Marissa Neuner


Marissa Neuner

Photo courtesy of Marissa Neuner

alumni UBC’s afterwords is a digital conversation series that shares the stories of some of UBC Okanagan’s extraordinary alumni.

Meet Marissa Neuner

1. What is your current profession?

Owner/Operator of Cellar Door Analytics, a consultation company specializing in the development, optimization, and management of pressed juices and fermented beverages in the Okanagan Valley.

2. What education did you receive at UBC?

I completed my BSc. in Microbiology in 2013 and my MSc. in Biology in 2016 studying the relationships between the microbial communities present within ‘natural’ vs. conventional fermentations of wine and their resulting chemical and sensory attributes.

3. What do you think makes UBC Okanagan great?

UBCO is a small enough campus that everyone gets to engage in their classes and with their instructors on a level that encourages more thorough understanding and collaboration. There are so many opportunities to thrive in your undergrad degree and become involved in active research initiatives and teaching opportunities that help students succeed in achieving any post-graduate goals.

4. If you could start university again, would you do anything differently?

I would let myself know that taking a 5th year to complete my studies and include the co-op program was going to allow me to spread out my class schedule. Doing the extra year to complete my co-op is how I started my journey into the wine world.

5. What was your first official job after graduation?

I worked in the St. Hubertus vineyard and cellar to help with the growing seasons and completion of the 2016 grape harvest.

6. What is the best part of your current job?

I get to be a part of all the problem-solving steps of developing cellars, and to monitor fermentations across a variety of industries, which have allowed me to better understand the local brewing, winemaking, cidermaking, and distilling industries and how best to support their growth.

7. What are some of the challenges you have faced in your career?

Starting a company in the initial phases of the pandemic was a steep learning curve, requiring me to take on a management and administration role unlike any I've ever had before.

8. What would you like to share with current students who will be graduating in the coming years who have concerns with the current work climate?

Don’t be afraid to work for yourself if you feel you have a unique skill set that others find valuable. Capitalize on your own work ethic and know that there are plenty of resources both locally and provincially available to help you begin pursuing your goals independently.

9. What's the best advice you can give to help plan a career?

Openly discuss your career goals with people of all industries and try to work to the best of your abilities while acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses, because you never know who is watching you, and who is prepared to offer life-changing opportunities based on your work ethic.

10. Do you have a mentor? How have they influenced you?

I have had many mentors, most prominently my Master’s supervisor Dr. Daniel Durall and my first winemaking mentor, Nikki Callaway, who gave me the autonomy to develop my skills in the lab and in a working winery setting, which showed me I had the strength to handle the problems of the wine industry and the ingenuity to solve them.

11. What is something you continually find yourself saying?

Where there is a will there is a way. Being a business owner requires constant creative problem solving, and just because you haven’t found a solution doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Don’t be afraid to do your research and do so continually.

12. How do you balance your work and home life?

I’m fortunate that my work and my home life are quite integrated, with my inner circle being composed of people in the wine industry who fully understand that the schedule I keep is also dictated by the wine industry. It doesn’t hurt that cellars, orchards, and vineyards are generally dog friendly, which allows me to bring the pup on site every day.

13. Where do you volunteer or how do you give back to your community?

The Okanagan tourism industry is bolstered by the local, small-scale, family-run producers in the valley who create a craft-scale product. In all wine events, research initiatives, teaching initiatives, and sustainability collaborations I coordinate, I ensure small business interests are adequately represented, and I only work with small businesses to supply and administrate my company.

14. Do you have any books that you would suggest are a must read?

  • Women Who Launch: The Women Who Shattered Glass Ceilings by Marlene Wagman-Gellar
  • A Portrait of the Scientist as a Young Woman: A Memoir by Lindy Elkins-Tanton
  • The Wine O’Clock Myth: The Truth You Need To Know About Women and Alcohol by Lotta Dann
  • Wine. All the Time.: The Casual Guide to Confident Drinking by Marissa A. Ross

15. Who is one UBC Okanagan alum you would like to nominate for afterwords?

Dr. Sydney Morgan — we shared a lab and she is brilliant!