Tony Wolf, professor of horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech and viticulture specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension, received the university's 2009 Alumni Award for Excellence in Extension. He is the director of the Alson H. Smith Jr. Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Winchester, Va.

Sponsored by the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the Alumni Award for Excellence in Extension is presented annually to two Virginia Cooperative Extension staff members who have made outstanding contributions outside the classroom. One award goes to an Extension specialist and one is given to an Extension agent. Each receives $2,000.

Wolf joined Virginia Tech in 1986 to provide educational resources for Virginia’s emerging grape and wine industries. From 1987 to 2008, the commonwealth’s grape acreage increased almost threefold and the number of wineries jumped from 35 to 148, making Virginia the sixth largest wine grape producing state in the country with an estimated economic impact of $262 million. Although Wolf cannot take full credit for the grape and wine industry’s phenomenal growth, his peers attribute much of the industry’s success to his research and outreach.

“While improving the profitability of the individual grower, Dr. Wolf’s program had the larger, cooperative goal of elevating the quality of Virginia wines to compete in a global market, and to steer the growth of the Virginia wine and grape industry in an intelligent direction,” said J. Roger Harris, professor and interim head of the Department of Horticulture.

When Wolf began his work with Extension in 1986, Virginia’s wine and grape industry faced a void of technical information, growers with limited viticulture experience, and an industry constrained by poor grape varieties, fruit rots and unripe fruit, and low yields. Stationed in Winchester, Va., Wolf initiated an aggressive research and Extension program to generate knowledge and effect positive change for both novice and experienced grape producers.

“We have seen tremendous growth in the Virginia wine industry over the past couple of decades, and much of that success can be directly related to the work done by Dr. Wolf,” said Dean Triplett, president of the Virginia Vineyards Association. “Tony has helped lay the foundation for our industry, and his continued hard work will guide us into the future.”

Wolf has conducted extensive research on cultivar selection, organized more than 100 workshops and short courses, and provided leadership to both state and national organizations. In 1996, Wolf authored the award-winning publication The Mid-Atlantic Winegrape Grower’s Guide. Last year, he co-authored, edited, and published the Wine Grape Production Guide for Eastern North America.

Wolf earned his bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University, his master’s degree from The Pennsylvania State University, and his doctorate from Cornell University.