A Q&A with the owners of Soldier Creek Winery
How did you get involved in the wine-making industry?
Megan: I first started getting involved in the wine-making industry back in college, at ISU, where I got my degree in Horticulture. When I was an intern for the Horticulture Research Station, I primarily worked in the vineyards. This is when I first really started to get interested in growing wine grapes and getting into the wine industry. Then, I met Rob in our Horticulture classes, and “the rest is history” as they say! He was also interested in growing wine grapes and getting into the budding wine industry, so we shared this common dream for our future.
Speeding up a few years: my sister-in-law, Anne, moved back to Fort Dodge to make some delicious drinks from the delicious grapes we’d been growing. At first, I was very part-time volunteer help while the winery grew from nothing into what it is today. Now, I’m full-time at the winery and I get to do creative things that I love with a smattering of grape-harvesting and wine-making thrown in there.
Amanda: We were just about to start our first vintage when I graduated from St. Olaf College with a degree in Music, I couldn’t not be a part of it! While my formal education had nothing to do with the grape and wine industry, I have honed other skills to make myself useful at Soldier Creek. Needless to say, I’ve learned a ton during my time at the winery, from hospitality to wine-making. I’ve had a lot of on-the-job training for wine-making from Anne and also did a crush season at a winery in Oregon.
Anne: At first, I was interested in studying Agronomy when I got to Purdue University. Soon after, my dad told me that he and Rob wanted to get into the grape and wine industry so I changed to Food Science. I met key people in the Food Science program that were a part of the wine industry, and those people really propelled me towards pursuing my masters in Wine Sensory Analysis.
Who is involved in the day-to-day operations and winemaking?
Megan: Day-to-day operations are primarily assumed by Anne, Amanda, and myself. We each have our own responsibilities, but occasionally our roles overlap.
My primary responsibility is marketing and social media, and I go by “Marketing Coordinator”. This includes creating ads for print media, creating content for our social media accounts, managing and fielding questions we receive on our social media accounts, creating marketing materials to disperse around the community, submitting events to the GFDGA and FDAA, and on. I also sell and deliver wines in the central Iowa region, answer the phone when it’s my turn, organize t-shirts and merchandise, decorate the winery for the respective seasons, and so on. As most small business owners know, you wear many hats, but that’s what makes it so fun! It’s never the same thing every day!
Amanda: Day-to-day we are all working together to keep the winery running. My role is “Hospitality Manager” so my main duties include: responding to emails for private events, creating the schedule, payroll, cleaning the winery, making sure we are ready to open on the weekends, and so on. This is a perfect role for my personality, I enjoy organizing everything that happens in the winery, it’s like a puzzle that I have to solve. My role usually goes beyond Hospitality Manager and includes helping Anne with winemaking, grape-harvesting, working behind the bar, organizing wine-club, distributing wine, and more. I get to do something different every day.
Anne: We all pitch in to do our parts day-to-day, it’s a lot of work and takes many hands. My main job is “Winemaker”, but in the end it involves a lot of decision making– be it wine-related or not. I wear many hats, and they include: wine-club manager, finance manager, main point of contact for our private label customers, vineyard worker, and more. I really like working on our email marketing program and creating spreadsheets for any occasion. My day-to-day job varies andI wouldn’t have it any other way.
What do you enjoy about owning a business in the Fort Dodge region?
Megan: I’ve been here for 12 years now, and my affection has grown exponentially for Fort Dodge. As an outsider, I’d heard all the Fort Dodge nicknames and came in with a skewed view. But with my involvement in the community in various roles I can really see how the community steps up to support each other. Being involved in Study Club, Fort Dodge Fine Arts Association, and the Joymobile gives me a chance to really appreciate the community’s support in action, and I’m regularly blown away by the Fort Dodge community’s willingness to give back. I truly think this is an excellent community that’s growing in every way, and I am absolutely here for it!
Amanda: I have enjoyed getting to know many new people through the business. We’ve made so many more family friends through the winery, and so many of our regulars feel like extended family. It’s been such an eye-opening journey!
Anne: I love being near my family and getting to work a job that I love. It’s great to see how Fort Dodge supports small businesses time and time again.