Mohr-Fry Ranches Honored

Mohr-Fry Ranches is CAWG Grower of the Year

By Laurie Greene, Editor

The California Association of Wine Grape Growers (CAWG) has selected its 2016 Grower of the Year, Jerry and Bruce Fry of Mohr-Fry Ranches, who will be presented with the award at the CAWG Awards of Excellence Program in Monterey on July 20, 2016. The Grower of the Year Award is the highest honor given by the association to an individual, family, or company that represents an outstanding example of excellence in viticulture and management.

John Aguirre, president of the organization, offered some background on this year’s award winners. “Jerry and Bruce are icons of the Lodi wine grape growing community. They do not own a winery, but they are long-time vineyard agriculturalists and have a long history of community leadership, and involvement in agricultural organizations,” Aguirre said.

Mohr-Fry Ranches Logo, CAWG


Mohr-Fry Ranches was one of the original six Lodi growers to certify their vineyard under the Lodi Rules for Sustainable Wine Growing. Jerry Fry is the president and CEO, and Bruce Fry is the vice president of operations of the family-run Mohr-Fry Ranches. The father and son are two of the most respected growers in the Lodi wine grape community and also dedicate an enormous amount of time serving the industry in their community.

“Jerry was a past chairman of CAWG, and Jerry and Bruce have both been deeply involved not only with CAWG, but with the California Farm Bureau Federation, the Lodi District Grape Growers Association, and the Lodi Wine Grape Commission,” said Aguirre. “They really embraced the idea that working as a community is essential to the strength of agriculture.”

“Jerry was really visionary in terms of developing Lodi into the powerhouse that it is today. Arguably, Lodi occupies one of the most critical positions in the winegrape industry in its ability as a region to produce high-quality grapes that are sought by Napa winemakers to blend into Napa wines,” noted Aguirre.

Union Advances Fair Market Access

National Farmers Union Advances Fair Market Access for Growers

By Brian German, Associate Editor

Chandler Goule
Chandler Goule, senior vice president of Programs for the National Farmers Union (NFU)

Chandler Goule, senior vice president of Programs for the National Farmers Union (NFU), introduced his organization,”The National Farmers Union is the second largest general farm organization in the United States. We represent about 200,000 family farmers and ranchers. We have membership in all 50 states, but we’re organized in 32.”

Goule described NFU membership, “We were founded in 1902 down in Point, Texas, so we represent everybody from row crops, to dairymen, to ranchers, to specialty crops, to those who are selling in Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) . You name it, we’ve got somebody. Bee collectors and honey producers are also in our organization.”

Since its inception, the NFU has been an advocate for helping the family farmer address profitability issues and monopolistic practices by increasing cooperative rights along with advancing fair market access for growers. “We are a federation of states,” Goule said, “so we’re a grassroots organization. NFU could not exist without California Farmers Union and North Dakota Farmers Union and Minnesota Farmers Union. So when you bring all the state farmers union devisions together, that’s what makes up National Farmers Union. It’s a very bottom-up approach.CA Farmers Union

“Of course, with California being the bread basket for the United States and by far the largest in gross domestic product (GDP) in agriculture,” Gould stated, “California Farmers Union membership is very heavy in dairy, has a little bit of viticulture and then specialty crops.”


National Farmers Union is a grassroots, producer-driven organization that believes good opportunities in production agriculture are the foundation of strong farm and ranch families, and strong farm and ranch families are the basis for thriving rural communities. Vibrant rural communities, in turn, are vital to the health, security and economic well-being of our entire national economy.

Agriculture Science Recognition Awards, Part 1- Megen Morales

Agriculture Science Recognition Awards, Part 1 – Megen Morales

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

Assemblyman Jim Patterson joined Dr. Sandra Witte, dean of the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at California State University, Fresno (Fresno State) and Lawrence Salinas, Fresno State’s executive director of Government Relations, at the 23rd Assembly District’s 2016 Agriculture Science Recognition Awards on March 17 at Fresno State.

California Ag Today will highlight each of four Fresno State students in the Fresno State Honoree series, Meghan Loper, Megen Morales, Elizabeth Mosqueda and Nick Wolfenden, who were selected from among several students nominated for their dedication to the future of agriculture in the Central Valley.

“These brilliant students represent the best of the best,” said Assemblyman Patterson. “Their devotion to making a difference in our agriculture science community is to be commended and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.”


Megen Morales, a senior at Fresno State majoring in enology and chemistry, was honored recently for leading the way in the study of mold in winegrapes. “She’s also helping others in agriculture measure and quantify the amount of mold,” noted Patterson.

After a grapevine-judging contest in high school, Morales knew she wanted to work in the viticulture industry. So for the past three years, she has worked with her enology professors to create a new standard for wineries to follow for the amount of mold that is acceptable in harvested wine grapes. “The current maximum of moldy grapes acceptable in wineries is two percent,” noted Patterson, “but there is no process that accurately determines the level of mold content.” Morales explained, “Right now, you simply look at the grapes and usually determine that it looks like 1.5 to two percent mold.”

“So Megen harvested White Zinfandel Grapes from 15 farms throughout the Central Valley, and brought them back to the lab to study the levels of several types of mold,” noted Patterson. “Morales compiled the data, and her results are now used by large-scale wineries to determine how much mold is in their harvested grapes.”

A member of Central Valley Women for Agriculture (CWA) and a volunteer at the Fresno State Winery, Morales has also helped promote agriculture at Valley Children’s Hospital. As current manager of the laboratory, she trains other students on how to use it.

In fact, Morales has dedicated much of her time to teaching young people about the important role agriculture plays in everyday life. She says her experiences at Fresno State will help her excel in her future as an empowered, humble person, with the skills and mindset to accomplish great things. She hopes to work as an enologist at a major winery and eventually plans to become a senior wine maker. Morales’ ultimate goal is to serve as a role model, a mentor to women in agriculture, and to advocate for agricultural education to preserve the agricultural world of tomorrow.

“My passion started with crop production and it evolved towards viticulture,” noted Morales. “I really enjoyed chemistry in high school. Combining the two fields [agriculture and chemistry] was a challenge, but then I found enology. It has been really exciting learning how to make wine.”

“The winegrape scan spectrum we are developing will enable wineries to scan one sample of grapes coming in and better quantify the amount of mold,” Morales elaborated. “Since wine is filtered before it goes into a bottle, mold has not been a big problem. However, [mold] does affect the sensory impact of wine, so once you get above five percent mold you start to smell a funky, sweet, almost vinegary smell. It doesn’t affect the palate, but it does affect the nose,” she stated.


State of the Winegrape Industry

State of the Winegrape Industry

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

Growers attending the Grape, Nut and Tree Fruit Expo in Fresno last November had the opportunity to learn about the state of the winegrape industry from Nat DiBuduo, president of Allied Grape Growers. While DiBuduo acknowledged growers were facing challenges, he encouraged them to continue to work with the industry.

DiBuduo said the immediate challenges facing the winegrape industry—largely in the production and price of winegrapes—depend on the variety, “but I’m asking all winegrape growers to look at their crops, production levels and quality levels.” DiBuduo is asking growers to work with the wineries to get higher production numbers and contracts with higher prices for long-term sustainability.”

“I think 2016 will be a challenge, but I look forward to 2017,” he elaborated; “however, it’s not going to get better without the removal of some vineyards. We’ve got to get the price to where growers are sustainable and viable going forward,” said DiBuduo. “We supply a big base of grapes to in the industry. We want to keep that base despite dwindling sales.”

DiBuduo explained that growers could work on overcoming their challenges by remaining active in the discussion. “Go to meetings like this,” he explained. “Go to viticulture meetings. Work with specialists to get better production and better quality.”

DiBuduo also stressed the importance of designing labels and wines that appeal to millennials. Labels that stand out as creative and unique appeal to the millennial generation, which also does not hold the same brand loyalty as prior generations, he said.

Having labels and brands that are attractive to the millennials is important, DiBuduo said, because this generation cannot “be standardized into one-cookie-cutter-fits-all, so you’ve got to be energized. I think the winegrape industry has really done that. We’ve come out with a number of different blends of wines and different labels that catch the eyes of the millennials and get them excited.”

The Peril of Smoke Taint on Winegrapes

Wildfires Threaten Smoke Taint on Winegrapes

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

There are at least two dozen major fires burning in the wilderness of California. Many are now contained, while others are only minimally contained. One recent serious fire, known as the “Rocky Fire” in Lake, Yolo, and Colusa counties burned nearly 70,000 acres before firefighters extinguished it last month.

But smoke from that fire may yet cause problems for the wine grape industry in Napa, Sonoma, and Lake counties. James Kennedy, chair of the Department of Viticulture and Enology and director of the Viticulture and Enology Research Center at California State University Fresno, explained the threat of smoke taint on winegrapes. “Anytime you have wildfires near vineyards,” Kennedy said, “there is a concern about how that smoke might become associated with grapes, and as a result, become associated with wine.”

Kennedy said they learned a lot about this problem from the Australian wildfires in 2003 that tainted their wine. Kennedy explained,“grape growers are oftentimes not aware of the extent to which smoke can damage fruit. In a sense, it is a two-edged sword. When wine is made from smoke-tainted grapes, it will have characteristics reminiscent of ‘the morning-after ashtray’ that is quite obnoxious and certainly not desirable. The other side of the sword occurs when smoke compounds interact with the grapevine and grape berries, it is modified by the grapes. Like an iceberg in the ocean, the ice above the water suffers the apparent smoke taint; whereas, the massive chunk underneath the ocean, though not initially as obviously smoke-tainted, reveals obvious taint over time.”

Kennedy said, “Winemakers in Australia realized that while you can treat that initial smoke taint, you don’t resolve the long-term taint problem. We, as an industry, are trying to identify vineyards with smoke taint problems before their fruit is made into wine. By testing grapes in laboratories, we are trying to prevent those wineries from wasting significant investment in converting tainted fruit into tainted wine.”

The Napa Valley Vintners nonprofit trade association reported on its website yesterday, “So far no vineyards or wineries in Napa County have been threatened by any of this season’s wildfires. Most of the time the fires were burning, the smoke blew away from Napa County due to the typically prevailing winds from the southwest. The weekend of August 15/16, we did experience very hot temperatures and a wind shift that caused our air to be hazy and smoky as a result of the many fires burning throughout CA. However, there were no reports of smoke taint affecting Napa Valley wine grapes as a result.”

“Most reports on smoke taint indicate that it exists only after an extended period of close contact with smoke; conditions that have not, to our knowledge, existed within Napa Valley this summer. Furthermore, Napa Valley is known for the highest standards of fine wine production and our winemakers will be paying very close attention to this situation as they harvest grapes for the 2015 vintage.”

AgroThermal Announces Impressive 2014 Winegrape Trial Results

11 California Winegrape Trial Blocks Average Over 30% Yield Increases


By Laurie Greene, CalAgToday editor and reporter


AgroThermal Systems produced a third year of impressive winegrape fruit set results in 2014 patented Thermal Heat Treatment process trials, averaging 23% more berries per bunch and 27% more bunch weight at mid season. Yield per vine at the end of the season showed a 31% gain in treated blocks vs. control blocks.

The data, developed under the direction of the Dawson Company, which creates sales opportunities for new agricultural post harvest, produce ripening and crop production technologies and novel agrichemicals, came from 15 trial and control blocks in the Southern Salinas Valley, Livermore and the Central Valley. According to the company’s founder and president, Art Dawson, “ We have been sampling fruit set and bunch weights in conjunction with AgroThermal since 2012 and this represents the 3rd year of a consistent average increase of over 20% in fruit set at mid season vs. corresponding trial blocks. There is no doubt the technique produces more fruit, even in great fruit set years as evidenced from over 30 blocks tracked since 2012.” The increase in fruit set varied by varietal; it appears the response to instantaneous heat treatment is varietal-specific.

In 2014, the two companies collaborated on sampling harvest weights and berries per bunch counts a few days in advance of harvest, in 11 of the 15 winegrape trial blocks. According to Dawson, “We stripped six vines in each control and trial block to get a projection of weight per vine. The average increase was 31% more weight per vine. This indicated that the technique not only created more berries per bunch, but this advantage was carried forward to harvest yields.”

According to Marty Fischer, CEO of AgroThermal, “When we saw these sampling yield projections, we asked our growers to confirm their actual harvest data. Getting grower data on harvest yields has always been challenging due to the frenetic activity at harvest, the very reason why we decided to do the sampling prior to harvest. We have confirmation of substantial yield increases for 7 of the 11 blocks at Scheid Vineyards located in the Salinas Valley,” Fischer said, “and are awaiting grower harvest data from the other four blocks.”Scheid Vineyards

Shawn Veysey, Head of Viticulture at Scheid in Greenfield, California stated, “We were very excited by what we have seen with the AgroThermal technique. We have blocks with up to a 40% increase in berries per bunch and weight per bunch. This translates to a 1 to 2 ton increase per acre.”

Fischer credited the increases in 2014 to a treatment shift; “Different protocols produce significantly different results after experimenting with treatment start dates, frequency of treatments and time of day applications. Growers who don’t want yield increases but want to change wine character need to use a protocol that provides more berries per bunch leading to higher skin to pulp ratios. Growers who want a yield increase need to adhere to a different protocol of treatments.”

AgroThermal expects some 15-20 wines to be barrel-tasted from the 2014 trials in California and Oregon, with wine quality results announced sometime in early 2015.


Agrothermal Systems Introduces North America Sales Manager

Kim Boyarsky was recently appointed North America Sales Manager, bringing wine industry marketing experience to AgroThermal Systems. She has spent ten years in customer development representing packaging and cooperage companies in the wine industry. For the last three years, she was Territory Manager with Barrel Builders, Inc. in St. Helena, California, where she was responsible for consulting with winemakers on barrel selections for current wine vintages in California, Oregon and Washington.

AgroThermal Systems ( is based in Walnut Creek California and is a dba of Lazo TPC Global, Inc. a California Corporation. AgroThermal has pioneered the use of in-field heat treatment as a means to increase yields, reduce pesticide needs and improve crop qualities. The company holds patents on Thermal Pest Control and has patents pending on Thermal Plant Treatment for agricultural crops . The AgroThermal Systems technology has shown consistent results for improving fruit set, harvest yields, pest control and improving certain wine sensory characteristics in various trials conducted in the US from 2012-2014.