Chemistry & Biochemistry, School of Science
Nanea Perkins headshot
Nanea Perkins '22

Heading into the interview, Nanea Perkins '22 admits to not knowing the first thing about wine (the first thing to know is that wine is typically divided among reds and whites, and again – Nanea didn't know it). 

"Honestly, I don't know why they hired me! I just kept saying, 'I know the science – even if I don't yet know my reds from my whites.' I think they liked that. They're looking forward to teaching me, and I'm looking forward to learning."

As a freshman, Perkins thought she wanted to be a cosmetic chemist, but last year she started to explore other options. She knew she didn't want to be stuck in a lab all day, and from Hawaii, she enjoys being outdoors. So, Perkins started looking for ways to pair a degree in chemistry with her interests. She learned from a professor that breweries required chemists and she figured wineries must need chemists as well. Again, she didn't know much about wine, but a vineyard seemed like it would make a nice office. So, she opened her laptop. 

"I just started Googling, 'how to get into the wine industry.'"

Perkins looks at a glass of wine and sees science. She describes the libation not by its notes, but by sugars and acids and chemical compounds. Scientists are required to balance the compounds to make great wine. And that's where Perkins comes in.

She applied to several wineries, and eventually accepted a lab technician position with Chateau Ste. Michelle, Washington State's oldest winery. Specifically, Perkins will be working at Patz & Hall, one of their wineries in Sonoma, California. Patz & Hall produces limited-production Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.

Perkins starts on August 1, and she's looking forward to learning the wine business from grapes to shipping. She'll be testing the grapes in the vineyard and tracking sugar and alcohol levels daily. To prepare herself, she's taking a sommelier course in Hawaii. Her new position is seasonal, August to January, but the first of next year, she may take a similar job at a winery in Australia or New Zealand. The wine season is flipped in the southern hemisphere. After that, perhaps a job as a full-time lab technician.

She hasn't even started yet, but she's already developed a taste for wine – both literally and professionally. 

"I'll be the only part-time lab technician, but I wanted to work at a small winery, not a bigmanufacturing winery. I'll have more opportunities this way. The people at Patz & Hall are all just really happy people. They love what they do. Also, I've already discovered through my sommelier course that I have a palate for wine. That's what everyone keeps telling me. I'm really enjoy studying the flavors and aromas and understanding the regions where the grapes come from."

Nanea Perkins '22