Send items for Business News to news@busjrnl.com.Beverages

The Cider Journal (ciderjournal.com), a new web-based publication for the fast-growing hard cider market, launched with reviews, news and insights to the expanding audience for hard cider. Produced by award-winning wine blog publisher Tom Wark, the Napa-based journal aims to deliver cider aficionados and the hard cider trade with an independent voice covering all things cider. Education

The Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties announced that its Early Childhood Education Initiative will receive a $1.75 million grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation for the Federation’s Jewish Resource Specialist Program, a program designed to deepen Jewish curricula at local schools, engage parents, and encourage families to choose Jewish education for themselves and their children. The three-year pilot program, launched in 2011 at five Jewish Early Childhood Education sites in the Bay Area, has had significant success in engaging families in Jewish life during and after the preschool years. Thanks to the new grant, the Federation will expand the JRS program from 5 to 15 Jewish ECE sites in the Bay Area, broadening this hands-on Jewish learning program to include hundreds of local children.Entertainment

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. and Northern California Toyota Dealers have signed a multiyear agreement to continue as co-title sponsor of the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway. Toyota has been co-title sponsor of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 race since 2007, as well as the raceway’s official vehicle. The three-year extension will mark 10 years of track sponsorship.Government

Aldo Joseph Baccala in a Santa Rosa courtroom on June 23 was sentenced to 20 years in state prison related to a a Ponzi scheme that Sonoma County and state prosecutors said defrauded dozens of elderly investors out of more than $15 million. Through his Petaluma-based Baccala Realty company, he issued more than 100 promissory notes from 2004--2008, claiming he would invest the money in real estate and give them a 12 percent return. He was arrested in 2012 and faced 140 counts of grand theft, securities fraud and elder abuse before pleading no contest this past March in exchange for a limited sentence.

The city of Santa Rosa reached wage and benefit agreements with three employee unions after more than a year of negotiations. Operating Engineers, Local 3, which represents two employee groups totaling about 170 employees in the Public Utilities, Transportation and Public Works, and Recreation and Parks departments, had been a year without a contract. It signed a two-year contract with a 4.5 percent pay increase over two years and employees' contributing another 1.5 percent toward pension costs in the second year, in addition to the 8 percent contribution now in effect. Both groups last received wage increases in 2008 and have voluntarily conceded wages and benefits to the city during the slow economy since. Service Employees International Union, Local 1021, Unit 14, representing Police Department civilians, signed a two-year contract with similar pay and pension provisions. The city is negotiating with the Police Officers Association and the Police Management Association, and the California Public Relations Board is fact-finding on contracts with the Santa Rosa City Attorneys Association and the Santa Rosa City Employees Association.Technology

Sonoma County Farm Bureau started using Comcast Business Internet and cloud-based voice services.

Mill Valley's SpeakingPhoto launched iOS and Android apps, designed to turn pictures into stories to enhance value for photos. Families can add a simple voice recording to old photos, giving them new meaning and ancestry data, businesses can capture real product testimonials, and everyone can personalize their memories and share SpeakingPhotos instantly via social media or privately via text and email.Wine

Shannon Ridge Family of Wines took home two Best of Class awards, four gold medals, five silver and three bronze at the 2014 Lake County Wine Awards Competition. The contest showcases wines that identify Lake County on the label. A total of 150 wines were entered this year.

The San Francisco-based Wine Institute board elected 12 new winery members and three associate members at its recent meeting in Half Moon Bay. From the North Bay were Smith-Madrone and Sojourn Cellars and associate member DH Wine Compliance.