An employee on the job for more than 30 years at Sonoma’s Serres Ranch was named 2018 Vineyard Employee of the Year by the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation on Saturday in Santa Rosa.

Gabino Ramirez was chosen from among 44 individuals recognized throughout the year as part of the foundation’s Vineyard Employee Sustainability Recognition program. The foundation launched the program in 2018 to single out those who excel in grape growing in Sonoma County.

Workers are nominated by their employers for individual achievement and exceptional performance, the foundation stated. Full-time, part-time and seasonal employees working in agriculture for a vineyard owner, vineyard management company or winery are eligible for the award. Throughout the year, monthly winners receive gift cards and clothing as well as being recognized in local newspaper advertisements.

“These are some of the most talented individuals in the world’s wine industry and valuable members of our community,” stated Karissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County Winegrowers and executive director of the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation. “Sonoma County winegrowers have a proud history of working collectively to positively impact the lives of our employees and their families and we are committed to making this program one of the most prestigious awards in our county and our industry.”

In 2016, as part of its quest to make the area the first 100 percent sustainable winegrowing region, Sonoma County Winegrowers relaunched the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation to provide support for agricultural employees and their families. During the area’s 2017 wildfires, the foundation raised more than $1 million to aid ag workers and their families who were displaced from their homes by the fires or who lost income as a result of the fires and subsequent evacuations.

Serres Ranch was established in 1924 in Sonoma and has been owned and operated by five generations of the Serres family. Their interests include grape growing, cattle raising, blueberry farming and ranching in Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

“Gabino is the best of the best, and our vineyard is what it is today because of his love and devotion for the place,” said Taylor Serres, company officer. “Serres Ranch would not be what it is today without the leadership of Gabino Ramirez.”

On the program at Saturday’s ceremony at Saralee and Richard’s Barn at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds was a presentation of a Congressional resolution to Ramirez by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena.

Honored as runner-up Vineyard Employee of the Year was Juan Sanchez, vineyard supervisor and 49-year employee at Dutton Ranch. The foundation stated that during his years at Dutton Ranch, Sanchez worked his way up from field worker to tractor driver, crew leader, foreman, supervisor, manager-supervisor and now head supervisor, the fourth-highest management position in the company.

As part of their recognition, Ramirez received $1,250 in gift cards and Juan Sanchez $750.