September 3, 2023 | Vivian Shepard
I’ve been surrounded by wine lovers my entire life. From listening to my parents debate which bottle pairs best with dinner, to wandering towering supermarket aisles for the cheapest, puckering sweet boxed wine for Bachelor viewing parties in my college apartment. I’ve always thought of wine as very “mature”. A commodity discussed over dinner parties, gifts made to impress, and accompanied by a dialect that I didn’t expect to understand until my mid-30s. It wasn’t until I spent my summer interning at Compris, a vineyard nestled near my hometown, with a group of people who seemingly eat, sleep, and breathe wine, that I realized my previous beliefs were false. I based everything I thought I knew on stereotypes and the fear of not fitting in.
On my first day, I racked my brain for terms I’d heard my parents use but never paid attention to. Acidity, aeration, astringency...the list goes on. Within an hour, I was sitting at a table of five seasoned winemakers and tasters. Rows of ruby-colored liquid covered the surface. It was my first tasting ever, which just happened to be a blending trial. (Apparently, no one warns you about spitting when you’re new to the wine industry!) The team asked me for my opinion after each sip. I expected them to tell me that my stuttered replies were wrong, but they never did. Not yet knowing how to pinpoint flavors and sensations, I listened while the team called out familiar reference notes. Cherry, raspberry, plum, even leather!
My nerves heightened as a wave of customers poured in. I watched my bosses, Dru and Ryan, welcome each guest with a glass and a smile. The passion and sincerity behind their voices are unequivocal. They personalized each interaction with the hopes of making genuine connections, while fervently answering my spitball of questions. I drove home exhausted, but full of ease knowing that these people truly love what they do. The pressure of holding myself to a specific demeanor lifted. After only one day, I realized that Compris is a community, rather than just a sales interaction; something I had never experienced before.
Over the following weeks, I experienced a crash course in tasting, describing, and comparing wines. I slowly started understanding different wine characteristics and developing my own preferences. Dru and Ryan helped me express my reactions by having me envision the ideal scenario for each wine. For the 2022 “Lovely Days” Sparkling Rosé of Pinot Noir, a river day accompanied by a picnic, slowly sipping while sprawled out on my beloved checkered picnic blanket. For the 2018 “3-Clones”, a crisp autumnal evening curled up on the couch, listening to the smack of raindrops against my window. Nothing I ever said had to be technical, or “right.” I quickly learned that there is no correct way of experiencing wine.
Each day taught me something new about the wine industry and the team’s vision for Compris. Like me, so many people shy away from the wine industry out of intimidation. Compris combats this by creating an environment of inclusion, not based on one’s prior knowledge. My discomfort about talking to customers mellowed. I no longer felt the need to have the perfect, rehearsed description. Instead, I explained how the wine made me feel. By asking the customers for their opinions, they too became influential teachers.
In three fleeting months at Compris, I have learned much more than just the basics of wine. Trying different types of wine taught me that wine evokes emotion and even memories. I am most grateful for the relationships I witnessed and even made for myself. I watched celebrations, business meetings, reunions, and even a proposal. Compris members, who are viewed as family, are some of the kindest, most authentic individuals. No one is alike, which makes this group even better. Dru says “We take what we do seriously, but not ourselves.” Compris values of inclusion and acceptance have taught me the impact a company can have on a community. These insights inspire me and will inform the course of my life and my career. Now at the end of the internship, I will miss everyone dearly and am so grateful to also feel like a member of this family. Cheers!