Brayton Bailey has some advice for anyone interested in a career in wine. “Whatever your goals are going in, you should be open minded,” Brayton says. “There are so many different directions you can go, and what you learn in the Wine and Beverage Graduate Certificate program changes the scope of where you can end up. I thought I wanted to be a sommelier, and Christie and Bob both said they could see me doing the kind of work I’m doing now instead. They were right. Those two had such an impact on my life, my study habits, and my career.”
“Those two” are CIA professors Christie Dufault and Bob Bath, MS, and that new career is Brayton’s position as general manager for Outland in Napa, CA. “Outland is a collective of three small, like-minded yet diverse wineries with interesting varietals,” he says. “I manage the tasting room, operations, employees, sales and marketing, social media, and events. I took the position with Outland because I respect all the winemakers, it gives me a lot of responsibility, and I’ll be able to work next to the winemakers and eventually help with harvest.”
So how did a jazz performance major at Virginia Commonwealth University end up helping prune Cabernet Franc grapes on his day off? By keeping that mind open. It all started while Brayton was playing jazz with a calculus professor. He became interested in applied mathematics, changed majors, and earned his bachelor’s degree in finance. But after graduating, Brayton realized that working in banks or insurance wasn’t for him. So when a friend asked him for help opening a wine bar in San Diego, Brayton signed on. Wine turned out to be the perfect fit; now he just needed to deepen his knowledge.
“I looked at WSET programs, CSW programs, the Court of Master Sommeliers, and they all seemed interesting,” Brayton says. “But I wanted to go back to a collegiate environment, and when I found the program at the CIA, the idea that it was a graduate certificate really appealed to me. There isn’t anything else like it out there.”
“My first and foremost plan was to go to CIA, network, and learn as much as I could,” he continues. “I wanted to understand the framework of the world of wine so I could further my career.” Brayton loved the depth of knowledge the WBGC program offered. “All of the classes on wine were amazingly valuable,” he says. “In Viticulture and Viniculture, you understand why wine is what it is, and how soil, slope, sun, and training methods affect the end flavor of wine. The business of wine and the spirits classes were two really important ones for me because they were subjects I didn’t know about, and needed to.”
Brayton also greatly benefited from the contacts he made in the Napa Valley. “The instructors were all really great mentors and helped me find a path in the vast world of opportunity in wine and beverage,” he says. “People really respect the CIA’s program in the Valley, and they open up to you. Plus, there are so many Master Sommeliers here. It’s pretty much unmatched for meeting people, establishing a network, and having great resources. The program is a lot of work and a huge amount of information, but so valuable to a career in wine and beverage.”