Wineries Banking on Busier Tourist Season
Hiring activity strong for sales and hospitality sector as summer season begins
But in the past three months, the Winery Jobs Index based on Winejobs.com postings has soared to record levels. In March, the index literally went off the charts, climbing to its highest level since its launch in 2007.
The most recent Wine Industry Metrics report by Wines & Vines found continued index growth in April with it reaching 275 (59% higher than April 2012), and tasting room/hospitality jobs up 85% compared to April 2012.
Job offers in the other categories of production and sales and marketing are also up but not at the same level as hospitality.
Nicole Smartt, co-owner of Star Staffing in Santa Rosa, Calif., said most of her company’s business is with wineries, and they’ve seen a 34% increase in winery hiring over last year. She said the growth has been mainly in hospitality positions, but she added that wineries have been looking for additional staff in production and bottling as well.
Smartt said Napa Valley is way up, and she attributes that to what looks to be a strong summer. “I think they’re seeing a lot more tourists.”
Preparing for summer
Wines & Vines contacted staff at several wineries with hospitality jobs posted on Winejobs.com. All said they expected increased tasting room traffic this summer, but some were not staffing at levels higher than in previous years.
Joel Fisher, vice president of communications for Treasury Wine Estates, said the company currently has 12 part time and on-call openings in hospitality. Fisher said that’s typical for the company at this time of year, but what’s new is the wineries advertised sooner to find experienced staff for specialized tasting offers such as a hands-on blending class at Chateau St. Jean Winery in Kenwood, Calif. “We do expect and are preparing for a busier summer season,” Fisher said. “With the new, enhanced, high-touch experiences we’re offering, we expect to see an increase in sales and traffic to our wineries.”
Argyle Winery in Dundee, Ore., is looking to hire a pool of part time hospitality staff for this summer. Tim Thielen, the winery’s lead hospitality supervisor, said the winery has experienced some turnover and needs to ensure they have enough staff for the summer crowds. “We are expecting a busy tasting season, and we will have more staffing this year than past years during the summer months,” he said.
Silver Oak Cellars operates tasting rooms in Napa Valley and the Alexander Valley. Tasting room manager Kim Caffrey said the winery is advertising for some hospitality positions because they’ve found the pool of people available for on-call hours has shrunk. Those workers could be finding full-time work elsewhere, but Caffrey said more wineries are drawing from that pool of experienced tasting staff.
Caffrey, an industry veteran who remembers the late 1980s and ’90s, when tasting room traffic in Napa Valley was nonstop, said business is starting to have that same fever pitch. Silver Oak’s consistent style and media buzz from the winery’s 40th anniversary last year helped the winery weather the recession. Now Caffrey said she’s expecting to take advantage of a busy summer.
Another interesting development, she said, is that the available pool of part timers is changing from mostly retirees to people in their 20s who have full-time jobs in other fields but are taking part-time gigs at wineries for the fun of working in wine and to learn more about the industry. “I think it’s a great time to be in this business,” she said.