Similar Titles

Vineyard Manager, Vineyard Supervisor, Vineyard Foreman, Vineyard Coordinator, Vineyard Cultivation Specialist, Vineyard Operations Manager, Vineyard Farm Manager, Vineyard Team Leader, Vineyard Estate Manager, Vineyard Operations Supervisor

Job Description

Grapes are the third most popular fruit among shoppers, but they aren’t just for eating whole. Grape juice, raisins, jams, and jellies are also extremely popular products. But perhaps the most common use for grapes is in winemaking, as evidenced by the global wine industry’s estimated value of $513.8 billion! However, wine grapes require extra attention and maintenance to grow and cultivate. 

This painstaking work occurs on vineyards—multi-acre plantations in specific geographic regions where wine grapes can grow in optimal climate and soil conditions, then be harvested and used to produce wine at a winery. Some wineries are on-site at the vineyard and feature tasting rooms or even overnight lodgings. A Vineyard Operator may be a vineyard owner or a manager hired to oversee processes and workers. Ultimately, it’s their job to ensure the vineyard is producing the highest quality of grapes in the quantities necessary to earn a profit and expand the business.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Getting to spend time outdoors in beautiful settings, working with nature
  • Helping to promote local economies and often tourism, too
  • Being part of a half-trillion-dollar global industry
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule

  • Vineyard Operators work at least full-time, with overtime needed depending on various factors. If a vineyard has an on-site winery, there may be weekend or evening events to work. The job may entail some heavy lifting, lots of standing, bending down, or kneeling to examine vines. Expect exposure to various climate conditions, including heat, humidity, dampness, rain, and storms. Vineyard Operators face the risk of exposure to various chemicals and loud noises from equipment.

Typical Duties

  • Manage all viticultural activities to ensure healthy grapevines
  • Manage and oversee the safe application of various pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides
  • Ensure proper irrigation systems are installed and operating per an optimal watering schedule 
  • Oversee cultivation processes, including planting, pruning, and canopy management
  • Coordinate erosion control activities and frost protection measures
  • Direct trellis and fence installation, maintenance, and repair work
  • Plan and coordinate harvesting season activities 
  • Collaborate with winemakers and ensure product quality and quantity goals are met
  • Ensure proper inventory of tools and equipment
  • Manage budgets, project estimated expenditures, and authorize purchases
  • Meet with department heads to discuss goals and issues
  • If not the owner, provides the owner with routine updates and reports
  • Comply with local, state, federal, and international regulations, as applicable 
  • Assist with hiring and managing workers; posts work schedules

Additional Responsibilities

  • Organize or assist with hosted events and tours, including marketing efforts
  • Conduct employee evaluations. Offer and listen to feedback
  • Create company policies and training programs 
  • Implement worker safety procedures in accordance with OSHA and other relevant standards
  • Engage in quality assurance inspections 
  • Maintain records and documentation
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Analytical
  • Budget-conscious 
  • Coordinating and instructing skills 
  • Detail-oriented
  • Leadership and management skills
  • Objectivity 
  • Organizational skills
  • Patience
  • Practicality 
  • Quality assurance mindset
  • Resourcefulness
  • Sound judgment and decision-making
  • Strong communication skills, including active listening and negotiation

Technical Skills

  • Basic knowledge of accounting, bookkeeping, records management, and office applications such as Microsoft Suite 
  • Deep knowledge of grape varieties and appreciation for winemaking and the wine industry
  • Familiarity with common heavy machinery and equipment used in vineyards
  • Familiarity with soil characteristics such as pH, erosion control, and frost protection measures
  • Knowledge of grafting and pruning techniques
  • Knowledge of disease and pest management
  • Knowledge of human resources, worker rights, and applicable safety standards and regulations 
  • Knowledge of irrigation systems, canopies, and grape cultivation and harvesting processes
  • Knowledge of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides (and their safe application)
  • Understanding of horticulture, viticulture, and enology (aka oenology)
  • Understanding of International Organization for Standardization winemaking process guidelines
Different Types of Organizations
  • Vineyards and wineries
Expectations and Sacrifices

Vineyard Owners must think long term, as well as in seasons. The work they do (or fail to do properly) in one season will impact what happens in the following seasons. And as vineyard expert Manuel Iribarnegaray López explains, “The grape and the wine are totally linked. What you do in the vineyard today is what you are going to delight in the wine in five, seven, or 10 years.”

Cultivating grapevines requires a hands-on approach, meaning operators and managers have to get out from behind their desks, get outside, and get their hands dirty. To stay in tune with the processes, they must stay in touch with the soil itself. They must truly have an interest in and passion for producing the finest quality of grapes possible for their end clients, or in some cases, for their own wineries. As they say, growing grapes into wine is both “an art and science!” 

Current Trends

Wine is a half-trillion-dollar industry and there is no shortage of competition. There are 7,475 wineries in the US alone and some 65,000 wine producers worldwide! With that much selection, it’s vital to find ways for producers to draw distinctions between their brand and others. 

Wine enthusiasts are notoriously selective, however, there are millions of “casual” wine drinkers to cater to, as well. Many brands focus on pricing, while top labels focus on subtleties that only true connoisseurs can appreciate. Organic, indigenous, and hybrid varieties are increasingly popular with some customers, just as premium “luxury” wines continue to thrive despite the turbulent economy. 

As Demeine Estates’ Senior VP of Marketing Marcott Diaz puts it, “Consumers are drinking less but drinking better. We see fine wine bucking all of the trends.”

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…

Many Vineyard Operators grew up in rural areas and may have spent ample time outdoors in their youth. Some might have worked on farms or in other agricultural positions. Growing wine grapes takes plenty of patience and an affinity for both science and nature, so operators could have excelled in biology or chemistry in their high school days. Many grew up keenly interested in environmentalism and now seek to utilize the most organic, biodynamic, eco-friendly, sustainable processes possible in their vineyards! 

Education and Training Needed
  • Vineyard Operators usually have a bachelor’s degree in agriculture, horticulture with a viticulture specialization, enology (wine studies), or a related field
  • Practical experience is crucial, with a minimum of 3 - 5 years of agriculture-related work history often necessary
    • Operators generally need a couple of years of management or at least supervisory work experience, too
  • Employers may only hire managers or operators who are at least 21 years old since wine grapes are used to produce alcohol (and some vineyards have a winery on the premises)
  • Common physical requirements include the ability to stand, walk, bend, and kneel for long periods, and the ability to lift 50 lbs or more
  • A current driver’s license is a typical requirement since vineyards tend to be in rural areas 
  • Operators may need a pesticide application license. Requirements vary by state
  • There are various sustainable certifications such as Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing, Sustainability in Practice, and Low Input Viticulture and Enology (LIVE) Certified. They may not apply to individuals, but being knowledgeable about them and how to apply for them is important
Things to look for in an University
  • Ideally, you’ll want to find a college program that specializes in teaching viticulture and enology 
  • Check out graduation rates and try to find information from alumni. See what they’re up to, post-graduation!
  • Consider the cost of tuition, discounts, and local scholarship opportunities (in addition to federal aid)
  • Think about your schedule and flexibility, when deciding whether to enroll in an on-campus, online, or hybrid program
    • Due to the hands-on nature of viticulture, in-person learning may be more suitable for many of the pertinent classes. For those looking for the flexibility of an online program, you might have to settle for a hybrid one, where you take most classes online but some in-person
Things to do in High School and College
  • Vineyard Operators should have a good understanding of natural sciences, including geology, chemistry, biology, botany, zoology, and microbiology
  • They’ll also need basic math skills, strong communications skills, and experience with project management
  • To hone soft skills such as leadership and management, volunteer for extracurricular activities 
  • Learn about finances and budgeting by serving as a treasurer for clubs in school 
  • Read articles and watch videos related to vineyards, growing and harvesting processes, chemicals and equipment used, safety standards, and common problems
  • Visit local vineyards. Request tours or informational interviews with managers or staff
  • Apply for part-time or seasonal work at a vineyard to learn the basics and get your hands dirty! 
    • Operators need to understand every task being performed, so try to get experience in as many areas as possible 
    • If attending a viticulture/wine studies college program, look for internship opportunities!
  • Start working on your draft resume early. Keep track of all your work and academic accomplishments so you don’t forget anything
Typical Roadmap
Vineyard Operator Roadmap
How to Land your 1st job
  • Some Vineyard Operators move up from other positions held at the vineyard where they work. Others are hired if they have the right mix of academic credentials and work experience from different vineyards
  • Having such a bachelor’s along with an MBA might qualify you for jobs at a larger business 
  • Practical vineyard or agricultural experience is crucial, with a minimum of 3 - 5 years of related work history often needed to qualify
  • Look for job postings on portals such as, as well as specialty boards such as the ones on,, or Wine Jobs USA
  • Do a Google Maps search of vineyards near you. Zoom out to see more, and make a list of them. Then check out their websites to see if they might list job opportunities that aren’t advertised on other sites
    • Drive out to their sites for tours or events, and introduce yourself
    • Consider starting out working in a wine cellar to gain an understanding of the end products being made
  • Ask your college program faculty, career center, and wine-enthusiast friends if they know of openings or have connections in the industry
  • Get permission ahead of time from anyone you plan to list as a personal reference
  • Conduct mock interviews with friends and dress suitably for job interviews
How to Climb the Ladder
  • As a Vineyard Operator, there may not be a chance to move up any higher, unless you switch employers. However, if the vineyard is highly profitable, there could be opportunities for pay increases or other benefits
  • If you have a bachelor’s, consider doing a master’s or a certificate to specialize further in your field
  • Apply for relevant certifications for the vineyard, such as Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing, Sustainability in Practice, and Low Input Viticulture and Enology (LIVE) Certified
  • Collaborate well with staff and workers. Get outdoors and stay engaged with what is happening on the ground 
  • Build strong relationships with partner wineries, brokers, local officials, and residents
  • If running an on-site winery, work closely with them when planning events to attract visitors 
  • Stay on top of updates in the industry related to sustainability, regulations, technological advancements, and sales trends 
  • Continuously review applicable local, state, and federal policies or laws 
  • Study viticulture magazines like the American Vineyard Magazine
  • Join professional organizations, attend (or host) wine events, give lectures, write articles, and grow your network! 
Plan B

While there are thousands of vineyards in the US, there’s often only room for one Vineyard Operator at each location. And once someone takes the position, they might remain in it for years…even decades! As a result, openings could be relatively few in comparison to other career options. If you’re looking for jobs that may feature a higher number of employment opportunities, consider some of the following! 

  • Agricultural Engineer
  • Agronomist
  • Climatologist
  • Ecologist
  • Environmental Scientist
  • Fisheries Scientist
  • Food Scientist
  • Horticulturist
  • Hydrologist
  • Naturalist
  • Plant Biologist
  • Plant Pathologist
  • Soil Scientist
  • Viticulturist
  • Wildlife Biologist


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