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Master Vigneron Class Graduates

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Master-Vinters Lake County PicmonkeyL-R: Pablo Zellman, Jaime Rosas, Amador Villalobos, Federico Gonzalez, Tacho Corona,  Gabriel Martinez, Gerardo Mendoza, Antonio Batres, Felix Aguilar, Alonso Raygoza, Geronimo Rico, Randy Krag                                                    Photo By: Casey Carney


by Susan Stout


Ten individuals representing Lake County’s professional vineyard work force received accolades when the Lake County Winegrape Commission presented its first graduating class of the Commission’s Master Vigneron Academy. The graduation and celebration took place in the Lakeport Yacht Club in November..

The 2012 graduates of the yearlong course are Felix Aguilar and Gabriel Martinez of Bella Vista Farming; Antonio Batres and Alonso Raygoza, Beckstoffer-Red Hills; Tarcisio Corona, Stokes Vineyards; Federico Gonzalez, L & L Vineyards; Gerardo Mendoza, Red Hills Vineyard; Jeronimo Rico, Dorn Vineyards; Jaime Rosas, Lyon Vineyards; and Amador Villalobos, Nissen Vineyard Services.

“You guys are tops,” said Randy Krag to the group of vineyard foremen and supervisors. Offering congratulations to the class, Krag said the men had each earned the title of “Master Vigneron” by completing the course and pursuing a career path.

In a video presented prior to the introduction of the graduates, Krag said, “It’s the people who make our business work.” While praising the class’ work over the past year, he reiterated the comment to the approximately 50 people attending the graduation.

“People are the strength of what we do. (Lake County) is in good shape if our industry is in such capable hands,” Krag said. Krag, research/education chair for the Lake County Winegrape Commission, has been credited with the concept of the Master Vigneron program.

He explained Thursday that he proposed a program to help develop the professional workforce of vineyard managers. The experience workers and managers involved in the industry are at the core of the program goals, he said.

Krag and Paul Zellman, director of the Master Vigneron Program, presented each of the graduates with certificates of completion in English and Spanish and a hat sporting the “MV” logo on its band.

Zellman coordinated the monthly meetings of the Master Vigneron Academy and led the group on its visits to wineries and vineyards in Lake County and outlying counties.

Commission Chair Peter Molnar acknowledged the group, noting that the first year of any type of program is usually the hardest but that from what he observed “there is every indication that it was successful.”

Molnar said the Master Vigneron Program is “very important” to the commission and he thanked Krag for the idea.

The program contributes to professional development and recognition of the workforce leaders while allowing the individuals to stay in Lake County, have their families with them and build their careers, Molnar said.

The graduates were congratulated by Molnar and commission President Shannon Gunier who called the completion of the yearlong program “an amazing accomplishment,” Gunier said the individuals' recognition was well-deserved.

Honorees, their families and guests of the commission enjoyed lunch and dessert prepared by Chic Le Chef. A selection of Lake County wines was served at lunch.

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