Boyd Family Vineyard Internship Launches Carter Wiggins’s Career
By Sue McMurray
Growing up in Warden, Washington, Carter (Marks) Wiggins was exposed to small town values and gained an appreciation for the preservation of historical, cultural, and natural heritage of a farming community. In her heart, she knew she wanted to explore a career in agriculture as she approached her final years of high school.
She found the right fit after visiting WSU and meeting Dennis Reynolds, the former director of the School of Hospitality Business Management.
“He saw my potential and passion for the wine industry, and I was sold on WSU at that point,” says Wiggins (’15 Wine Busi. Mgmt.).
Wiggins, a PAC-12 athlete on the WSU women’s rowing team, thrived in the Carson College of Business’s wine business management program, which was later renamed as the wine and beverage business management program. Toward the end of her junior year, Reynolds told her about an internship in Napa Valley with Boyd Family Vineyards, a small operation owned by Stan Boyd (’77 H&RA). The vineyard produces ultra-premium wine grapes used in Boyd wines and in many of Napa Valley’s most sought-after wines.
A couple weeks after the 2014 school year ended, Wiggins completed her rowing season at the NCAA Championship in Indianapolis and made the drive to Napa to begin her summer internship—a decision that launched her career.
Internship leads to permanent career offer
During her internship, Wiggins learned something new every day. Her duties ranged from working in the winery and experiencing the bottling process to sitting in on tastings and meeting loyal club members and new guests. She also packed and shipped wine to customers around the world and spent time in the vineyard learning about different growing and harvest practices. When not working at the winery, she toured Napa Valley and participated in wine tasting and restaurant experiences.
“As a college junior preparing to go into the workforce, I enjoyed being able to experience all aspects of the business during my internship,” she says.
After Wiggins graduated from WSU, she worked less than a year as an assistant tasting room and office manager in Walla Walla before Boyd offered her a management position in 2016.
“When you meet Carter, you know right away she’s special,” Boyd says. “After spending a short time with her, you see she is all heart and possesses a unique brand of determination that has allowed her to succeed in all she does. Such a rare find—thank you WSU!”
Wiggins moved to Napa to become the vineyard’s first employee—and Boyd’s “right hand.”
“Working for a small, family-owned winery has many benefits. One of my favorite things about my job is sharing my passion for wine with people from all walks of life. At the vineyard, we don’t sell any of our wines through distribution,” Wiggins says. “We virtually meet every single customer that buys our wine. It’s a wonderful thing, because months or years after I have met customers during tastings, I’ll talk to or see them again, and we know each other.”
Business skills help innovate vineyard’s customer reach
Much like her internship, every day is unique when it comes to Wiggins’s role as the vineyard’s hospitality and wine club manager. She still helps out in the vineyard by sampling grapes, and she ships wine and conducts tastings. She also manages more of the business side, including compliance, state taxes, processing orders, label approvals, marketing, and reporting.
Wiggins says she’s applied leadership, problem solving, and business operations knowledge from her undergraduate program to increase yearly growth within the company’s wine following and wine club comprised of about 1,000 members. She’s also helped implement a texting service to improve reach to subscribers and club members.
Looking back at her career path, Wiggins encourages college seniors to “take an internship out of your comfort zone to learn as much as you can, because it can have the potential to be your dream job.”