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Recognizing Richard Thomas

Rep. Mike Thompson

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Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize Richard Thomas, who is retiring after 28 years as the viticulture instructor at Santa Rosa Junior College in Sonoma County, California

Mr. Thomas is the country's leading authority on wine grape production and has introduced growing techniques that have improved the crop quality and made Sonoma County one of the premier wine grape growing regions in the world.

During a yearlong sabbatical in New Zealand and Australia in the late 1980's, Mr. Thomas studied vine trellising techniques that revolutionized wine grape growing in California. By managing the grapevine's leaf canopy and lifting the vines to expose the grapes to air and sunshine, the fruit is more flavorful and is less susceptible to disease. By utilizing the technique taught by Mr. Thomas, growers are able to produce the highest quality of grapes. Sonoma County is now considered the world leader in canopy management.

Mr. Thomas has educated and trained the majority of people who own or manage vineyards on California's North Coast. According to his own estimates, 70% of Sonoma County's vineyards are either owned or managed by one of his former students.

In addition to his teaching duties, Mr. Thomas founded the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association and the Sonoma County Vineyard Technical Group.

He has coordinated the wine judging at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, the West Coast Wine Judging in Reno, Nevada and the Central Coast Wine Judging in Santa Maria, California.

Mr. Thomas lectures throughout the country on wine grape growing and also writes a monthly column for Vineyard & Winery Management Magazine.

Mr. Speaker, because of Mr. Thomas' innumerable contributions to wine grape growing and specifically to the industry in Sonoma County, it is fitting to honor him today and to congratulate him for his many accomplishments.