Lake County Winegrape Commission Board Seated

Kelseyville, Calif. – Lake County winegrape growers recently re-elected three members to the Lake County Winegrape Commission Board of Directors. Peter Molnar, Obsidian Ridge Vineyards; David Weiss, Bella Vista Farming; and Buz Dereniuk, Catspaw Vineyard; were chosen by Lake County winegrape growers to continue to serve on the Board.

Commission President Debra Sommerfield announced the results following completion of the election. The re-elected Board members officially were seated at the Board’s June meeting.

Molnar will continue to serve as Commission Chair, and he additionally serves as the Marketing Committee Chair. He says he will focus his work on informing growers about winemakers’ new appreciation for the grapes from Lake County and the reasons for producing high-quality fruit.

Weiss will continue to serve as Commission Vice Chair and Executive Committee Chair, and Dereniuk will continue as Finance Committee Chair.

The eight-member Board includes seven grower members and one appointed public member with each Board member serving two-year terms. The five other Board members are Randy Krag, Beckstoffer Vineyards, Commission Research/Education Committee Chair; Jeff Lyon, Robin Hill Vineyards, Commission Secretary-Treasurer; Bill Brunetti, Brunetti Management, Industry Relations Committee Chair; Jonathan Walters, Robinson Lake Vineyards; and Broc Zoller, Zoller Vineyards.

“We are fortunate to have such a strong group of individuals on the Commission Board,” Sommerfield said. “They are focused on our mission and continue to make great strides on both new and ongoing programs and projects that assist Lake County winegrowers. I welcome comments from our growers and invite them to meet and speak with our Board Members at workshops and meetings presented by the Commission.”

All three re-seated Board members restated their commitment to helping the growers succeed and to continuing the Commission’s work to spread the word about Lake County’s high-quality winegrapes.

As Commission Chair, Molnar points to the Commission’s efforts in the past five years and says there is a “ground shift” that growers must understand. The Commission has honed its message about Lake County’s unique climate, soil and elevation, and works to reach out to winemakers and grape buyers and inform them that Lake County fruit has all the characteristics required for super-premium wine programs, said Molnar. In addition, the Commission has improved the professional knowledge of vineyard managers and foremen with the launch of the Master Vigneron Program, a professional development course for vineyard supervisors that is taught in Spanish, showcases best practices and covers management-related topics, and is the first of its kind in the state. With media tours, technical seminars, and other events, the Commission has made the case for the region’s rise with key media and gatekeepers, he added.

These efforts have resulted in more Clear Lake appellation grapes going into $20 to $40 wines, with strong growth in average prices and the number of wineries buying Lake County fruit, he said. Molnar also noted that Food & Wine magazine recently ranked Lake County, and its Red Hills appellation, at the top of its list of the five promising new wine regions in the world.

The focus now needs to “turn to home,” he says. “We have work to do to get all of the growers in the Clear Lake appellation to understand how the ground has shifted, how winemakers have new appreciation of our region, why it is worth farming for quality. It all adds up to confidently asking for a higher price and backing that up with high-quality fruit.”

Dereniuk echoed the message. “We want to continue working with grape growers to equip them with information about the terroir of Lake County as a wine region – elevation, the climate, the soils, air quality, lower pest pressures – to help them market their grapes for higher prices and sustainable contracts.”

He added he would continue efforts to educate winemakers and grower relations representatives about the quality of Lake County grapes and growing practices.

Weiss said he plans to focus on the positive messaging efforts.

“The Commission has made tremendous progress in raising the awareness among grape buyers, winemakers and the trade media about the high quality of our fruit and the professionalism of our growers. Yet, we cannot stop with those successes,” he said. “It is time to leverage that progress with continued messaging and renewed enthusiasm to ensure that our reputation continues its rise.”

The purpose of the Lake County Winegrape Commission is to implement effective marketing, education, and research programs on behalf of Lake County winegrape growers.

The Lake County Winegrape Commission is a marketing order established in 1992 to promote the region’s premium winegrapes and to assist the region’s winegrape growers. For information about the Lake County Winegrape Commission and its programs, call the Commission office at (707) 279-2633 or go online to


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