Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation Celebrates Forty-Four Employees for Outstanding Work and Announces Vineyard Employee of the Year

SANTA ROSA, Calif.  (February 8, 2020) – In just two years it has become one of the most innovative and prestigious awards in the winegrape industry. “It” is the Sonoma County Grape Grower Foundation’s Vineyard Employee Sustainability Recognition program and, today, forty four men and women who excel in grape growing in Sonoma County were feted at Saralee and Richard Kunde’s Barn at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in front of their families, winegrape growers,  community leaders and Congressman Mike Thompson.

“The Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation launched the Vineyard Employee Sustainability Recognition program to recognize our talented ag employees who excel in leadership, innovation, safety and conservation, in addition, to their outstanding vineyard skills,” said Karissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County Winegrowers and the executive director of the Sonoma County Grape Grower Foundation.  She added, “Not only are these some of the most talented individuals in the world’s wine industry, but they are incredibly valuable members of our local community who help make Sonoma County both a special place and a world renowned winegrowing region.”

The recognition program was started in 2018 to honor the men and women who excel in growing the world’s highest quality grapes. Full-time, part-time and seasonal employees working in Sonoma County agriculture for a vineyard owner, vineyard management company or winery are eligible for the award.   Individuals are nominated by their employers each month throughout the year to recognize their various skills, achievements and exceptional performance.  A specific theme is designated for each month of the year to showcase the various skills and contributions made by vineyard employees. Themes include leadership, innovation, safety, conservation, pruning, canopy management and harvest.  Throughout the year,  monthly winners receive gift cards and clothing as well as being recognized in local newspaper advertisements.

During today’s festivities, Jose Cervantes, Operations Supervisor for Cornerstone Certified Vineyard, was named 2019’s Vineyard Employee of the Year.

Jose has worked at Cornerstone Certified Vineyards for 25 of the 30 years he has worked in the wine industry and is now the second in command at the company.  As Operation Supervisor, he is responsible for scheduling all work done in the field.  His communication skills and the respect he has among his foremen and work crews was singled out for recognition.  Additionally, his  understanding of grape vines and the ability to make them flourish is considered among the best in the winegrape industry.

“Jose is among the very best to ever to have worked in a vineyard in Sonoma County. He is a very caring individual and is always available to listen to the needs and ideas of everyone plus he is one of the very best in growing grapes,” said Jim Pratt, owner of Cornerstone Certified Vineyard.  He added, “What  really stands out is that Jose is constantly looking for ways to improve. Not only for himself and the vineyard, but also in helping his foremen and crews improve.  As a result, there is tremendous pride throughout the company in working with Jose and being able to call him a friend.”

Since 2017, The Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation has directly supported approximately 1,300 local vineyard employees and their families.