Internship Spotlight: Round Lake Vineyards & Winery

By: Courtney Pietras, U of M Student

If I had to give a title to summarize my internship, it would be called, From the Ground Up: Literally and Figuratively.  Literally, as in I have planted grape vines into the ground. Figuratively, in the sense of reflecting upon how much I have grown as an individual, leader, and professionally throughout my internship at Round Lake Vineyards & Winery.  I began my internship as the “city girl.” I was clueless about small town culture, had never performed manual labor, and barely knew how a small family business operated.  With no friends or family within 100 miles, my journey of growth began alone. As I stepped in the door, only one thing was certain; I was making my first step in pursuit of my dream career in the wine industry.

My tasks ranged from selling and educating guests about wine, to writing an article for the winery’s newsletter, to spending an entire day lifting 8 foot logs for posts in the new vineyard. From bartending weddings, to harvesting grapes, to being smothered in newly pressed grape juice. From creating operation procedures and menu items for the newly installed food truck, to bottling wine, to barrel tasting.  I concluded my internship by hosting a tasting at a local liquor store, and as I reflect upon what I learned and accomplished these past six months, I am ecstatic for my future endeavors in the professional world.

Being the type-A perfectionist that I am, I quickly learned that humiliation and mortification was all a part of the learning process.  Within 30 minutes of my first day on the job, I shattered a wine bottle. Later that day, I was corrected for misusing a janitorial mop.  With the influx of information I was given early on, I was so focused on not messing up that I even began to memorize and create my own systematic method for how I should greet and sell wine to guests.  It wasn’t until Scott, the owner of the winery, caught me attempting to memorize my robotic method, that I realized I was missing the point.  “Why are you trying to memorize how to talk to people? I know you know how to be personable with others, so stop trying to be a robot. Relax and smile.  You are an intern, and making mistakes is all a part of the process.”  After Scott’s words of wisdom, my confidence was boosted, I was much more relaxed and began to thrive from the mental challenge of creating sales pitches that were unique to every individual’s wine taste preferences.  Working in the tasting room made me interested in applying for jobs in sales because although rejection can be frequent, the self-fulfillment I received from guests’ compliments, influx of purchases, and the overall sense of making the winery a destination was empowering.

Round Lake Vineyards & Winery had only been open for a year, so the owners were always seeking new opportunities and brainstorming ideas to grow their business. With the desire for constant improvement instilled in the work climate, trial and error methods and structural were applied frequently, and being a bystander was never an option because there is always room for progress. It was not until overseeing the newly installed food truck that I could grasp the ability to accept that plans will sporadically change.  I was the one reporting solutions and problems to the owners.

My intention as an intern was to gain a well-rounded experience for how the wine industry works, so with the variety of tasks I was assigned, I became the “go-to” person wherever help was needed around the property.  Overcoming my personal challenges of accepting mistakes and frequent change enabled me to step out of my comfort zone and create relationships with colleagues, which lead to Round Lake becoming my second home.

round-lake-vineyards-wineryPictured here: Courtney power washing the bin where the juice from pressed grapes is collected and transported by pump to a stainless steel tank. The press is in the background.

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