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Choosing a Socially Responsible Career in the Beverage Industry

Choosing a Socially Responsible Career in the Beverage Industry

Carrie Strong | Chef's Blade

In early December 2008, celebrations occurred across the United States in honor of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. The commemoration reverberated across the country—from a bar appropriately named Prohibition in New York City to the St. Helena Library in Napa Valley, which displayed photos of local winery workers celebrating the news in 1933. While this anniversary helped increase joy as well as beverages sales, it also summons those of us working in the alcoholic beverage business to consider the principles behind our career choices.

Prohibition originally started in the United States as a fight against intoxication rather than simply the consumption of alcohol. Understanding this fact may help settle our moral nerves. However, even today there are those who believe a career in the alcohol business is a matter of dealing in the Devil’s playground. This idea poses an interesting debate of personal integrity. “It would be difficult to work in any aspect of the alcoholic beverage industry and not wonder about one’s life choices,” explains Celia Welch, 2008 Food & Wine Winemaker of the Year.

Celia has been creating wine professionally for more than 25 years, having started at an early age with her father, an avid wine collector and home winemaker, picking grapes in Southern Oregon. Celia could have put her biochemistry and microbiology education to work on medical research or becoming a teacher. Instead, her love of agriculture, science, and tradition (and her aversion to being cooped up in a laboratory all day) drew her towards her Fermentation Science degree from the University of California at Davis.

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Celia Welch, 2008 Food & Wine magazine's Winemaker of the Year

Celia understood the choice she was facing. She admits, “All of us know a family member, friend or colleague who struggles with compulsive consumption of alcohol, or has struggled with it in the past.” But she did not feel this would be a barrier keeping her from doing what she loved.

After many years as a consulting winemaker, Celia began making and selling her own wine, becoming not only the creator but also the supplier. She appreciates this aspect of her business, as it has put her in touch with many people who share their stories of family celebrations, reunions, anniversaries, and even one marriage proposal where her wines have been part of the celebration. In other words, her work with wine has contributed to the happy moments and milestones of life.

Still, Celia has not lost her sense of moral responsibility.

“I do feel a moral obligation to demonstrate social responsibility with respect to alcohol. I have teenage children, and I know that they are already seeing some alcohol consumption among their peers. We have frequent discussions about alcohol, its effects on decision-making and driving, the danger of alcohol addiction, etc. As a single mom running two small businesses, I honestly don’t have time to overindulge or nurse a hangover, so it’s an easy thing for me to live the life I preach," she says.