Changing Lives by Changing Perceptions

All this week, we’re saluting the four new electees to the Vintners Hall of Fame.

On Tuesday, we profiled legendary winemaker Merry Edwards. On Wednesday, we shined the spotlight on the late Frank Schoonmaker, a writer who was influential in elevating the perception of California wines. And tomorrow, we’ll profile one of the most controversial figures in the history of the wine business.

But today, we focus on another individual largely responsible for changing perceptions—but in a different way. We thank our friends at Balzac Communications for this profile of Cesar Chavez.

Latino farm workers are an integral part of the viticultural team that produces the great wines of California, and Cesar Chavez was their acknowledged leader.

Over the last 40 years, these farm workers have evolved immensely from seasonal unskilled laborers to highly skilled full-time members of the grape-growing community.

Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers union forced grape-growing companies across the state to recognize the importance of farm workers’ contributions to the world of wine. Chavez was instrumental in the creation and passing of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, which extended collective bargaining rights to farm workers.

In so doing, Chavez helped bring attention to farm workers’ impressive skills and lifelong commitment to the wine industry. His ability to bring vision and voice to this underserved population in California began a movement that is still in process today, as members of the Latino population start wineries, manage vineyards and take other important roles in the wine industry.

While he is as controversial as many of the winemakers of California, Cesar Chavez changed the way farm workers were perceived, and there is no doubt that the grapes and wines of California have reaped the benefits of his activities.

Tomorrow: The man behind the wine world’s 100-point rating system—Robert Parker.

Posted in Wine Buzz
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