Daily Chronicle

Nokes: New talents, fresh flavors on horizon for wine

Dave Ready Jr. is winemaker at Murphy-Goode Winery in Geyserville, California.

Dave Ready Jr. sensed people were worn down.

As the world slowly returned to normal after a prolonged battle with the COVID-19 pandemic, the head winemaker at Murphy-Goode would lead the charge of people looking for new professional opportunities.

The “A Really Goode Job” contest is the third installment of a unique nationwide job search. Candidates create and upload a short video that pitches their ideal job at the winery. Winners get a one-year job at the winery, $10,000 monthly salary, a rent-free home in Healdsburg, California, and a year’s supply of Murphy-Goode wine. Videos can be submitted at www.murphygoodewinery.com/a-really-goode-job through June 30. The position starts Sept. 1.

Whether a job change is part of The Great Resignation or due to the impact of the pandemic, there’s new opportunities everywhere in the wine industry.

“As we went through this pandemic, people were depressed and it was bleak,” Ready said. “We weren’t looking for one particular thing. Instead, we were looking for ideas. What can you add to the wine industry, whether in the industry already or coming into it from the outside? We thought there would be real value in getting to know people from the outside.”

In 2009, the contest’s first installment was in search of what is today known as a social media influencer, even though the term didn’t yet exist. It returned last year when Lindsay Perry, who had a background in sports and digital marketing, and Veronica Hebbard, who was an engineer of themed entertainment at Disney World, came out as the top two of over 7,000 submissions. An employee viewed every submission, and paired it down to 500. From there, the top 17 were brought in for interviews. Ready joked they are determined to “get it down to 10 this year.”

“There are so many amazing people,” Ready said. “We had videos from an engineer, lawyer, mayor of a city, professional wrestler, stand-up comedian – people from all over the place.”

Another change prompted by the pandemic was the business dream of Scott Smith. He’d sold his wine store, Wine Market, in November 2019, and booked a trip to Australia that was half business, half pleasure. It’s a country with a burgeoning wine industry that is still rather undiscovered in America.

Australia has a diverse collection of climate zones and soil types, and its wines have captivated Smith. He planned to start an import company to tap into the market of which he’s so fond. But three days before the trip, all international travel ground to a halt due to COVID-19.

“It was heartbreaking, it was a business trip but also a two-week celebration of being done at Wine Market,” Smith said. “It doesn’t compare to the people that lost loved ones to COVID. My daughter and I ran the store together, and we could never get off at the same time. It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip.”

For a year, Smith wasn’t sure what was next. He’s 58, and thought perhaps he was headed to an early retirement. But then an opportunity popped up. An up-and-coming area in Memphis, Tennessee, was in a wine desert, and its residential base skewed younger.

The import business was shelved, but Smith had had retail success in the past; he’d sold a liquor store and wine store after successful runs at both, and was ready to take another leap into that part of the wine industry.

“What makes this store more interesting is the demographics of the neighborhood,” Smith said. “Younger people aren’t married to the wines they like already. My kids get on me for listening to the same music I did in the ’90s. I don’t drink the same wine all the time, but a lot of people do. Being in a neighborhood with millennials that are more experimental and don’t know what their drinking profile is yet is exciting.”

While Smith will help foster the tastes of a new generation of wine drinkers, Ready will sift through videos, and then shepherd someone to a new job at the winery.

“We found some incredibly talented people, and there’s a huge benefit in that,” Ready said. “We get fresh thoughts. Most submissions come from outside the industry. I think we are going to keep doing it.”

If it seems whimsical, Ready is OK with that.

“We take our wines seriously – ourselves not so much,” Ready said. “It’s not about us, we aren’t prima donnas, we just want to make the best [darn] wine possible.”

• James Nokes has been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Email him at jamesnokes25@yahoo.com.