What Preparing the Next Generation Can Look Like

Papapietro Perry Winery has restructured and promoted its entire winemaking team, as founding winemaker and co-owner Ben Papapietro moves to the role of executive winemaker, continuing to direct, oversee and advise the entire winemaking process at the Healdsburg, California location.

Newly named Winemaker Dave Low — Papapietro’s assistant winemaker for decades — moves up to assume team leading responsibilities. Tyson Freeman, another long-time cellar employee at the winery, has been promoted to the role of assistant winemaker. Continuing to support the entire team in the cellar is Lucindo Mendez, who has been promoted to cellar master.

“Our philosophy at Papapietro Perry Winery has always been to focus on the singular varietal of Pinot Noir. We employ the same techniques from vintage to vintage to achieve the high quality and consistency for which we have become known,” Papapietro said. “That quality and consistency begins with our vineyards and growers, but relies heavily on our winemaking process, our attention to detail, and the execution of this winemaking team. We could not be more pleased with their talent and dedication. After so many years working together, we are more family than colleagues.”

Vintner Magazine reached out to Papapietro and Co-Owner and CEO Renae Perry, who shared insight about why they promoted their employees, gauging an employees’ readiness for promotion, and what role promotions play in encouraging staff to stay on board rather than pursue opportunities elsewhere.

VINTNER: With the promotions, did y’all hire more support staff at the entry level? What prompted this move?
PAPAPIETRO: These promotions were part of my overall plan to allow me more time to travel and enjoy the fruits of my labor. I have been making wine since 1980 and have been the winemaker at Papapietro Perry since the founding in 1998. We did not hire any other staff for my winemaking team. This move has been contemplated for some time.
PERRY: As we are getting older, we are developing the younger staff to take over many of the responsibilities.Years of training and experience allowed us to feel that they were ready for the responsibility.

VINTNER: What are some indicators to you as a Vintner that an employee is ready to step up into a new role? How do you prepare them for it?
PAPAPIETRO: Both David Low and Tyson Freeman have been part of my winemaking team for more than 19 years. They have worked side-by-side with me and have learned my winemaking style and techniques, which leaves them fully-competent to continue our consistent winemaking program. I will continue to be involved in the vineyard and grower relations as well as winemaking decisions.
PERRY: You observe their work and how they handle situations to determine if you think they are ready for the promotion. We work with our employees to train them and provide an environment where learning the craft is an ongoing goal. You nurture their curiosity and are always teaching.

VINTNER: These were longtime employees that got promoted. Do you find that promotions and reimagining roles play a role in retention?
PAPAPIETRO: Yes, these are long time employees and I have been grooming them for these positions for many years. They are committed to our brand and the consistency of our wines that are the hallmark of our family-owned winery.”
PERRY: Giving employees more education and responsibility enhances their job experience.

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