Four women and four men made the cut for this year’s best pruners of Napa Valley vineyards.
Judged for speed and accuracy, they emerged victorious in Napa Valley Grapegrowers’ and Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation’s 17th annual Napa County Pruning Contest, held at Beringer’s Gamble Ranch Vineyard on Feb. 3.
This year’s contest had 35 percent more participants than last year and over 300 people in attendance.
“This year’s contestants came determined to win. For many, it was their fourth of fifth year competing, so they knew the level of skill and focus needed,” said Rolando Sanchez of Walsh Vineyards Management and a member of the the foundation’s Education Committee. “Every competitor brings years of experience and is considered by their peers and industry leaders to be the best in their profession.”
Each of the 139 contestants pruned five vines in the day’s preliminary competition. Those with the highest scores went on to the final round, which produced the winners: four in the women’s division and four in the men’s.
The winners took home more than $950 in cash, armfuls of pruning tools, clothing, gift cards and other prizes. The crowd favorite award was a handmade silver belt buckle given to the first-place winners.
Employers typically match the cash prize winnings, the organizers said. All contestants took home pruning contest sweatshirts. There was a catered lunch between competition rounds.
2018 was the first year the contest was held on a Saturday, making it easier for family, friends and colleagues to attend, the grower organizations said.
All contestants were Napa County residents and full-time employees. All who participated volunteered their time to compete and most were paid by their employers for the day. Many had successfully competed in internal competitions within their own companies prior to arriving to the countywide contest.