Big changes are happening at BOXT this fall — we’re heading into our second year of operations and expanding both our team and our membership. Fortunately for us, this includes bringing on Napa Valley wine executive Steve Ryan as Chief Operating Officer. Ryan joins us at our Napa winery with almost 20 years experience in the beverage industry, featuring a mid-career shift from craft beer to fine wine. We sat down with him recently to learn more about this transition and hear why he’s excited about joining BOXT.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology from UC Berkeley and a graduate degree in Fermentation Science and Engineering from UC Davis, Ryan worked in the brewing industry, eventually rising to Head Brewer at Gordon Biersch brewing company in Northern California. While managing operations there, one of his responsibilities was to add to the brewery’s wine list, launching it from 30 wines to a dizzying 105. The task led him to sample over 2,000 wines over the course of a single year.
“I really just kind of dug in and was having a lot of fun with it. I developed my palate for wine quite a bit more, so then I just made the leap,” he says of the duty that lured him into the wine industry.
The brewery’s proximity to California’s world-famous wine region played a large part, too, in Ryan’s path adjustment. “Living so close to Napa,” he explains, “the wine business was something that was a calling.”
But the success he saw in brewing didn’t immediately translate. “Basically the only thing I got was an unpaid marketing internship where I was paid in wine,” he chuckles. Despite this initial restart, Ryan was able to quickly rise through the ranks and eventually take executive winery operations by the reins.
Though he’s a new addition to the official team, Ryan partnered with BOXT in the early days, helping us design our eight wines and develop our winemaking process. When he first met our Founder and CEO Sarah Puil, Ryan, a self-proclaimed skeptic of alternative packaging, was unsure about putting fine wine in a BOXT — but only for a couple of minutes. “Hearing the plan of going towards profiles as opposed to varietals or vintage or growing regions, and the idea of not trying to replace every wine in somebody’s house but just trying to be their house wine — it just made so much sense,” he admits.
“From the moment I met Steve in early 2020, even with his skepticism, I knew he was someone I had to work with. After we hit our first year milestone, it was incredibly validating to have him believe in us so much that he simply had to join the team,” said Puil. “He’s been a part of our beginning from before we were even making wine, much less shipping it — there was no doubt that having him on the inside was going to help catapult us into the next phase of our growth.”
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