And so began the year where I was a manager for the first time! Except…. I didn’t have the title and was still getting paid as as a tasting room employee. I just had all of the responsibilities temporarily… (it was supposed to just be a couple of months). I realized fairly quickly, that having more responsibility came with well…. a lot more responsibility.
If I I opened up the winery after a day off during which a part time staff member had worked and left without reconciling the money or closing the system out for the day, I spent hours fixing it.
If an employee called in sick on one of my two days off, I went in to work, as there was no one else to call.
If it stormed and the electricity went out I made the decision to stay open and keep making sales (by firelight and using imprinted credit card receipts) or to close and lose the days’ worth of business (I don’t remember ever closing….and some of the nicest tastings I ever did were on those stormy rainy days).
Then, of course there were the inevitable surprises, like getting a call one day asking me for my fee for an upcoming event we were signed up for and apparently hosting.
That was news to me! Very quickly I had to plan for hosting up to a thousand people a month later over an entire weekend at our winery. I had to figure out how to host and staff the event with little to no money and no ability to hire extra staff.
I had the winery account at the local market that I had figured out how to buy supplies with, and was able to gather the support of the winemaker and cellar crew (three people in total including the winemaker) to participate, so in total I had 6 people including myself for the event weekend. Just enough for greeting, pouring, and ringing up sales with not a body to spare.
Even though it meant an extra long hours, the stress of being responsible for a successful event, and seeing a lot of intoxicated customers I enjoyed planning these events back then. Everything was challenging, fresh, and new, and I had a lot of freedom to grow and learn on my own. By this time, the winemaker, the cellar crew (two guys who assisted in wine-making and ran the wine lab) and I had become friends, there being so few of us in such a small winery. We’d often eat lunch outside together, or enjoy the vineyard views over coffee in the morning, before the business day started. It felt like a small family.
The more experienced I became at dealing with seemingly insurmountable obstacles and surprises, the more capable and at home I felt. The years I spent in events and hospitality management at Fritz, and in the future, other wineries in the Dry Creek and Alexander Valley stretched until I went back to school, and beyond (from about 2003 to 2009).