PROSSER — The Hogue Cellars has only 42 year-round employees, and that’s one of the largest workforces among Washington’s 735-plus wineries.
But the state’s second-largest winery has been more about quality than size since it was started by the Hogue family in 1982, said Erik Hoins, the general manager of the Prosser facility. And all the employees subscribe to the same attitude, he said.
“It’s definitely something you see throughout the workforce,” Hoins said. From the bottle line operators to the winemaker, “it’s the same level of commitment.”
Hogue, a subsidiary of Constellation Brands of Victor, N.Y., employs winemakers, chemists, laboratory technicians, tasting room workers, administrators, financial employees and viticulturists to work with growers. The company also has operators who do everything from work in the cellars, maintain barrels and bottle wine. Many of them need technical, mechanical skills.
“We really need people who can handle complex machinery,” Hoins said.
In addition to the year-round workers, six of whom are part time, Hoins added to the crew 12 unpaid seasonal interns to help with harvest about five years ago.
Wages vary, and Hoins and Constellation officials declined to discuss specifics about benefits. Hoins said Hogue most likely would rate favorably compared to other wineries and that competition for skilled workers is high in the industry.
“On the negative side, it’s harder to find (employees); on the positive side, that’s opportunity,” he said.
The education level varies from high school diplomas to master’s degrees. In between, the winery employs graduates of the Yakima Valley Community College’s wine technology program, which offers one- and two-year degrees in wine-related fields at its Grandview campus. Hoins is on an advisory board for the program.
“We like local people because, hey, it’s Prosser,” he said.
• Ross Courtney can be reached at 509-930-8798 or firstname.lastname@example.org.