Sonoma County Grape Growers Association has presented the 2005 Viticulture Award of Excellence to Rhonda Smith, viticulture farm advisor at the University of California Cooperative Extension.

In her position as viticulture farm advisor, which she has held for almost 20 years, Smith has conducted an educational and applied research program for vineyard owners, managers and pest control advisers for the production of wine grapes in Sonoma County.

Smith, a highly respected leader in viticulture, has made outstanding contributions in both research and extension education. She develops solutions to industry problems and assists growers in the identification and resolution of individual problems. Through the years Smith has provided leadership and knowledge in viticulture and irrigation management for North Coast wine grapes. She advises grower organizations as well as resource and regulatory government agencies regarding sustainable and organic production, natural resource protection and conservation.

As part of her research, Smith, along with Lucia Varela, has devoted considerable time to designing and implementing a comprehensive vine mealybug-trapping program. Their research on vine mealybug, especially the mealybugs' survival on winery waste, has been of great value to growers and wineries throughout the state. Smith and Varela were also involved in developing the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association's integrated pest management program and continue to serve on the sustainable practices committee that oversees the IPM program.

Smith, for many years, has been a member of the Sonoma County Vineyard Technical Group and also serves as the group's secretary.

Smith was presented with her award by Duff Bevill, president of the Sonoma County Grape Grower Association, on May 18 at Grace Pavilion during a lunch in her honor. “Rhonda has provided the research backbone for Sonoma County grape growers. Whenever there is a new idea or problem, I call Rhonda,” Bevill said. “Her knowledge and links to the university research community and her commitment to the local growers serves us all well.”

The Sonoma County Grape Growers Association representing more than 500 growers throughout Sonoma County.