Wine Unites Us: UC Davis and Burgundy School of Business MBAs Team Up

How UC Davis led me to Chile and the international business of wine

group of students in restaurant
Lauren Goldenberg (second from right) with fellow UC Davis MBA students at Terroir in New York City to present alongside Burgundy Business School students to client Wines of Chile.

Whether it’s the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon (a.k.a. the Universe telling you something) or just my brain seeing patterns, Chile is on my mind.  

During my penultimate quarter as a UC Davis Bay Area Part-Time MBA student, I traveled to Santiago to explore top Chilean industries for an international business class. Then, for the MBA capstone project at the Graduate School of Management, our team conducted a market feasibility study for a Chilean company.  

Most recently, I worked alongside MBA colleagues from the Burgundy School of Business on a joint consulting project to present ways in which Wines of Chile can elevate their marketing in the U.S.  

With scant business experience (I am a Navy veteran), my journey began with my usual apprehension and self-doubt: Am I worth their time? Can I provide value? What should I wear?  But in a moment, like Keanu Reeves realizing he knows Kung-Fu in the iconic blockbuster movie The Matrix, I realized that I know marketing concepts that I could apply to this project. 

Our Assignment 

Our assignment in a nutshell: present ways to improve the perception of Chilean wine in the U.S. Wine enthusiasts know that Chile produces beautiful, complex, world-class wine, but how could this perception be amplified in the U.S.?  

After several weeks of collaborating online and via video teleconference, MBA students from UC Davis and the Burgundy School of Business convened in New York City to present our findings to Julio Alonso Ducci, executive director of Wines of Chile. Ducci heads the non-profit, private organization of Chilean wine producers dedicated to promoting the quality and image of Chilean wines. Formed in 1949, it is the oldest such organization in the New World.  

The event was truly an international collaboration. I met fellow business students from France, Iceland, Tanzania, China, India and Mexico, among others, while learning about the Chilean and U.S. wine industries. Plus, I gained a few friends. 

New York City: Hub of Wine Consumerism in the U.S. 

What better place to understand the consumer side of the wine business than one of the biggest hubs of wine consumption in the U.S.—New York City. It seems like there is a wine shop on every other block, and even though this is an exaggeration, it is easy to see how New York illustrates the level of competition for wine brands. That said, I hope we were able to provide insights for Wines of Chile, or at least to communicate that Chile deserves a seat at the table of international producers of fine wine.

Lessons Learned and Applied 

My decision to move across the country to attend the UC Davis Graduate School of Management was by design. In addition to being a high-caliber business school, I knew that it is steeped in the wine industry, which is pivotal in my intended career switch to the wine industry.  

The UC Davis MBA curriculum is grounded in hands-on experiences and collaborative leadership, and the caliber of the faculty is humbling (Like, who decided that I could be in the same room as any of these people?).  

In our presentation to Wines of Chile, I drew extensively from my MBA coursework. I applied principles of strategy logic from Associate Professor Elizabeth Pontikes’ class, Organizational Strategy and Structure. I also explained customer lifetime return on investment based on lessons learned in Assistant Professor Pantelis Loupos’ Customer Analytics course. Although there was not enough time to delve into it, I could help Wines of Chile determine whom to subsidize and whom to charge in order to create network effects thanks to Professor Hemant Bhargava’s class, Technology Competition and Strategy. 

I am proud to earn my MBA from UC Davis, thankful to my exceptional professors, and I cherish the people and experiences throughout this journey. Cheers!

Our Venue 

Our final presentations to Wines of Chile took place at Terroir, a beautiful wine bar in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan. The owner, Paul Grieco, hosted a tasting of Chilean wine following our presentations. His infectious passion for wine was evident in his animated history lesson of the Chilean wine industry. 

MBA students drinking wine
UC Davis MBA students Kacey Castro and Lauren Goldenberg (right) bond over wine tasting at Terroir in New York City.
​​​They joined with other UC Davis MBA students who teamed up with peers from the Burgundy School of Business on a joint consulting project to present strategies for Wines of Chile to elevate marketing in the U.S. 
students at a winery
UC Davis and Burgundy School of Business student teams finally meet each other in person in New York City after working virtually for several months. 
Owner Paul Grieco of Terroir, a wine bar in Manhattan, hosts a tasting of Chilean wine. 
Owner Paul Grieco of Terroir, a wine bar in Manhattan, hosts a tasting of Chilean wine for the MBA students.