and FFA and raised lambs and did a little stint with turkeys for a year too. But I love anything that you can cook pork. I think, pork loin too. Mr. Beard's pork loin is like one of my favorite meals ever. And I need that recipe ASAP. But also, when I kind of think about it with wine, in the area that we are growing, chardonnay and pinot noir are the two predominate grape varietals that are grown around here. And pinot noir and pork is an amazing combination that, when these students are older and of age, should definitely give it.  

 

Erin Gorter:

Everyone should try it, pinot noir! Can you think of any internships or volunteer opportunities for high school students to maybe get exposed a little bit more to your role as a tasting room and experience coordinator? I know it's a little bit tricky because we're dealing with wine, but are there other things that they could do now in high school that they might get that same experience? 

 

Ty Menane:

Yeah, it gets a little tough. So, I am very fortunate you know, I work for Edna Valley Vineyard, but I work for E&J Gallo Winery, which is the largest winery in the world. And it's still a family-owned company, which is amazing. However ,we do kind of have a lot of restrictions when it comes to it. We do offer an internship that is kind of our direct to consumer and hospitality, kind of, trade internship. However, you do have to be 21 for it because sometimes you're pouring wine at events or just some of the legalities behind it. So, we don't necessarily offer internships there, and you know I know you talked with Holly, but it gets a little rough around there too, just because it's manual labor out there at the vineyard. But definitely just, you know, I know I've worked for some places where high school students have worked for us just as kind of like the bar back or dishwasher. And I think that dishwasher is like kind of a terrible title but polishing glassware or stemware. But you really get to be around in the industry still granted, you can’t serve, and you obviously can't consume or anything, but you still get thrown into that world in a different way. So, some tasting rooms will offer, kind of, positions like that for high school students or as long as someone is 18 years old. I think really if you want to get into these sales side and business side of the wine industry, however many years down the road it will be, you should do some vineyard work first. Kind of putting in the hard labor but then you can learn so much. I had a wonderful opportunity the past couple months to actually be working on doing, like two days a week, working at our ranch in Paso Robles and just pruning, vine tying, all sorts of different other little projects around the ranch and you learn so much more. And if you do want to have that kind of degree in science then you definitely should be out there in the vineyard because that, although you're selling that product, that's where the product begins and it’s just an awesome experience to learn out there.  

 

Erin Gorter:

Yeah, and especially in your role when you're doing a lot of like storytelling to sell something, like having that kind of context and background to be able to really tell the story from beginning to end is important. 

 

Ty Menane:

I think the story of I actually got to work on this block, and it's got these features and I was able to prune it, prune part of this or whatever it may be, tells so much more and give so much more connection in relation to the customer, then being like “this one is good, you should buy it!” 

 

Erin Gorter:

Very true. Alright, this is the last question. If you could go back to high school, what would you tell yourself? Biggest piece of advice. 

 

Ty Menane:

You know, I said I was more the academic brother between the two, but I would tell myself to study more. And to study plant science more and get into it a little bit more. It was so funny, I used to hate plant science when I was in high school. I was always like the animal science person, raised pigs and whatnot. Now I'm like the complete opposite and more like, plant nerd. I have tons of plants in my room; I have a Christmas tree in my room right now. And so, I definitely wish I studied plant science a lot more because it would have helped so much more in college as well. But also, to know that your plan may change and that is completely okay. 

 

Erin Gorter:

That is very good advice. Thank you for taking the time to visit with us today. Again, this is Ty Menane, a tasting room and experience coordinator at Edna Valley Vineyard. Thank you, Ty. 

 

Ty Menane:

Thank you. 

 

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.