How did you get involved in the wine industry?
Megan: I started getting involved in the wine industry at university, at ISU, where I graduated in horticulture. When I was an intern at the Horticultural Research Station, I worked mainly in the vineyards. It was then that I really started to take an interest in growing vines and getting into the wine industry. Then I met Rob in our horticulture classes, and “the rest is history” as they say! He was also interested in the cultivation of vines and the emerging wine industry, so we shared this common dream for our future.
Speed up a few years: My sister-in-law, Anne, returned to Fort Dodge to make delicious drinks from the delicious grapes we had grown. At first, I was a part-time volunteer while the winery went from nothing to what it is today. Now I am full time in the cellar and I can do creative things that I love with a little bit of harvesting and wine making.
Amanda: We were just about to start our first vintage when I graduated with a music degree from St. Olaf College, I couldn’t help but be a part of it! While my formal education had nothing to do with the grape and wine industry, I honed other skills to come in handy at Soldier Creek. Needless to say, I learned a lot during my stay in the cellar, from hospitality to winemaking. I had a lot of on-the-job training for Anne’s winemaking and also had a crush season at a winery in Oregon.
Anne: At first, I was interested in studying agronomy when I came to Purdue University. Soon after, my dad told me that he and Rob wanted to get into the grape and wine industry, so I switched to food science. I met key people in the Food Science program who were part of the wine industry, and these people really propelled me towards the pursuit of my Masters in Sensory Analysis of Wine.
Who is involved in the day-to-day operations and winemaking?
Megan: Day-to-day operations are mostly handled by Anne, Amanda, and myself. We each have our own responsibilities, but sometimes our roles overlap.
My main responsibility is marketing and social media, and I go through “Marketing coordinator”. This includes creating ads for print media, creating content for our social media accounts, managing and responding to questions we receive on our social media accounts, creating marketing materials to distribute to the community. , submission of events to GFDGA and FDAA, etc. I also sell and deliver wines to the central Iowa region, answer the phone when it’s my turn, organize t-shirts and merchandise, decorate the cellar for the respective seasons, etc. As most small business owners know, you wear multiple hats, but that’s what makes it so fun! It’s never the same every day!
Amanda: Day to day, we all work together to make the cellar work. My role is “Reception manager” my main tasks are therefore: answering emails for private events, creating the schedule, payroll, cleaning the cellar, making sure we are ready to open on weekends, etc. It’s a perfect role for my personality, I like to organize everything that happens in the cellar, it’s like a puzzle that I have to solve. My role generally goes beyond the Hospitality Manager and consists of helping Anne with the winemaking, the grape harvest, the work behind the bar, the organization of a wine club, the distribution of wine, etc. I do something different every day.
Anne: We are all committed to making our pieces day to day, it’s a lot of work and takes a lot of hands. My main job is “Winemaker”, but at the end of the day it involves a lot of decision making, whether it’s wine related or not. I wear several hats, among which: wine club manager, financial manager, privileged interlocutor of our private label customers, winegrower, etc. I really enjoy working on our email marketing program and creating spreadsheets for all occasions. My daily work varies and I wouldn’t want it to be any other way.
What do you like about owning a business in the Fort Dodge area?
Megan: I’ve been here for 12 years now, and my affection for Fort Dodge has grown exponentially. As an outsider, I had heard all of the Fort Dodge nicknames and arrived with a distorted view. But with my involvement in the community in various roles, I can really see how the community comes together to support each other. Being involved with Study Club, Fort Dodge Fine Arts Association, and Joymobile gives me a chance to truly appreciate the support of the community in action, and I’m regularly blown away by the Fort Dodge community’s willingness to give back. I really think it’s a great community growing all over the place, and I’m absolutely here for it!
Amanda: I enjoyed meeting a lot of new people through the company. We’ve made so much more family friends through the winery, and so many of our regulars feel like extended family. It has been such an eye-opening journey!
Anne: I like being near my family and doing a job that I love. It’s great to see how Fort Dodge supports small businesses time and time again.