As you will see from the following biographies, Allied Grape Growers' staff is made up almost entirely of people who come from grape growing backgrounds. Most of our employees were raised on or around agricultural operations which produced grapes. There are no better people to serve the owners (growers) of a grape growers cooperative than those that have grape growing experience themselves, knowing the challenges that growers face.


President:
Jeff Bitter (1997)

Jeff Bitter is a native of Madera County. He was born and raised in wine grape and raisin production. He is a fourth generation farmer himself, as he and his wife own and operate a vineyard in Madera County. Jeff's grandfather Henry was the first Madera County Allied member back in 1950s. Jeff attended California State University, Fresno where he earned a B.S. in Ag Business and a Master of Business Administration degree. Jeff has also completed the California Agricultural Leadership Program, a two-year leadership training and development program. Jeff has had a life-long interest in wine (well, at least since age 21) and enjoys spending free time tasting wines and learning more about wine. Jeff has been an employee of Allied since 1997.

Manager of Accounting and Administration:
Irene Ybarra (1988)
Irene Ybarra is a native of the Central Valley, being born and raised on a family farm of wine and raisin grapes in the Reedley area. She, along with her five sisters, was involved with the day to day operations of the farm right down to harvesting the fruit. Irene attended California State University, Fresno graduating with a B.S. in Business with an emphasis in Computer Application. She has worked in agriculture since college in positions with farm management companies and wineries. She has been with Allied since 1988, and served as the association's Controller until being given the duties of overseeing all administration and accounting in 2018.

Accounting and Human Resources:
Alesia Zion (2010)
Alesia began her employment at Allied in the 2010 to serve in Accounting and Human Resources (A newly created role at that time). Alesia is a native of the Fresno/Clovis area. Because of her stepfather's involvement in the fruit packaging business, Alesia grew up surrounded by the agriculture industry. She attended Fresno City College and studied Business/Accounting. Those studies facilitated her move into an agricultural career where she handled accounting for a local ag chemical supply company. She later accepted a senior accountant position for an agricultural investments company. There she handled 15 properties within the western states, who managed wine grapes, nuts, and various fruits and vegetables. Alesia eventually took time away from her career to raise a family where she stayed busy managing the home as well as her children's numerous school and sport activities. During that time, she refreshed her work skills by completing computer classes, as well as a medical billing program. Alesia is very excited to return to the agriculture workforce and is happy to be a part of the Allied team.

Office Administrator:
Marcia Silva (2000)
Marcia came to Allied in the Spring of 2000 to serve as our Office Administrator. She is a native of the Fresno area. Her vast experience in various office and administrative settings has qualified her to perform well in her position, keeping numerous documents, forms and reports in order and organizing the daily office administration. Her efficient and effective procedures are of great benefit along with her warm reception, whether by phone or in person.

Manager of North Coast Operations:
Chad Clark (2010)
Chad Clark came to AGG in 2010 to assist our then North Coast manager in grower relations and contract negotiations in the expanding area of the North Coast. Chad's education includes a BS in Agricultural Business from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo (with an emphasis in marketing and sales) as well as an AS degree in Viticulture and Winery Technology from Napa Valley College. His professional experience includes working for Constellation Brands as a Viticulture Technician where he monitored and collected data on over 250 vineyard blocks in Napa and Solano Counties to insure proper farming techniques were in place and contract terms were adhhered to. Chad has also been active in real estate as a Senior Account Executive responsible for over 2,500 clients. In addition to his professional and educational endeavors, Chad has played semi-professional baseball for the Oakland Athletics organization.

Manager of North Valley Operations:
Jeff Osterman (2018)
Jeff Osterman is the newest addition to the AGG family beginning employment with the company in 2018. Jeff grew up around AGG, as his dad is a 30 year veteran with the company. Jeff obtained a winemaking degree from California State Univeristy Fresno and has held winemaking jobs in large and small wineries throughout the state as well as abroad. After years of winemaking, Jeff decided to explore employment on the viticulture side of the business and has worked for major California wineries buying premium winegrapes from throughout Northern California. Jeff joins our team filling a newly created role to manage our North Valley operations and expand AGG's footprint.

Manager of Central Valley Operations::
Karl Lehman (2005)
Karl Lehman is a native of the Biola/Kerman area where his family farmed grapes and almonds. Karl was born and raised on the family farm operation gaining years of first hand experience in grape production. Karl graduated from California State University, Fresno with a degree in Communications. Karl oversees the day-to-day farming of his family's ranch. Prior to coming to work for Allied in 2006, Karl was a produce inspector/buyer for a large produce markting operation.

North Coast Grower Relations:
Matt Kerr (2015)
Matt's journey into the wine business was somewhat indirect. Born and raised in Connecticut, Matt's first passion was actually music. He attended Northeastern University where he achieved a Bachelor's Degree in Music Business and spent some time in New York City developing record labels and promoting and marketing new artists. It wasn't until about 2008 that Matt, upon moving to the west coast due to his wife's job transfer, really discovered his true passion in the wine business. Upon arriving in California, Matt went to work for Treasury Wine Estates as an on-premise manager and wine club coordinator for their San Francisco tasting room. He subsequently held similar positions on the retail side of the business at well-known wineries such as Chateau Montelena in Calistoga and Round Pond Estate Winery in Rutherford. But at Chateau Montelena, Matt really began dialing in on his true passion within the industry, that being the production side. This interest drove Matt to pursue and obtain an Associate's Degree in Viticulture from Santa Rosa JC in 2013 and begin working in the vineyard side of the business, with the desire to eventually work in Grower Relations. Prior to being hired at AGG, Matt has been managing vineyards and doing viticultural consulting.

North Coast Grower Relations:
Kevin Rogers (2016)
Although Kevin was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, his passion for wine was instilled in him while he was a teenager, making wine with his Sicilian grandmother in her basement. As an adult, Kevin began making trips to Sonoma County to learn more about grapes and wine and realized that his passion really lay with the wine industry. In 2000, Kevin moved to Sonoma County to begin his career in the wine industry. He began working that year at Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery in Healdsburg. His path there took him from the tasting room to the cellar and finally, to the viticulture lab, where he helped cover about 1,500 planted acres over six different appellations. During this period, Kevin completed the viticulture program at Santa Rosa Junior College. By harvest of 2005, Kevin began working at Beaulieu Vineyards (BV) in Napa Valley. He began there as a Harvest Enologist and ended his time there as Assistant Winemaker. By the end of 2009, Kevin was working on his own wine label (Nico Wine). He continues to produce fine California wines under the Nico Wine label, and enjoys offering unique selections including Dolcetto, Fiano and Greco along with more traditional varieties such as Barbera and Grenache. In 2014, he went back to work for Ferrari-Carano as their Viticulturist, and then joined Allied Grape Growers to help with the 2016 harvest. It didn't take long for AGG to figure out Kevin was worth keeping around in a more substantial role for our North Coast growers, so following harvest Kevin was offered and accepted a year round role in grower relations.

North Valley Grower Relations:
Joe Osterman (1988)
Joe Osterman is a native of Madera County, being born and raised on a family farm of wine and raisin grapes. Joe graduated from Reedley College with an A.A. and also earned his Certified Pest Control Advisor's license and Pest Operator's license. Joe has various experience in ag, ranging from being employed as a Pest Control Advisor in ag chemical sales to farm managing wine and raisin grapes. He has been an employee of Allied Grape Growers since 1988 and has always served as our Northern San Joaquin Valley rep.

Viticulturist and Central Valley Grower Relations:
Emilio Miranda (2004)
Emilio Miranda came to Allied in 2004 to fill a newly created position within the company - Viticulturist. Emilio has over 25 years of experience in the wine industry, spending a majority of that time with Paul Mason Vineyards and the Canandaigua Wine Company. Emilio attended California State University, Fresno and majored in Plant Science before entering the workforce. Over his many years in the wine industry he has held various positions from Grower Relations to Vineyard Manager to Manager of Grape Supply for the largest multi-national winery in the world. Emilio grew up on a family farm specializing in grape production and has a perfect combination of book knowledge, research and experience when it comes to viticulture. Emilio is available to assist growers and provide advice in any way viticulturally possible to increase their productivity, quality and profitability.

Central Valley Grower Relations:
Ed Nikssarian (2013)
With the continued growth of AGG, a new grower relations position was created in 2013. Ed Nikssairan, an industry veteran, was hired to fill the position. Ed is a native of Fowler, California, being born and raised on the family grape vineyards and plum orchards. However, the small town farm life for Ed was not limited to just permanent crops; the family had their share of chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys and even a dairy cow! Ed graduated from Fresno State Universary with a B.S. in Agricultural Science. Ed has managed farms that produced wine, raisin and table grapes and has also worked as a pest control advisor/salesman. During his career in grower reletions and ag sales Ed has also been employed in the nursery buseinss, specializing in grape vines. His many years of experience are a great asset to AGG and our growers.





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