Wine begins in the vineyard
Quality wine begins with quality grapes, and Viticulturists perform a wide range of duties to grow high quality grapes. Daily duties change with not only weather, but with the seasons and variety of grapes grown. Irrigation, pruning, planting, scouting for insect and pest diseases, controlling weeds, maintaining equipment, and harvesting are all important tasks that grape growers perform.
Along with keeping up with these responsibilities, grape growers may also have supervisory assignments and must manage the work of other employees. This supervisory skill often comes with the need to be bilingual in Spanish.
Examples of Available Careers
- Vineyard supervisor
- Assistant vineyard manager
- Vineyard equipment, fertilizer sales representative*
- Vineyard manager*
- Vineyard owner/entrepreneur*
*These positions may require a few years of field experience before qualified to seek employment in these careers.
Also consider the need for positions within agriculture that require accounting, business, finance, and law skills.
Grape growers work outside during much of the year. They must be able to do their work in the heat of summer, the cold of winter, and the unpredictable weather of fall and spring. Full range of motion is needed to reach plants and manipulate tools needed to care for those plants. The ability to lift heavy objects such as bags of fertilizer are important to daily activities. Work in vineyards can be dusty and dirty so appropriate clothing must be worn.
Hours vary through the year, with more time worked during spring and harvest season than any other part of the year. Most grape growers begin their days between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. and will end their day eight hours later unless weather interferes to shorten the day or activities like harvesting make the day longer. These days are often at least ten hours long, but will be longer during the busiest part of harvest. Weekends will also be part of the regular work schedule during busy times of the year. Sometimes important tasks like pesticide applications may have to be scheduled on weekends to avoid exposing other workers in the vineyards.
While fewer jobs than average are expected in the farming industry, the outlook for local viticulture is promising. In order to grow our local wine economy, more wine grapes must be produced which translates into a need for more vineyard workers.
Throughout the year there are seminars, symposia, and viticulture meetings available giving grape growing professionals the opportunity to meet others in their career and continue to improve their skills. These and other meetings held throughout the growing season give those growers certified to apply pesticides continuing education credits to keep their credentials up to date. Both the private and commercial pesticide applicator’s certification must be renewed by exam every three years if applicators do not earn enough credits between exams.
Holding any degree in viticulture is valuable for career advancement. Many people starting out as seasonal laborers do not keep these positions long, but the ones who show interest are very likely to be mentored by their supervisors and moved along to other positions. Often these employees can pick up helpful courses along the way to help them understand soils, plant growth, and technology but may not work toward earning a degree.
Minimally, an associate’s degree is needed to find a full-time position with benefits. Earning a bachelor’s degree is often necessary to manage large vineyards, and a master’s or doctorate degree are needed to work in viticultural research and teaching positions.