family background/Ella is a second-generation farmer who graduated from Washington State University with a degree in viticulture and enology. She is the daughter of Cindy and Mike Vincent.
business/Two Mountain Winery
How did you get your start?
I grew up in Yakima, Washington, and my dad grows apples and cherries out in Mattawa. My sister, Eva, and I grew up working with my dad in the summers during cherry harvest, and we spent a lot of time out there. We started working for him when I was 12.
We’d get up at 4 a.m., hopping in the truck, sleeping on the drive out to Mattawa, and then our job was to place wet foam pads on top of full cherry bins. Great memories of working hard. He instilled that in us from a very young age.
How did you find your way into viticulture?
I didn’t know a lot about the wine industry growing up. I learned about it when I was on my first tour to WSU during my high school senior year. My mom and I went to visit CAHNRS (College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences) at WSU and we found out that they had a viticulture and enology program.
I thought it sounded interesting, so we learned a little bit more about it while we were there. I was just so fascinated by how you get to combine heavy science classes with agriculture in the program. So, I was kind of hooked on that idea, found that field of study interesting, and that’s where I chose my major.
What were a few lessons learned from joining the program?
I remember when I was in chemistry classes and biology classes, I didn’t really understand how they were going to relate to what I do today. Now, I think having that foundational understanding of plant science, it ties back to what I do.
Those learnings make current issues easier to understand, like viruses, diseases, pests and chemicals that you’re applying. It all ties together. I think it’s important to understand why you’re taking your classes, because in the moment, it’s not so fun. But then, when you get to those higher-level classes, like wine chemistry or plant pathology, it all starts to make sense.
What did you do to find job opportunities?
While I was in school, I interned with Sagemoor Vineyards — and that was a great first introduction experience working with viticulture hands-on. Then, out of school, I found an internship online with Hogue Cellars. I think it was on winejobs.com. I applied, went in for an interview and I ended up staying there for about a year as an extended internship.
Through their ownership, the company had a list of opportunities to study abroad. I ended up choosing a job in New Zealand to go work during harvest at Drylands Cellars. It’s one of the largest producers of Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand, and it operates 24 hours a day. A lot of hard work — we were working like six, 12-hour days during harvest. It was very hectic, but well worth it. You learn a lot when you’re tired, you’re stressed and you’re having to make decisions on the fly.
I think that’s when you learn the most about yourself and about the jobs you’re doing in those types of situations. After that, I returned home to a vineyard internship with Ste. Michelle, and then I did a winemaking internship with Hogue. All of those internship opportunities forced me to adapt and learn quickly, because you’re not going to be in those jobs very long. Now, I’m with Two Mountain Winery full time as a viticulturist and assistant vineyard manager.
What advice do you have for young growers to get a foot in the door?
I’m very grateful for my education, and it’s helped me immensely, but I don’t want people to think that’s the only way they have to go to be able to thrive in this industry.
I think a lot of it is just hard work. We work in agriculture, and it’s not the most glamorous jobs at times, but you learn things when you get your hands dirty. You do the work to be able to understand the big picture of what’s going on. And the only way to learn that is by doing those jobs. I think education is great.
The viticulture and enology program at WSU is amazing, and I learned a lot from it. But I’m learning even more now, being in the real world and having a job where I get to do that every day.