Another Harvest for the Record Books for Sonoma County Grape Growers

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (October 25, 2022)— A record early start on July 29 set a fast pace for the harvest season in Sonoma County and most of the crop is already in for the year. Traditionally, harvest season for grape growers begins in mid-August and runs through early November. However, like every year, farmers dance to the rhythm of Mother Nature and every harvest has its challenges. This year, a heat spike around the Labor Day holiday weekend and rain in mid-September kept farmers in the vineyards and on their toes.

“Mother Nature always promises a harvest dance and 2022 did not disappoint,” said Karissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County Winegrowers. She added, As with every vintage, our grape growers manage an incredible logistical process, working with their winery partners to pick and deliver the grapes at their optimal ripeness and flavor. Overall, the crop is lighter than average across most varieties for several reasons—the ongoing drought, spring frost, a heatwave and then the mid-September rains—and we’re seeing smaller berry and cluster sizes, packing a stellar quality 2022 vintage.”

Given the ongoing drought, many growers implemented water conservation efforts to minimize their water use, which could also result in a lighter crop compared to past harvests. According to the National Integrated Drought Information System, it’s the driest year to date in the last 128 years, based on data from January through August 2022.

As we head into the dormant season, our grape growers and talented vineyard workforce can pause to celebrate another great harvest, and then it’s right back to work, tending the vines for the next vintage.

Here’s a brief look at what growers are saying about the 2022 harvest from around the Sonoma County appellations:

Alexander Valley

“The 2022 Harvest has been challenging, but each harvest has its challenges, which is why they’re all unique,” said Justin Seidenfeld, senior vice president of winemaking and winegrowing at Rodney Strong Wine Estates. “This year was special because of the team that came together to make everything happen the way we wanted. So far, the wines are showing beautifully in the tanks. It’s still early, but we are off to a good start.”

Dry Creek Valley

“Mother Nature delivered another memorable harvest season in Dry Creek Valley —spring frost, a September heat spell, and drought-driven state-mandated restrictions of irrigation water use,” commented Duff Bevill, founder and partner of Bevill Vineyard Management. “But the 2022 vintage still delivered, and the winemakers were excited about the quality.”

Fort Ross-Seaview

“Exceptional quality, but yields are quite low,” said Jasmine Hirsch, general manager and winemaker at Hirsch Vineyards. “At Hirsch Vineyards, yields are about 50% of normal.”

Petaluma Gap,

“Similar tonnages to last year—30% lower than typical years, most likely due to the drought,”

said Scott Welch, director of farming at Jackson Family Wines.

Russian River Valley

“It was our earliest finish of harvest ever in 45 years on Sept. 17,” said Whitney Hopkins of Hopkins River Ranch and Sonoma County Board Alternate Commissioner. “The 2022 harvest was lighter than the past few years. Drought and spring frost may have been factors.

“The quality of the 2022 vintage is good,” said Mark Sanchietti of Sanchietti Farming, Inc., “There was a little rain on the 18th of September, but it didn’t have an effect on the quality. We also had a heat spike in September that expedited harvest.”

Sonoma Valley

“This is a great year,” said Taylor Serres, owner of Serres Ranch. “The heat and the rain were nerve-racking, but the vines held it together and are producing some of the best flavors yet.”

 

About Sonoma County Winegrowers:

Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW) was established in 2006 as a marketing and educational organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier grape growing regions. With more than 1,800 growers, SCW’s goal is to increase awareness and recognition of the quality, sustainability and diversity of Sonoma County’s grapes and wines through dynamic marketing and educational programs targeted to wine consumers and influencers around the world.

In 2014, Sonoma County’s winegrowing community embarked on a major initiative to have all Sonoma County vineyards certified sustainable. Today, 99% of the vineyard acreage in Sonoma County has completed certification by a third-party auditor making Sonoma County the most sustainable winegrowing region in the world.  In addition, in 2020, SCW was a pilot partner in a climate adaptation program to learn how local farmers could create custom farm plans to be part of the climate solution and leaders in this movement.  SCW’s sustainability efforts have been recognized with California’s highest environmental honor, the 2016 Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA).  Learn more at www.sonomawinegrape.org.

CONTACT: John Segale | (916) 600-1081 

Download Media Release Here

SCW Sponsored Vineyard Materials Recycling Day

8am – 1pm | Thursday, November 10thRepublic Services3911 Santa Rosa Ave, Santa RosaAccepted Materials:– Wood waste– Treated wood– Green waste– Scrap metal– Bundled plastic fencing and bird netting– Soft plastics (irrigation tubing, etc.)– PVC piping– Black irrigation drip hose separated from the black flat drip irrigation tapeNot Accepted:– Any burned material

Sonoma Growers Put Vineyard Employees on a Path Toward Leadership

Posted on August 2, 2022 by Office of Public Affairs

By CDFA Secretary Karen Ross

The first cohort of the Sonoma County Winegrape Growers Foundation Leadership Academy for Vineyard Employees has graduated! I spoke to this group at their first get-together several months ago, and their final installment for this innovative program was a visit to CDFA headquarters in Sacramento, so we were honored to be the “bookends” for them. I thoroughly enjoyed a chance to sit down with them and hear each one of their stories and what the program meant to them.

This first class of graduates is comprised of 15 local vineyard employees, each nominated by their employer. The goal of this first-of-its-kind program is to create future community and business leaders. The Academy class attended eight half-day sessions and two field trips, all focused on advancing skills and empowering vineyard employees to seek leadership roles within their organization or in the community. The program goes beyond farming to advance communication skills, financial literacy, and business knowledge.

It was so inspiring and touching to listen to these employees’ experiences in the program, and about how much they love agriculture and working in the vineyards. A common thread was how important it is to be treated with respect by their employers. They all have more than ten years working in the vineyards of Sonoma County, many of them with the same employer. A number of them started in harvesting and progressed to more responsibility with specialties like irrigation and operating tractors, and some are now supervisors.

They also shared stories and spoke about their children as the reason they work so hard, and that is something I hear so often as I speak with California’s agricultural workers. One class member expressed such gratitude for being invited to CDFA, and it really made me remember and appreciate just how fortunate we are to be considered “leaders” and to do that work for California’s agriculture industry. It really is something special and I am excited to support these new leaders!

For the growers out there who nominated these dedicated employees, you’ve done something meaningful by participating in this program and empowering your very best to become even better. And for the graduates, I hope you embrace your newfound leadership skills. Your farms, your industry and your state will be better for it!

The Leadership Academy will be held annually and will soon be taking nominations for the 2023 Class.

CDFA Planting Seeds Blog

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SONOMA COUNTY WINEGROWERS LAUNCH NEW WEEKLY POST, “THE GOOD STUFF,” TO SHARE THE LOCAL HISTORY, HAPPENINGS AND STORIES

SONOMA COUNTY WINEGROWERS LAUNCH NEW WEEKLY POST, “THE GOOD STUFF,”

TO SHARE THE LOCAL HISTORY, HAPPENINGS AND STORIES

Noted Journalist, Virginie Boone, Is Writing the Weekly Column

SANTA ROSA, Calif.  (August 10, 2022) – A new weekly series, inspired by the good works of Sonoma County’s winegrape growing community, has just been launched.  Titled, “The Good Stuff,” the weekly column will tell stories, provide insight and profile Sonoma County farmers from the ground up with a glass-half-full perspective.

The column is written by noted wine journalist, Virginie Boone, who has covered Sonoma County for nearly two decades.  The first installment of the Good Stuff launches today, August 10th.  Each Wednesday, readers can find a new installment at www.sonomawinegrape.org.

“I’ve lived in Sonoma County for 20 years and I can think of nowhere else on earth I’d rather be and work.  Being in the midst of a thriving agricultural community is a big reason why I love where I live,” said Boone.  She added, “Through my work, I get the chance to hear so many stories and meet some amazing people doing great things here.  Now, I look forward to sharing their stories.”

While Sonoma County is home to a world-renown wine industry and more than 1,800 grape growers, it is uniquely comprised of a vast swath of multi-generational family farms which grow a wide variety of wine grapes, from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Merlot, some 66 varieties in all. As the first wine region to become 100% sustainable, Sonoma County is committed to environmental stewardship, social responsibility and economic viability and remains one of the most diverse, dynamic and resilient regions in America.

“There are so many stories about Sonoma County’s rich agricultural history including farming, partnerships, innovation, leadership and our local legends that we wanted to share.  People are going to love learning about our rich past as well as our plans for farming in the future that master storyteller, Virginie Boone, will capture and share “the good stuff” happening in our backyard every week,” stated Karissa Kruse, President of Sonoma County Winegrowers.

To access the stories in The Good Stuff, go to www.sonomawinegrape.org, beginning August 10th, 2022.

-end-

Download Media Release Here

Featured in Forbes: How Sonoma County Winegrowers Partnered With Ford Towards Creating The Sustainable “Farm Of The Future”

By Liz Thach, MW |

It takes a lot of a chutzpah to cold call Ford Motor Company and ask them to be your sustainability partner. But Karissa Kruse, President of Sonoma County Winegrowers, and affectionately known as the ‘Queen of Sustainability’, has never been known for timidness.

In 2014, supported by her team, she challenged the 1800 winegrowers of Sonoma County, farming 60,000 acres with grapes sold to 425 Sonoma County wineries, to become 100% certified sustainable by 2019. Certification meant that the growers had to pass a series of third-party audits to prove that they were farming their land according to environmentally and socially friendly standards, such as water conservation, energy efficiency, eliminating and/or decreasing the use of agrochemicals, and adopting best practices in employee and community relations. When the end of 2019 rolled around, a surprising 99% of the grape growers in Sonoma County had become certified sustainable, from a starting point of only 33% in 2014. “There are always a few last hold outs,” quips Kruse.

Not content to rest on their laurels, in January of 2020, Kruse and her team embarked on another initiative towards a Climate Adaptation Certification program for local winegrowers. Starting as a pilot program in 17 vineyards, the goal is to determine best practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A part of this includes adoption of electric trucks, tractors and other farming equipment needed in the vineyards.

“When Ford announced they would be introducing a new electric truck,” states Kruse, “we decided to reach out to them. However, we didn’t know anyone who worked there, so we decided to cold call them. It took a while, but eventually we found the right person to pitch our sustainability partnership for the ‘Farm of the Future,’ initiative. Now we are so proud to have Ford as our partner.”

Ford Pro’s New Electric Trucks, Vans, and Telematics Promote Sustainability and Efficiency

Within a short time, Ford sent a team of experts to Sonoma County to meet with the winegrowers and create a plan to introduce the new F-150 Lightning electric truck, their E-Transit cargo van, charging stations and Ford Pro E-Telematics software to pilot farms.

According to Ryan Southwick, Ford’s West Region Technology Manager,” The Telematics system can be installed under the steering wheel of gas powered vehicles so the growers can begin to track their emissions. It is already integrated into our new electric trucks and vans.”

As part of the program, Sonoma County Winegrowers has committed to purchasing the E-Telematics system for all 1800 growers, and Ford will provide an E-Transit van and F-150 Lightening electric truck to three pilot farms – Vino Farms, Dutton Ranch, and Bevill Vineyard Management – representing 4000 vineyard acres in the Russian River AVA.

Last week Ford demoed the new F-150 Lightening electric truck at the First Healdsburg Food & Wine Festival. Consumers and farmers alike were allowed to climb inside the powerful truck, while others signed up to test drive it – surprised by the roomy and comfortable front and back seats in the extended cab.

According to Elizabeth Kraft, Communications Manager with Ford Pro North America, “F-150 Lightning has the most torque out of any F-150 ever!” It has more hauling power than even the largest gas-powered Ford 150, with battery power of 230 miles for the standard-range battery and 320 for the extended range. The entry-level price point is $39,974 MSRP.

The electric trucks and vans are expected to arrive at the Sonoma County pilot farms this summer. However, the electric truck has received such overwhelming acceptance in the U.S. that it has pre-sold all of 2022 production, and the company is taking orders for 2023 delivery.

Positive Sustainability Results Already with Ford Pro for Sonoma County Vino Farms

Even at this early stage of the pilot program there have already been some positive results with the Telematics software that has been installed in gas-powered farm trucks. According to Marissa Ledbetter, VP of Operations at Vino Farms, “We have over 50 vehicles on Ford Pro Telematics and have already identified insights that are improving our bottom line like long idle times costing us an estimated $24,000 per year in wasted gas.” She continues, “We expect those benefits to grow as electric vehicles and charging stations become a more regular part of our operations.”

The addition of electric vehicles to farming operations will contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for the wine industry. According to a 2021 Italian wine study, fossil fuels used in the vineyard contribute to 8% of wine’s carbon footprint. Indeed winegrowers use trucks and tractors for many of their operations, including hauling fertilizer, water, and portable bathrooms for trucks, along with sustainable sprays for the vineyards. Some vineyard farm vehicles log upward of 50,000 miles a year in Sonoma County.

“Ford Pro is excited to be working together with Sonoma County winegrowers to reduce carbon emissions,” states Southwick. “Together we can be more effective and efficient.”

Kruse adds, “This collaboration with the Ford Pro team is a great natural next step to help us continue our progress in sustainable agriculture. A lot of farming families have a rich history with Ford, and with history comes trust…..that trust is critical when it comes to investing in electric vehicles….Our farmers love this pilot program; it’s going to be foundational.”

Along with many other commendable companies, Ford has set goals to reduce CO2 emissions. It plans to target 100% renewable energy for its global operations by 2035 and be fully carbon neutral worldwide by 2050.

In the meantime, Karissa Kruse and her team at the Sonoma County Winegrowers continues to take a leadership role in sustainability and creating the “Farm of the Future,” that will not only help lower greenhouse gas emissions, but will also play a key role in sequestering carbon. Indeed, this also supports the original mission of Sonoma County Winegrowers: ‘to increase the value of Sonoma County winegrapes and to nurture and protect this agricultural resource for future generations.’

 

Read the full article below –

PDF Version

On Forbes.com

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Sonoma County Honors the Best of the Best at its 2021 Vineyard Employee Recognition Celebration Acknowledging 49 Employees of the Month and Announcing Roberto Alvarez Flores as the Vineyard Employee of the year.

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (May 10, 2022) – The 350+ crowd was all smiles as vineyard employees, their families, and grape growers gathered for the 4th annual Employee Recognition Celebration at Saralee and Richards Barn at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. The Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation’s Vineyard Employee Recognition program is one of the most innovative and prestigious awards in the wine grape industry. The awards, now in their fifth year, recognizes the accomplishments of vineyard employees who have helped to make Sonoma County a world-renowned wine region and a leader in sustainability. This past weekend, 49 women and men
from Sonoma County who excel in farming were honored in front of family, friends, peers, winegrape growers and community leaders. Congressman Mike Thompson, who was unable to attend for the first time, sent a recorded video announcing this year’s Vineyard Employee of the Year recipient and stated he plans to deliver the Congressional Resolution in person later this
month.

“This is one of our most loved programs where our vineyard employees are publicly honored in front of their families and peers. We greatly value our talented vineyard employees who excel in leadership, innovation, safety and conservation, and outstanding vineyard skills,” said Karissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County Winegrowers and the executive director of the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation. She added, “these individuals work hard to make Sonoma County vineyards some of the best in the world.”

The recognition program began in 2018 to honor the men and women who excel in growing Sonoma County’s sustainable winegrapes. All employees working in Sonoma County agriculture for a vineyard owner, vineyard management company or winery are eligible for the award. Employers nominate Individuals each month throughout the year to recognize their various skills, achievements, and exceptional performance in different areas. Monthly themes include leadership, innovation, safety, frost protection, conservation, pruning, canopy management and harvest. Throughout the year, monthly winners receive gift cards as well as gain recognition in the local community via advertisements, social posts, and articles saluting their success.

At the annual event, award winners from 2021 were joined by their families, nominating vineyard managers, and the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation’s Leadership Academy inaugural class to celebrate with a catered lunch and live music from a local Mariachi band. Santa Rosa City Council Member Tom Schwedhelm and Foundation Board Chairman Duff Bevill joined Karissa Kruse on stage to acknowledge and present honorees with their plaques and gift bags. Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation officially announced Roberto Alvarez Flores, of Sangiacomo Family Vineyards, as the winner of its 2021 Vineyard Employee of the Year award.

“Roberto Alvarez is the modern-day superhero at Sangiacomo Family Vineyards,” says Steve Sangiacomo, Managing Partner. His coworkers view him as the Albert Einstein of their time. He is innovative and detailed. His nickname is ‘mil usos,’ meaning one who can do anything.”

Steve further said, “when we say our employees become part of our extended family, Roberto is the perfect example. he has worked for our family for over 22 years, evolving with the business every year. His father also worked for our family and today his son, Roberto Jr. works part time while attending Sonoma State University full time. Roberto is one of our top supervisors. His role allows him to teach and care for others. He is admired and respected by his team, leading them with compassion and clear direction.”

At the event Roberto was joined by his wife, children, and parents. His parents had arrived from Mexico the day prior for a scheduled family visit and were there to witness their son named as Vineyard Employee of the Year. It was an unforgettable moment for the family and all those in attendance. Afterwards, Roberto Jr., (Roberto’s oldest son) said, “I have always admired my father and wanted to follow in his footsteps. Today, he raised the step even higher. I could not be prouder.”

Roberto Sr. is involved in managing vineyard frost protection, irrigation management, annual vineyard development, harvest logistics and much more at Sangiacomo Family Vineyards. His reliability, consistent demeanor and critical thinking skills earned him the respect of his co-workers.

Steve Sangiacomo further explained, “As the business has grown, Roberto has expanded his learning and taken on new responsibilities. This is one of the proudest moments ever for our family business to have one of our employees, like Roberto, be recognized in this way.”

Today, Roberto lives with his wife, two daughters and two sons on the Sangiacomo Family Vineyards ranch. His son, Roberto Jr. is pursuing a wine business degree at Sonoma State University with the goal of working in viticulture and the wine community. His daughter Mayra
will be graduating this year from Sonoma State University and will be attending USF to earn a Master’s Degree in Family Therapy.”

The event sponsors included: Ford Pro, Bacho, Redwood Credit Union and the Zenith Agribusiness.

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About the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation:
The Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation (SCGGF) was first established in 2002 as a 501(c)(3) organization to help fund educational workshops in Spanish for agricultural employees. The foundation was relaunched in January of 2016 by local grape growers who recognized the opportunity to invest and work together to support vineyard employees and their families. SCGGF is focused on improving the lives of Sonoma County’s vineyard employees and their families, while ensuring Sonoma County remains a place where employees will continue to live, work, and thrive. Since its relaunch SCGGF has continuously proven it has a unique model of outreach and support, recognizing and relying on the trusted relationship that farmers have with their employees. SCGGF focuses on critical community areas such as healthcare,
affordable housing, childcare, education, recovery and resiliency, and workforce development. The Foundation is managed by the Sonoma County Winegrowers with an 18-member board of directors comprised of agricultural leaders, vineyard and winery owners, and Sonoma County community leaders.

About the Sonoma County Grape Growers Leadership Academy:
The Leadership Academy, a first-of-its-kind program for vineyard employees, is a pioneering program established in February 2022. The Leadership Academy focuses on advancing the skills needed for vineyard employees to enhance their current leadership skills and prepares them for leadership opportunities within their organization and community. The leadership training goes beyond farming skills. Class topics include, human resources, compliance, safety, communications, financial literacy, disaster preparedness, community resources, conflict resolution, managing people and much more

Download Press Release In Spanish Here

Download Press Release In English Here

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:

Christine Lilienthal | 707-522-5865 | [email protected]

Ford Pro & SCW Telematics Webinar

Sign up for Ford Pro™Telematics for any truck, make, or model and the Winegrowers Commission will cover the costs through April 30, 2023 (on a single vehicle)*

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