The Napa County pruning contest is almost of drinking age, having just celebrated its 20th anniversary on Saturday at Beringer Vineyards’ Gamble Ranch.
Hosted annually by the Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation and the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, the pruning contest is a way for organizations to recognize talented teams of winemakers in the valley.
This year’s winners came from Renteria Vineyard Management and Joseph Phelps Vineyards, with Erika López taking the women’s title and Casimiro Zaragoza for the men, respectively.
Those who came second, third and fourth were also rewarded, with Agustín Arias of Atlas Vineyard Management, Hector Rodríguez of St. Supery and Lorenzo Hernández Aquino of Walsh Vineyards Management winning in the men’s category. Verónica Medina Reyes of Bayview – who won first place in the 2019 competition, Ana Mejia of Trefethen and Rosa Martínez of Bettinelli Vineyards were honored in the women’s competition.
“The pruning contest is the only time of year Napa’s vineyard workforce can come together to show off their expert skills and technique,” said Sonya DeLuca, associate director and chief operating officer. from the Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation and Napa Valley Grapegrowers. “Although the competitors are competitive, there is a special camaraderie and energy between them.”
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All county vineyard workers were invited to compete, but each company and vineyard management group was only allowed to send four crew members due to COVID-19 precautions. During the competition, traditional rules and regulations applied – each competitor was assigned a specific section to carve and judged on their speed and accuracy. A total of 90 farmers participated in the competition.
Music was played, tacos were eaten, and at the end of the day, eight hardworking farm workers brought home their new basket of farm tools and other work goods.
“It’s a proud moment to reach the 20-year milestone of the pruning contest, but we couldn’t have done it alone,” DeLuca said. “The contest is woven into the fabric of Napa Valley’s agricultural industry; it is rooted in the community; and with the support of our generous sponsors, volunteers and local businesses, the event is a success year after year,” she said.
This year’s sponsors included OLE Health – which provided rapid COVID tests for the event – as well as tailoring company FELCO, Silicon Valley Bank and a host of local winery groups.
So with two decades of tradition under its belt and the money and tools to sweeten the pot, it’s no wonder so many people attend the event year after year.
“See the champions on the blocks of the Olympic winners [and] to be encouraged by loved ones and peers… It’s a proud and inspiring moment for everyone,” DeLuca said.
You can reach Sam Jones at 707-256-2221 and [email protected]