Premium Napa Valley winery Cakebread Cellars is attracting Ivy League graduates with a new crash course in the business of wine.

‘Cakebread U’ is the brainchild of winery founder Jack Cakebread, 73, who has lecturered on the wine business at top US graduate business schools such as Yale, Harvard, Berkeley and UCLA, for five years.

While running these wine business seminars Cakebread saw his students hungered for information about business and banking in the wine industry, its international aspects and how you run a winery and market and sell wine.

‘The idea is to track these brilliant young MBA’s to consider the wine industry as a career,’ he said.

His students were also interested in how you read a wine list, Cakebread said. ‘You’re not going to impress a prospective employer at a business lunch if you order Sauternes with a steak.’

At a typical three-day program at Cakebread U, students blend their own wines and develop business plans for how to sell them, explore the vineyards, blind taste wines, and work on food and wine pairings.

‘The biggest myth is 20-somethings are not interested in wine. But there are 1200 students in the graduate business school at Harvard and 460 of them are members of the wine society there,’ he said.

Wine and meals are served with a dose of reality. ‘The wine industry is an agricultural business,’ Cakebread said. ‘The pleasant lifestyle does not overshadow the cold, harsh reality of running a business. I tell my students the old saying, “There’s no wine released before its time, and when the bank calls, it’s time”.’

After some initial press coverage, Cakebread U has been deluged with requests.

‘It’s exhausting because they’re so quick,’ he said of his students, who are drawn from the universities’ wine societies. Harvard Business School students attended a program in January and graduate students from Yale and Duke universities participated in March. The next session is scheduled for May.

Written by Janice Fuhrman14 March 2003