SUMMER INTERN SERIES: NEIL HARBER – On Being a Wine Intern

This is one of the male peacocks showing off at the Gallo campus.  Ernest Gallo raised roosters in his yard when he started the company so he thought some peacocks would add some character to the farm.  The peacocks have been at Gallo ever since and there are about 12-15 of them roaming the campus.  They love to hang out by the main doors, which kind of creeped me out at times.  However, peacocks won’t attack unless they see something shiny or flashy.  This is probably more than you ever wanted to know about peacocks:

Welcome back! I stated last time that for my final post to discuss a few subjects like Gallo’s MBA Immersion Program and my project, the Intern Wine Bracket, and living in Modesto.  I’ll start with the MBA Immersion Program and work my way from there.

MBA Immersion Program / My Project

This summer is a small glimpse of Gallo’s newly branded MBA Immersion Program.  The program gives the MBA new hires formal and informal opportunities to learn about the company and the industry, as well as build relationships within the company.  These opportunities will take place in the form of lunch and learns, executive leadership meet and greets, and happy hours just to name a few.  The interns had the opportunity to participate in two of the lunches with members of the leadership team.  Our first lunch was with Ernest J. Gallo who is the grandson of Ernest Gallo and the current Vice President of the Spirits business unit.  This was a great chance for us to ask him questions about the newest business unit at Gallo, leadership, and the spirits industry.  It was interesting to hear how successful the New Amsterdam Gin and Vodkas have been since being launched three years ago and the strategic plan to make the other spirits just as successful.  The other lunch was with Susan Hensley, a vice president in strategic planning and HR.  Susan gave us insights on the new employee training programs and the bench strength development that Gallo continues to focus on in each functional area.  Both lunches were quite informative and insightful to Gallo’s strategy.

Additionally, the Immersion Program is a rotational program with an assigned mentor.  The program is designed for three years with the rotations occurring every 12-15 months with the MBAs having some influence on their next rotation.  The leadership team balances the rotations based on availability and the type of exposure/experience that you will receive in your next assignment.  It is also great for the MBAs to learn about the different aspects of Gallo and continue to interact with leaders throughout the company.

The program is about exposure to the company’s leadership and engaging with them, which I was able to experience with my project’s final presentation.  All of the interns presented our projects to the executive leadership team.  My project was the category analysis for the closures that analyzed the cost drivers and identified any potential cost savings.  I presented in front of Gallo’s retiring CFO, incoming CFO, as well as various VPs and Directors across the company.  Thankfully, my presentation went well and exceeded the expectations that were set for me.  That type of representation shows the commitment that the leadership has with the program and the impact that each individual can have in the company.

The Gallo Wine Wheel helps you identify the different aromas in the wine.  We used this for the competitive aroma test and continued to use it during our other wine tastings.  As you can see, the aromas have a wide variety from “band-aid” to “gardenia”:

 

The Wine Intern Bracket

There is a tradition at Gallo that each summer the MBA interns have a blind wine tasting bracket to determine the best red and white wines from Gallo’s portfolio.  We receive free donations of the wines from each of the brand teams, but unfortunately cannot incorporate all of the Gallo family of wines into the bracket.  Therefore, we start with 16 different reds and 16 different whites and work our way down from there.

The red wine final four featured Bodega Elena Malbec and Gascon Colosal in one regional final with McWilliams Jack’s Blend and Louis M. Martini’s Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc in the other final.  It was a close vote and tough decision by all, but Gascon Colosal won the final over Martini with a vote of 5-4.  I was surprised by the winner and even more shocked that I picked Gascon over a Martini Cab, but on that night I found the Gascon more appealing and flavorful.

The white wine bracket was a little more shocking with Cinderella in the form of Gallo Family Vineyard’s Pinot Grigio dancing it’s way to the final four.  The rest of the final four was the Edna Valley Chardonnay, the Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio, and the White Haven Sauvignon Blanc.  Now, personally, I really don’t like Sauvignon Blancs and think they taste a lot like fresh cut grass and smell like cat pee, but the White Haven was the winner with a vote of 6-3.  It shows how everybody has their own taste preferences and profiles, even if I don’t agree and they choose something that tastes and smells very odd.

 

Red Wine Winner: Gascon Colosal — Red Blend 

White Wine Winner: White Haven — Sauvignon Blanc

Living in Modesto

Living in Modesto is not like living in Atlanta.  However, Modesto is not a large metropolitan city, but it does have some redeeming qualities.  One of the quotes that I heard throughout the summer is that Modesto is 30 minutes from nothing, but two hours from everything, which is very true.  Within two hours, you can find yourself in Oakland or San Francisco which I did a few times and caught both an A’s game and a Giants game.  You are also only 90 minutes to Napa and Sonoma if you want to escape for the weekend for some wine tasting.

If you are more into the outdoor scene, Modesto is close to some of the best parks and recreational areas in the country.  Yosemite National Park, The Big Sur, and Lake Tahoe take the spotlight and offer great opportunities to camp, boat, hike, ski, and/or fish.  There is also Knights Ferry Rafting down the Stanislaus River in Oakdale if you are looking for something a little closer.

Another aspect of Modesto that I really enjoyed was the weather.  It definitely gets hot, like over 100 degrees, but it’s not humid and the sun was shining most of the time that I was there.  It also rarely rains and stays fairly mild during the winter.  Aside from the weather, the cost of living is very affordable and offers a good opportunity to pay off some of your school debt.

Catching some rays at Lake Tahoe with some friends and family:

If Modesto is not what you are looking for, then there are definitely a number of options.  One option that I was fortunate to explore was the East Bay.  There are a couple of growing cities in the East Bay, like Pleasonton, Dublin, and Livermore, that put you about an hour closer to San Francisco and Oakland.  The cities all offer great downtowns with plenty of trendy bars and restaurants.  The downside is that the East Bay is about an hour from Modesto.  Luckily, Gallo offers a bus shuttle that takes employees to and from work each day.

Trying to look cool and grabbing a cup of coffee on a pier in the San Francisco bay:

 

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed my internship at Gallo and found it to be a great experience for me.  The work that I was able to do and the people that I met made it a challenging yet fun summer, which was exactly what I was looking for in my internship.  Gallo is a great place to work due to its proper work/life balance, collaborative environment, and value-based culture.  I also felt that I was more than prepared for the internship based on some of the courses that I took like Managerial Accounting, Valuation, and Corporate Finance.

Thanks for allowing me to share my experience with you and I hope it was insightful and informative.  Please contact me if you have any further questions.

Cheers!