Business of Wine Student Brings Napa Experience to Cruise-Goers

Jeffrey Maltzman

“The courses are educational, entertaining, and interactive, and the instructors are, without exception, top leaders in the Southern California wine industry.”
– Jeffrey Maltzman, Founder of Blend Craft Wines

Jeffrey Maltzman is the founder of Blend Craft Wines, a Florida-based company that brings the Napa Valley winery experience to cruise ships. Under the direction of a professional California winemaker, cruise-goers create their ideal blend of wine; bottle, cork and label it using authentic vintner equipment; then take home the perfect souvenir of Blend Craft’s “Winemaker Experience.”

The concept is so unique and fun that it won the Miami Herald’s annual Business Challenge in 2012.

In his continuing efforts to excel at what he does, Maltzman searched online for wine education classes and found the Business of Wine program at SDSU’s College of Extended Studies.

“I initially started the program to gain credibility in the wine industry, but kept taking classes because they were fun and interesting,” said Maltzman, whose “other” job is as a maritime lawyer, representing cruise lines. He and his wife Ana also own Navigator Winery in Napa, and Gold Creek Winery in Amador City, Calif. “The program has given me an outstanding background of knowledge about the wine industry, wine making, and wine regions of the world. The courses are educational, entertaining and interactive and the professors are, without exception, top leaders in the Southern California wine industry.”

What was your “aha” moment in coming up with the idea for Blend Craft Wines?
As the recession hit, I realized cruise lines were looking for ways to attract more guests and to increase their revenue from onboard activities. I tried to brainstorm a concept that no one had ever tried before and combined my love of wine with my love of the cruise industry.

How far into the Business of Wine program are you?
I’m one class away from completing the professional certificate. I had signed up but missed the class as I had an opportunity to fly to Geneva and pitch our wines to MSC Cruises for their onboard wine list. I’m planning to take Food and Wine Pairing when it’s next offered again. I definitely want the certificate as I believe it’s valuable and gives recipients instant credibility in an industry where there are lots of self-proclaimed experts without any real expertise or training in the field.

Can you share some pearls of wisdom you learned about wine or the wine making process?
Wine advertisements emphasize the romance and artistry of creating wine. The program does a great job of teaching that making great wine is 80 percent science and chemistry, 10 percent passion and storytelling, and perhaps 10 percent blind luck.

What do you think are the program’s biggest strengths?
The program does a great job of combining serious education with fun and entertainment. The instructors are fantastic. Gus from Wilson Creek Winery is so passionate about what he does – it’s infectious.

Did you make any networking connections?
Yes. One of my classmates is starting a wine distribution company and we’re planning to give him one of our labels as his first commercial client.

Would you recommend SDSU’s Business of Wine program to others?
I recommend the SDSU Business of Wine program to anyone who is serious about working in the wine industry. Regardless whether you plan to work at a winery, work in a restaurant, or start your own wine wholesale company, the program offers an excellent background in the wide world of wine.

Anything you’d like to add?
I look forward to recruiting graduates of the program in the years to come, as I know they will have the background and education needed to succeed as wine professionals.