A few years ago there were four Viticulture Program Specialists spread around the regions in Texas to help with vineyard issues and to spread their knowledge. The program has been resurrected by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and four new Viticulture Program Specialists have been announced.
High Plains and West Texas Regions
Piere Helwi will be joining AgriLife Extension from Bordeaux and will be the Viticulture Program Specialist for the High Plains and West Texas Regions. Dr. Helwi recently completed a Ph.D. in Enology from the University of Bordeaux where his dissertation research focused on the effects of nitrogen nutrition on aroma compounds in grapes and wine. He will assume his duties as a Viticulture Program Specialist on February 15.
Texas Hill Country
Andrew Labay accepted the Viticulture Program Specialist position for the Texas Hill Country. Andrew has been with AgriLife Extension since 2010 working as an Extension Associate in the viticulture program at the Fredericksburg Viticulture and Fruit Lab. He holds an M.S. in Functional Plant Biology from the University of Montpellier II in France and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Horticulture at Texas A&M University in College Station. Andrew will begin his duties as a Viticulture Program Specialist in June.
Gulf Coast Region
Fran Pontasch started with AgriLife Extension in January as the Viticulture Program Specialist for the Gulf Coast Region. Fran previously served as a Viticulture Advisor with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service for the North Texas Region, and she has work experience as a vineyard manager and vineyard consultant. Fran holds a B.S. in Horticulture from Texas A&M University and an M.S. in Biology from Sul Ross University where she studied Pierce’s Disease in Grapes in the Davis Mountains.
North Texas Region
In early January, Michael Cook assumed his duties as the Viticulture Program Specialist position for the North Texas Region. Michael holds a B.S. in Horticulture from Texas A&M University and an M.S. in Viticulture from Fresno State University in California where he studied the effects of fruit zone light management and applied water on grapevine productivity and phenolic composition for his Master’s Thesis.