Master Vigneron Academy

Vigneron Academy and the Credential of Master Vigneron

“A vigneron is someone who husbands the vineyard for winemaking. In modern practice, what that means is that it is the person that directs the crews that gets the job done.”

Winegrowers understand that vineyards are at the heart of producing world-class wines and that highly skilled vineyard supervisors are the key to bringing out the best in their vineyards. In 2012, the Lake County Winegrape Commission established the Master Vigneron Academy to:

  • Cultivate a professional workforce of highly skilled and knowledgeable supervisors, and;
  • Institute an industry-wide standard by which a supervisor’s knowledge and achievement are formally recognized and rewarded through completion of an accredited training program leading to a certificate.

Master Vigneron logoThe Master Vigneron Academy (MVA) is a professional workforce development program designed specifically for experienced vineyard supervisors and foremen. This year-long program is largely taught in Spanish, making it accessible and valuable to a majority of vineyard workers. Classes are held one day each month from January through August, with a break during harvest, and resume in November with a two-day interactive seminar on Agricultural Labor Management, and conclude with a graduation celebration. (See a list of MVA graduates.)

These all-day sessions strengthen each student’s knowledge of viticulture and the wine industry while providing an in-depth understanding about the supervisor’s role and responsibilities in implementing quality winegrowing practices and improving farm-worker productivity. MVA students interact with experts in the winegrape industry, learning directly from career professionals, UC academics, and their peers.

The Master Vigneron Academy concept is credited to Randy Krag, Vineyard Manager with Beckstoffer Vineyards – Red Hills, and a former Board Member and Research and Education Chairman with the Lake County Winegrape Commission.

“The Master Vigneron Academy connects our employees to a modern business environment. It links them to our customers and helps them understand their role in ‘customer service.’ It creates a bond with the larger industry, and it gives them a perspective of their role in the larger purpose. It helps them understand our business goals in regards to human resources, finance, quality, regulatory compliance, and technological innovation.” – Randy Krag, Beckstoffer Vineyards

The curriculum includes sessions on integrated canopy management, vineyard layout, planting stock, agricultural labor management, conflict resolution, vine balance, vineyard finances, wine industry economics, winegrape quality, and wine tasting. Students visit UC Davis facilities, Unified Symposium, nursery operations, Foundation Plant Services, and outstanding wineries and exceptional vineyards across the region.

With 60 percent to 70 percent of costs associated with coastal vineyard operations linked to work crews, an investment in leadership development among this critical group makes good business sense. As leadership and management skills increase among crew supervisors, an improved work environment is created for all employees. Knowledgeable supervisors are more efficient and effective, which in turn leads to better production and lower operating costs.

Vision for Master Vigneron Academy

One of the primary focuses of California winegrowers is achieving “sustainability.” The Lake County Winegrape Commission contends that what often is overlooked in sustainable farming is the human element. The Master Vigneron Academy program addresses the training needs of supervisors and represents an investment in a critical piece of sustainable farming—people.

With its proven program, comprehensive curriculum, and flexible schedule, the Master Vigneron Academy can be easily replicable and localized by other winegrape regions across California.

Regions that implement the Master Vigneron Academy will:

  • Support the professional development of experienced vineyard supervisors
  • Increase the quality of their region’s winegrapes and wines
  • Promote the sustainability and reputation of California vineyards

To that end, key partners are needed to formalize a statewide certification process and to promote the expansion of the program to other regions across the state.

“Each grower has his own way of working and managing the vineyard, and I learn a great deal from growers who have more knowledge and experience.” – Antonio Batres, Beckstoffer – Red Hills, Master Vigneron Academy, Class of 2012

“For me, I would like to learn more about the grapevines and vineyard practices – that way I have a better understanding of the grape.” – Felix Aguilar, Bella Vista Farming, Master Vigneron Academy, Class of 2012

“We just try to be better growers to give the buyers better grapes to make better wine.” – Jaime Rosas, Lyon Vineyards, Master Vigneron Academy, Class of 2012

Sample Master Vigneron Academy Curriculum

Master Vigneron Academy Schedule Overview

List of Master Vigneron Academy graduates