Mackenzie Cecchi, the plucky, jane-of-all-trades general manager at Casino Mine Ranch, one of Amador County’s most creative wineries, talked to Sacramento Magazine recently about what excites her about the hospitality industry, why stories matter and how wineries have evolved during the pandemic.
You’ve worked in the hospitality industry for several years, including serving as events manager at Mario Batali’s Otto in New York City and doing marketing for Long Meadow Ranch in Napa Valley. What is it about this line of work that fulfills you?
I’m definitely a people person. I love meeting new people and hearing their stories and connecting with them and sharing experiences with them. We try to make the experience at Casino Mine Ranch something different than what anybody else in the area is doing. I think our wine is fantastic, so I don’t really have to sell people on it. I just get to meet all these amazing people that enjoy food and wine as much as I do.
Today’s wine enthusiasts place a high premium on the story behind the label. How does that shape your work?
Yes, millennials especially are really invested in what the story is, who’s making the wine and how they feel when they’re at our place. Our owner’s great-aunt [Simone Vanophem Shaw] bought the ranch in 1936 to mine for gold, and she called it Casino Mine because she knew that gold mining was a big gamble. When I met the owners and learned about Simone, I was sold because it was all so authentic. She was just a bad-ass woman. My role has been to tell her story and share it in a way that gets people excited. We bring her into everything that we do. I can’t believe I never got to meet her because I know more about her than I do my own family thanks to all the research I’ve done.
What has changed about the industry in the last couple of years?
During the pandemic, a lot of wineries transitioned to doing tastings by appointment only, and I believe they’re going to stay that way. I do think that it helps people who are a little intimidated by wine tasting because it gives hosts a better opportunity to talk to people one on one and educate them about wine in general or our specific wines, maybe have them try a new varietal. I like that we’re able to take better care of our guests this way.