Southeast Missouri State University
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Ann K. Hayes (573) 651-2552




CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Nov. 15, 2002 -Southeast Missouri State University M.B.A. student Bill Hahn is getting a taste of the University's new marketing slogan, "Experience Southeast, Experience Success."

MBA Student interning at Riverridge Winery

Hahn has dreams of becoming a winemaker, so much so that this fall, he is completing an internship at the RiverRidge Winery in Commerce, Mo., as part of his studies in the Master's Degree Program in Business Administration. From harvesting grapes to producing and selling wine, Hahn is getting an up-close look at a winery operation.

The RiverRidge Winery is situated in a century-old farm house in Commerce, Mo. The winery is owned and operated by winemaker Jerry Smith, and his wife, Joannie.

Hahn's internship began last summer and continues through December. But even after the semester ends, Hahn plans to stay with the winery.

"I want to experience the entire process of winemaking, and that cannot be done in four months," said Hahn, who is from Park Hills, Mo., and owns land in the St. Francois County area, where he hopes, one day, to succeed as a winemaker.

Hahn is getting to try his hand at all facets of the winery operation.

"Some days, I pick grapes. Other days, I label bottles, and the next day, I am face to face with the customers," he said.

The internship, he says, gives him an opportunity to apply the knowledge he has gained in Southeast's M.B.A. program.

"There are a lot of business decisions involved in wine making," he said. "You have to decide what kind of wine to make and at what price, and, at the same time, focus on meeting customer demand," he said. "From talking to the customers, you learn who they are and what they demand."

Hahn says the winemaking process is part art and part science, explaining that winemakers face three major threats during harvests: a smaller harvest, birds and rotting grapes. The goal, he says, is to leave the grapes on the vine as long as possible, but still pick them before it is too late. Leaving the grapes on the vine will decrease the acid level and increase their sugar level, which is good for wines. When the grapes are picked, the levels of acid and sugar in the grapes are determined, and the wine is fermented accordingly.

"The biggest surprise for me was all the chemistry involved with winemaking," he said. "I am now realizing that the chemistry class I took as an undergraduate student could, in fact, be useful."

Hahn says he has enjoyed his experience at the RiverRidge Winery. The people, who visit the winery come to have a good time, and they are pleasant.

"The customers don't complain," he said, and the working environment is enjoyable.

"I get along with all employees, and I think it is very rare to find an organization where you like everyone," he added. "The people who work in the winery are there because winemaking is their interest, which means they are all very committed to their jobs."

Hahn is the first Southeast intern to work at The RiverRidge Winery, but Jerry Smith, winemaker and owner of the winery, says he would employ another intern in the future if someone expressed an interest. Smith says he has been very impressed with Hahn's effort at the winery.

"He has been superb. He is very interested, and he does a lot of things to help me," Smith said. "It makes me want to give him all the knowledge I can pass on about winemaking."

Hahn says the greatest value of the internship is that it has solidified for him the career path he plans to follow.

"I have learned a lot about winemaking, and I know now that it is something I would like to do for a living," he said. "Every day I enjoy myself. It is hard work, but very enjoyable."

Dr. Kenneth Heischmidt, director of the M.B.A. Program at Southeast, says internships can be a very valuable experience for all students.

"Internships allow students to test the water in a particular field. It gives them a taste of what they might experience in the future and helps them in choosing a career path," he said.

Several vineyards have been launched in Missouri over the past decade, including RiverRidge. It grows most of its grapes in the vineyards on the hills above the winery. The remainder is grown at Cloister Vineyard, SweetBrier Vineyard and Hahn Family Vineyard in Cape Girardeau County. Wine varieties produced at RiverRidge include Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Vignoles, Cynthiana, Chambourcin, Vidal, Villard Blanc and Muscat.

The RiverRidge winery also runs a small restaurant, The Fermentation Room Café, which is housed in the winery building, as well as a showroom of gourmet foods, and unique wine- and grape-related items. In addition, live music is performed at the winery on most weekends.

Hahn completed a bachelor of science degree in business administration with a management major at Southeast in 1997. He holds an associate's degree from Mineral Area College in Park Hills, Mo. Hahn also spent four years as an army officer from 1997-2001 and left the service as a Captain. He plans to complete the M.B.A. Program at Southeast in May. Before he graduates, though, he plans to complete an independent study.

"The independent study will be to create a business plan for my own winery," he said. "This is an important step on my way to realizing my dream," he said.


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