Napa County's 8 most skilled vineyard workers of 2020

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Out of 160 vineyard workers who put their skills to the test in the 19th annual Napa County Pruning Contest, four women and four men made the cut.

Carina de la Cruz of Renteria Vineyard Management and Manuel Telles of Joseph Phelps Vineyards placed first in the women's and men's divisions, respectively, according to the event organizers, Napa Valley Grapegrowers and Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation. (See all the winners in the gallery above.)

The contest, judging speed and accuracy, was held Feb. 8 at Beringer Vineyards' Gamble Ranch Vineyard in Oakville. All contestants were Napa County residents and full-time employees who volunteered to compete, and most were paid by their employers for the day, according to the organizers. Many had successfully competed in internal company competitions before the countywide contest.

“Every year the contest gets bigger and the contestants get even better,” said Kendall Smith of White Rock Vineyards and co-chairwoman of the Napa County Pruning Contest. “I love seeing the pride our community has in the work that they do, especially at the pruning contest where pruning is such an art. What makes the event so great is that our vineyard workers get recognized at such a fun contest, and on such a beautiful sunny day this year!”

The preliminary competition involved pruning five vines. Those with the highest scores went on to the final round.

Women’s division winners

First place: Carina de la Cruz, Renteria Vineyard Management

Second place: Idilberta Merino, Walsh Vineyards Management

Third place: Cecilia Avina, independent

Fourth place: Fabiola Rojas, #1 Vineyard Management

Men’s division winners

First place: Manuel Telles, Joseph Phelps Vineyards

Second place: Isaac Gutierrez, Beckstoffer Vineyards

Third place: Rene Alejo, FARM Napa Valley

Fourth place: Narcizo Maciel-Flores, Beckstoffer Vineyards

First place winners received $900 in cash and gifts cards plus a handmade silver belt buckle, and a gift basket and apparel provided by Central Valley. In addition to a gift bag with pruning tools and apparel, cash and gift cards totaled $625 for second place, $350 for third and $200 for fourth. Employers typically match the cash winnings, according to the organizers.

Sponsors of the event were A&J Vineyard Supply, Ag Health Benefits, Behrens Family Winery, Brotemarkle, Davis & Co., Central Valley, CONSTANT Diamond Mountain Vineyards, Copper Cane Wines & Provisions, Duarte Nursery, Emerson Day Vineyards, Farella Braun + Martel, FELCO, Gonzalez Vineyard Management, Green Valley Tractor, Hudson Vineyards, Ilsley Vineyard Management, Jaguar FLC, John Derr Farming, Komes + Garvey Ranches, Michael Wolf Vineyard Services, Moulds Family Vineyard, Naysayer Coffee, Nemerever Vineyards, Novavine, Renteria Vineyard Management, RUDD Estate, Silicon Valley Bank, Sunbelt Rentals, Taddei Vineyards, Treasury Wine Estates, Vineyard Industry Products, Walsh Vineyards Management and Wyatt Irrigation Company.

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