Mendoza School of Business

Wine and Design

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*This is the third installment in a three-part series detailing how Professor Wendy Angst and her MBA students in Innovation and Design are using design thinking to help Chappellet Vineyards, a 52-year-old family-run winery in Napa Valley, evolve their brand. Design thinking is the systematic application of ethnological research, ideation, prototyping and customer co-creation to a business’s existing needs.

Part one covered the ethnographic research stage of the project, and part two detailed the students’ first round of recommendations to Chappellet.

Notre Dame Arrives in Napa Valley

On October 15, 24 Notre Dame MBA students in Professor Wendy Angst’s Innovation and Design course flew to Napa Valley for the culmination of a six-week-long design thinking project. The goal: to present their final rounds of recommendations to Chappellet Vineyards about how the winery could evolve its brand to appeal to millennials.

Second-year MBA student Phoebe Tzannes ’20 represented one of 11 student teams tackling different business challenges on behalf of Chappellet. The teams presented a wide range of recommendations—from taking Chappellet on the road for experiential events to re-designing retail packaging to improving how a club member receives wine shipments—but they all walked away with an experience they will never forget.



“At Notre Dame we had the opportunity to present to David Francke [Chappellet’s managing director] and Greg Tucker [management consultant and consumer experience specialist], which was incredible,” says Tzannes. “But being able to come out here and present in front of strangers, to read the room and hear the live questions from the various people involved in what makes Napa Valley Napa Valley, thats something that’s hard to get in an academic environment.”

Nicholas Tawse ’20, a student in the one-year MBA program who will work in consulting upon graduation, agreed. “The experiential learning is very valuable to my MBA experience and my path going forward. Understanding and taking those key concepts we’re learning in class and actually getting to execute them is really what makes the difference in this program and this class.”


I think this class is one of those things that, 20 years from now, if I look back on my MBA career, will be a highlight. Phoebe Tzannes, MBA '20

The Value of Fresh Perspective

But the students weren’t the only ones who benefitted from the experience. David Francke, managing director of Chappellet Vineyards, welcomed the student recommendations. “[Vineyards] are typically a very stale, introspective group of businesses, so it was a great opportunity to get some outside perspective.”

Francke noted that the sheer number of student teams offered Chappellet a variety of solutions they might not find with a traditional consulting partner. “If I did a project with an ad agency or a single outside organization, there’s a certain groupthink that starts to be created. This has given us a chance to have 11 different teams really coming at these projects and giving us perspective that we wouldn’t be able to get, at least in the same way.”

In addition to the quantity of ideas, Francke and the other members of the panel were impressed with the quality of the students’ solutions, especially given the project’s six-week timeline. “We’ve all been impressed with the level of the work that was done—not only the content but the ability to deliver it and the thinking that these students did on their feet,” Francke says. “It’s an impressive group of young people who will be valuable assets to the businesses they join after they leave the program.”


Inside the winery at Chappellet.

Learning about Chappellet's history from Alexa Chappellet-Flagler.

The remains of freshly picked grapes after initial processing.

Tasting Chappellet wine while visiting the vineyards.

Notre Dame MBA students pose for a photo in the Chappellet vineyards.

View of Lake Hennessey from Chappellet's Meadow picnic area.

Hearing from Master Sommelier Jay James, Chappellet's Director of Trade Sales.

An Unforgettable Experience

A week spent in Napa Valley is a memorable adventure in and of itself. But a week spent delivering thoughtful solutions to a businesses’ challenges alongside classmates who have shared in the joys and pressures of creating those solutions creates an unforgettable and formative experience.

“I’m excited to see what Chappellet does with our recommendations in the future,” Tawse says. “Now, I guess every time I see a bottle of Chappellet I’ll think of the project, I’ll be able to speak to it and hopefully we’ll be able to see some of our ideas come to fruition and hit the industry.”

“I think this class is one of those things that, 20 years from now, if I look back on my MBA career, will be a highlight,” Tzannes says. “When else am I going to be able to come to Napa with 23 of my classmates, work for a company but also you know, sit in a meadow and have lunch and do all of these incredible things for a week and also get credit for it?”

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