Three Cheers to Gainful Employment!

As the economy sours and the job pool dries up, it may come as some small comfort that there is at least one potential employer who is still willing to wine and dine in order to lure potential employees. Cakebread Cellars, a vineyard in Napa Valley, recently invited 10 members of the Harvard Business School (HBS) Wine and Cuisine Society to spend their intersession in California to entice them to pursue careers in the wine-making industry. It seems that Cakebread Cellars is capitalizing on the fact that it’s just hard to say “no” to anything when alcohol is involved. “We were tasting wine at eight in the morning,” says Aliceson L. Robinson, a student at HBS who made the trip. “I was surprised at how many wines you can spread out during the course of the day.”

“Cakebread University,” as the introductory program offered by the vineyard is known, is not just a party school where the wine quite literally flows like water. For part of their days at the elite academy, the HBS students were forced to labor over hot open flames in a series of gourmet cooking classes. The students also received serious career advice from a host of wine industry experts, who did their best to impart the timeless moral that there is more than one way to become a millionaire. The grueling final assignment of Cakebread University asked the students to blend their own wines, name their concoction and then define how they would market the product. “There is a lot of thought that goes into the wine industry, in every step of the process,” says Robinson.

Five years ago, Jack Cakebread, the founder of Cakebread Cellars, began traveling to different schools such as Harvard, Yale and Duke, pitching the wine industry. He recently decided to cut back on his travel miles and have the business school students come to him; Harvard was his test case. “Jack’s idea is to get new talent from the schools [to stay competitive],” says Punwani. “With the consolidation of liquor companies, the family vineyards [like Cakebread’s] are afraid they will be gobbled up.”

For these aspiring businessmen and women, Cakebread’s hands-on approach to introducing the wine industry was the major selling point. “It’s rare to get so much exposure to a CEO,” says Punwani. It’s also rare to have that much exposure to all the free wine one could possibly drink, but FM would never suggest that this had anything to do with amplifying the experience (burp).