Ariana Peju, General Manager Peju Province Winery & Tess Winery – Spotlight on a Drink Careers 101 Project Advisory Board Member
Peju Province Winery General Manager Ariana Peju does more than run a winery, she is the keeper of her family legacy and is charged with taking it into the future. Beyond wine, Peju is a place of art, food and beauty. Now with Ariana’s environmental initiatives, she has demonstrated a commitment to the land and sustainability. We are proud to present Ariana as a member of the Drink Careers 101 Advisory Board.
Do you have any favorite wine childhood memories of growing up in the wine industry?
First of all, I have to thank my parents for moving my sister, Lisa, and me here 30-years ago so we could grow up on a vineyard in Napa Valley vs. the busy streets of Los Angeles. Our family had to start the winery from scratch, at a time where Napa was still mostly unknown and certainly not respected as it is now. Lisa and I drove tractors, 3-wheelers, forklifts and even helped with blends, which was all great fun, but part of a very hard day of work on the farm. We loved being outside so when my father offered us $1 to sucker a row of grapevines, we jumped at the chance, and prepared to count our riches. A few rows later, we were back and asking for $5, which you’ll understand if you’ve been out there; it’s hard work!
Growing up on a vineyard, you don’t really have neighbors and our tasting room was a garage (it was the early 80’s) at that point so things were very hard, but also really simple, and we had to work for every last penny. We even charged willing guests .25 cents to guess how many marbles were in a jar to potentially win a bottle of Carnival, which we still make. Now my sister and I are “adults”, running the winery, and appreciative every day for the education our parents gave us on the farm and life and business they’ve entrusted to us. Can’t think of a better education than our parents gave us.
What were the steps you took to prepare yourself for a life in the wine industry?
The simple truth is that being raised on a farm/vineyard, and watching and participating as my family built a business from scratch, was the best preparation for life in the wine industry. We were involved in everything from farm-work to operations, and nothing can compete with hands-on-experience.
I understand that the environment is a great concern at Peju. Can you tell me about some of the environmental initiatives you have enacted at Peju Winery?
As a business and farm, our family feels it is our obligation to do everything we can to preserve the environment for future generations and show our gratitude for what the land has done for us. That is why in 2006 we installed 720 solar panels on the winery roof, which produces almost 40% of our annual energy usage. In 2008 our Rutherford Vineyard received its organic certification by the California Certified Organic Farmers Organization (CCOF) and in 2009 we became a Certified Green Business by Napa County and Bay Area Green business. Our three other vineyards in Napa Valley are sustainably farmed and we have additional policies and activities that support the environment; like composting items from the winery kitchen, recycling light bulbs and batteries. In addition, we offer employees $2,000 when they purchase a hybrid car. We currently have 6 employees who drive hybrids!
What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
Everyone has challenges in their work, I just appreciate that the positives outweigh the negatives.
What is your favorite aspect of what you do?
This could be a whole chapter because I love what I do and I love working with my family… But I’ll just say that right now I love working with such fantastic people who all have the same goals and mission: creating the best guest experience and making the best wines we possibly can.
What advice would you give college students considering a career working in the wine industry?
I’m not sure I agree with this so am going to skip it. I frankly think the best thing they can do is to get education and experience any way possible. Doors will open if you show that you’re in it for the long haul!