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Viticulture Student Grows Wine Making Dreams

NMC Student Wes MateusiakWes Mateusiak (NMC '16)When Wes Mateusiak (NMC '16) moved to Traverse City in 2014, he knew he enjoyed wine on the occasions he drank it — but that was the extent of his viticulture knowledge. Fast forward to today, and Wes has a full year of work as a Cellar Technician at local winery Left Foot Charley under his belt, and he’s about to embark on a 3-month internship on an Italian vineyard.

Completing his internship is the last requirement for Wes to earn his Associate in Applied Science degree in Viticulture through NMC, along with a Viticulture Certificate from Michigan State University.

After Wes decided on viticulture as his calling, he enrolled in the joint NMC/MSU program because it was well established, had a beautiful campus, and was home to great people. Looking back, Wes knows he made the right choice. “I’m impressed with the diversity of coursework at NMC,” Wes said. “I took Introduction to Unmanned Aerial Systems to see how that technology could apply to viticulture.”

In addition to course diversity, Wes was impressed with his instructors. “My instructors were passionate, knowledgeable, and involved in the wine industry,” he said. “They were always willing to help outside of class. If I was in the vineyard and saw a strange spot on a leaf, I could take a picture and email it to them.”

As a student, Wes made a point to squeeze industry networking into his busy schedule. Between classes, homework, full-time work at Left Foot Charley, and his personal life, Wes attended events by Parallel 45, a group uniting grape growers and winemakers in Northwest Michigan.

Wes is excited to continue learning from others in the wine industry in this region, and to bring back lessons from Italy as well. “I learn something new every day doing this work,” Wes said. “It’s hard work. I’m not in it for the money—I’m here because I love it.” Wes is looking forward to wrapping up his internship at the end of Italy’s harvest season and making it back to this region just in time for ours.

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