About Us

Our Growers

We Are a

From borrowing tractors and collaborating on wine projects to volunteering at our local non-profits, Sonoma County’s wine community is a tight-knit bunch. We like to give back and we like to get together…always over a glass of great wine.

Sonoma County is home to over 1,800 winegrape growers, many from multi-generational families who have been farming here for centuries. That makes for long-standing relationships and a community that cares about it’s land, businesses and people.

Winegrape growers volunteer approx. 12,830 hours per year

74% of winegrape farming businesses donate to charitable causes

Our Organization

We Are Educators

Sonoma County Winegrowers was established by local winegrowing families to nurture and protect sustainable agriculture for future generations. In order to achieve this goal, we educate. Here at home, we provide educational resources to local winegrowers in the form of expert panels and grower education meetings which connect the winegrowing community and allow agricultural best practices to continue to thrive in the region.

Of course, we also love to educate wine lovers everywhere about the diverse, sustainable and unique wines of Sonoma County.

Our Purpose

Mission & Values

The mission of the Sonoma County Winegrowers is to increase the value of Sonoma County winegrapes and to nurture and protect this agricultural resource for future generations.

Sonoma County Winegrowers are family farmers who work hard every day to produce high quality grapes that are the foundation for world class wines. We are dedicated to sustaining our land for future generations. We preserve the land where we live and work and the water and air that we share with neighbors. We actively support our communities and are proud to be a part of Sonoma County.

The Region

Sonoma County encompasses over 1 million acres of land, of which approx 60,000 acres are planted to vineyards. Within the county, there are 19 unique American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), each with their own terrior, family histories and distinct wines. Use this map to explore the region and click on the different AVAs to learn more about what makes each of them special.

Learn MOre about our terrior

Use the interactive map above to learn more about our 18 AVAs

Our Growers

We Are Families

95% of Sonoma County’s vineyards are family owned and operated. Some of these families have been farming in the region for decades or even centuries. Some found their way to Sonoma County for a love of the land. Read on to learn more about the wonderful people who call these ranches, vineyards and wineries home!

Our Board of Directors

The Sonoma County Winegrowers is fortunate to have some of Sonoma County’s leading winegrowers on our Board of Directors.

2023/2024 Commissioners
  • Marissa Ledbetter Foster, Chair
  • Steve Sangiacomo, Vice Chair
  • Tyler Klick, Treasurer
  • Taylor Serres, Secretary
  • Monica Mehta, Public Member at Large
  • George Martinelli
  • Bret Munselle
  • Mark Orsi
  • Glenn Proctor
  • Dan Rotlisberger
  • Mark Sanchietti
Commissioner Alternates
  • Domenic Carinalli
  • Chris Crispo
  • Kris Hicks
  • April Nalle
  • Brad Petersen
  • Jim Rickards
  • Mary Calla Rowan
  • Richard Schaefers
  • Justin Seidenfeld
  • Matt Vogensen

Our Team

Karissa Kruse

(707) 522-5863

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Karissa Kruse is President of the Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW), a marketing and educational organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier grape growing regions.

Since taking over the top leadership role, Kruse has guided the strategy and implementation of Sonoma County becoming the most sustainable wine region in the world. Her forward-thinking approach has helped Sonoma County Winegrowers gain global recognition for their efforts and she’s been invited to speak at major conferences around the world.

In an effort to continue to lead in the social responsibility component of sustainability, Kruse announced the relaunch of the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation in January 2016 with a mission to support vineyard employees and their families in the areas of healthcare, affordable housing, childcare, education, resiliency and recovery and workforce development. She currently serves as executive director of the Foundation.

Karissa earned a BS in Economics and an MBA in Marketing from Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. She has 20 years of experience in various aspects of marketing, brand management, strategic planning and business development.

In January of 2017, Kruse launched the Sonoma County Center for Ag Sustainability, a think tank in partnership with the Wharton School of Business, that is focused on bringing subject matter experts from around the United States to Sonoma County to work on issues and opportunities affecting the long-term preservation of agriculture.

In January of 2020, Karissa announced that Sonoma County Winegrowers is the exclusive pilot partner with the California Land Stewardship Institute to launch a Climate Adaptation Certification, a first of its kind for agriculture. SCW has been learning for the past year how to implement best practices in carbon sequestration.

To kick-off 2022, SCW and Ford Pro announced a collaboration for Sonoma County farmers to be a living lab for going electric on their ranches. This exciting pilot program that includes charging, electric vehicles and Ford Pro Telematics software will support our local farmers in lowering their greenhouse gas emissions, optimizing their fleet efficiency and lowering operating costs.

Karissa has worked for companies such as General Mills, Universal Studios, Mattel and Dairy Management. She is also a Sonoma County grape grower.

Kruse is on the German Marshall Fund Alumni Leadership Council and FIVS Global Environmental Sustainability Working Group. Karissa recently gave a TEDx talk “Drink the Good Stuff” Karissa Kruse: Drink the Good Stuff.

She is on the Board of Directors of Memorial Hospital Community Board, Green Music Center, California Association of Winegrape Growers, First 5 Sonoma County and Health Action Council. Karissa is a Past Chair and Past Board Director of the United Way of Wine Country and Past Board Member for Sonoma County Alliance, Sonoma County Farm Bureau and Sonoma County Tourism.

In 2014, Kruse was selected as a North Bay Business Journal Women in Business Award recipient and was a Forty under 40 Award recipient in 2012. Kruse was honored with the Marshall Memorial Fellowship in 2015. Karissa received the 2016 Friend of Agriculture Award from the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. She was named to the 2016 and 2017 Wine Business Monthly Magazine’s Top 50 Wine Industry Leaders. In 2017, she was named to the Organic Authority’s List of “Badass Disruptors Changing Your Food System” and Food and Wine Magazine named her one of the most Innovative Women in Food & Drink. Karissa was honored by the North Bay Business Journal in 2017 with a Community Philanthropy Award. In 2018, Karissa was named A Green Leader by Wine Enthusiast and selected as the Leader of the Year by the California Association of Winegrape Growers. In 2020, Congressman Mike Thompson named Kruse Woman of the Year for his district.

Jennifer Richards

Chief Operating Officer
(707) 522-5867

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Jennifer Richards joined the team at Sonoma County Winegrowers in August of 2021 as Vice President of Operations and Business Development. In her role, Jennifer leads all aspects of SCW’s operations and works closely with SCW President, Karissa Kruse in strategic business planning. This includes financial and human resource management, oversight of the commission’s educational and sponsorship programs and managing the annual grower assessment process.

Jennifer has a passion for Sonoma County and a deep background in representing and promoting the region. She started her 25+ year career in hospitality and hotel management at Sonoma Mission Inn and most recently was the Vice President of Business Development at Sonoma County Tourism. Jennifer has led large teams as the General Manager for several hotel and resort businesses, as well as overseeing operations and sales efforts at those properties. She has managed hotels locally, as well as in Southern California, Indianapolis, Dallas and Nashville.

In her roles with SCT and managing group business at several hotel properties in Sonoma County, Jennifer worked extensively with meeting planners, executives, and event coordinators to bring large groups to the area and ensure their goals and expectations are met by the experience. As such, Jennifer has become an expert on all Sonoma County has to offer travelers.

In her spare time, Jennifer loves to cook, watch movies and garden. She lives in Windsor with her 13-year-old daughter, Leilani.

Valerie Pearce

Senior Business Development
& Education Manager
(707) 522-5864

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Valerie Pearce joined the Sonoma Winegrowers Team in 2018 and she is currently the Senior Business Development & Education Manager. Her main responsibilities include developing grower educational programs, managing the commission’s annual and event sponsorship, and managing the annual grower assessment process. Valerie also manages key programs that support the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation, such as the newly launched inaugural Saralee & Richard Kunde Leadership Academy.

Having grown up on a family vineyard right here in Sonoma County, her love for the wine business and agriculture has always been strong. Valerie has experience working as the Office Manager at a few small, family-owned wineries such as Neyers Vineyards in St. Helena and most recently at Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves in Healdsburg. Working at small wineries has given her the opportunity to actively participate, oversee and manage various aspects of the business and she is thrilled to continue her growth and knowledge of this industry we all love with the Sonoma County Winegrowers!

Aaron Millard

marketing director
(707) 696-1118

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Aaron joined the Sonoma County Winegrowers team in June 2023 as Marketing Director. His main responsibilities include setting and executing the annual marketing strategy, focused on promoting winegrowing, farmers, and wines.

Born and raised in a winemaking family, Aaron’s passion for the industry developed at a young age. Surrounded by vineyards and wineries throughout his life, he cultivated a deep understanding and appreciation for growing world class grapes and the art of winemaking.

With a focus on marketing, Aaron has dedicated his career to driving awareness, developing innovative strategies, building strong relationships, and creating engaging experiences for wine lovers.

Beyond his professional pursuits, Aaron can often be found on the golf course, honing his skills and enjoying the outdoors. In the kitchen, he enjoys experimenting with different cuisines and crafting culinary delights for family and friends. Additionally, Aaron indulges in his love for sailing, embracing the winds along the coast of California.

Lea Lynch

marketing manager
(707) 522-5868

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Lea joined the Sonoma County Winegrowers team in 2023 as the Marketing Manager. Her main responsibilities include assisting Marketing across all areas with a focus on strategy, branding, event execution, grant management, and social media.

A Sonoma County native, Lea has a passion for the wine industry and the Sonoma County community. She started her career in hospitality and DTC roles at smaller boutique wineries in Healdsburg and Windsor, before most recently working with Lasseter Family Winery where she took on a marketing role and was able to build upon her knowledge of marketing principles and strategies. She is excited to continue her journey of wine marketing and love of the wine industry with the Sonoma County Winegrowers!

Lily Zea

Assistant marketing manager
(707) 522-5851

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Lily joined the team at Sonoma County Winegrowers in 2023 as Assistant Marketing Manager. Her main duties include supporting the Marketing team by managing relationships with key media, assisting with all social media programming, and planning and executing event activations for local, regional, and global partnerships and initiatives.

Lily grew up in Southern California and moved to Sonoma County to pursue a career in the wine industry in 2021. She fell in love with the beauty of Sonoma County and spends her free time exploring the Sonoma Coast with her dog, Payson.

Sophia Bianchi

Marketing & Operations

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Sophia joined the Sonoma County Winegrowers team in March of 2021. Her main responsibilities include supporting Marketing across all areas with a focus on asset management, project management, event execution and building social media. In addition, she supports multiple initiatives for the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation working closely with Valerie Pearce,  Senior Business Development and Education Manager. 

Sophia grew up in Sonoma County and is looking forward to continuing her career path in the wine industry. She graduated from Analy High School in 2020. She has always had a passion for agriculture, and she was very involved in the FFA for which she was awarded the American Degree in 2021. She now attends the Santa Rosa Junior College and is studying Wine Marketing. She is very passionate about Sonoma County, wine, and the wine industry, and is looking forward to continuing her journey supporting farmers & vineyard employees at the Sonoma County Winegrowers!