Karissa Kruse, President
Kate Piontek, Vice President of Operations
Emily Farrant, Sustainability Manager
Andriana Duckworth, Relationship & Program Manager
Melissa Vogt, Education & Communications Manager
Robert LaVine, Sustainability Consultant
Steve Tellez, Creative Consultant
Lori Petersen, Finance Manager

Karissa Kruse, President

Karissa Kruse is President of the Sonoma County Winegrowers, a marketing and educational organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier grape growing regions. Karissa joined Sonoma County Winegrowers as Director of Marketing in September 2012 and was named President for the organization on May 1, 2013. Since taking over the top leadership role at the Sonoma County Winegrowers, Kruse has guided the strategy and implementation of Sonoma County’s commitment to become America’s first 100% certified sustainable wine region. 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, which aims to assist local agricultural employees and their families in the areas of healthcare, affordable housing, childcare, education and workforce development. She currently serves as Executive Director of the Foundation.

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.

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. Karissa has worked for companies such as General Mills, Universal Studios, Mattel and Dairy Management.

She is a partner in a small winery, Argot Wines, and the owner of a 12-acre vineyard on Sonoma Mountain.

Kruse is on the Alumni Advisory Board for Wharton’s Initiative on Global Environmental Leadership and a member of the Global Wharton Women in Leadership. She is also on the German Marshall Fund Alumni Leadership Council and FIVS Global Environmental Sustainability Working Group. She is on the Board of Directors, Executive Committee and Housing Task Force for the Sonoma County Alliance. Kruse also sits on the Board of Directors, Board Development Committee and Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way of Wine Country. She is on the Board of Directors of Sonoma County Tourism, Social Advocates for Youth, Sonoma County Harvest Fair, Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce and Shone Farm Foundation. Kruse serves on the Health Action Catalyst Team and its Governance Working Group and is a member of the Santa Rosa Junior College Wine Studies Advisory Board. 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. She received the 2016 Friend of Agriculture Award from the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. She was named to the 2016 Wine Business Monthly Magazine’s Top 50 Wine Industry Leaders. In 2017, she was named on the Organic Authority’s List of “Badass Disruptors Changing Your Food System.” Karissa was honored by the North Bay Business Journal in 2017 with a Community Philanthropy Award.

Kate Piontek, VP of Operations

Kate Piontek joined the Sonoma County Winegrowers as Vice President of Operations in 2015 to support President Karissa Kruse in overall strategic business planning by implementing and coordinating the programs and activities that promote the winegrape growers and Sonoma County as a premier food and winegrape-growing region. Her main responsibilities include financial and human resource management, overseeing the expansion of the Commission’s educational, sustainability and sponsorship programs and managing the annual grower assessment process.

Piontek has an MBA in Sustainable Enterprise and more than a decade of experience working in finance and operations for both small and large organizations. Prior to the Commission, Piontek served on several Executive Teams where she was responsible for designing and leading all the financial and operational strategy as well as contributing to the overall strategic direction of the business.

Emily Farrant, Sustainability Manager

Emily Farrant joined the Sonoma County Winegrowers in October 2016 as Sustainability Manager. Coming from a fifth-generation Sonoma County farming family, Farrant grew up in Guerneville where she enjoyed gardening, fishing and hunting – activities that most grape growers can appreciate. Farrant has an extensive background of working in diverse situations across many international borders. After working and traveling abroad for several years, she was eager to reconnect with her local roots and make a positive impact to our agriculture and grape growing community.

Over the past five years, she has worked in 14 countries across four continents, including Africa, Asia, North America, and Europe. She most recently worked at Greeneye Partners, one of the world’s most influential environment, health and safety consulting firms in the electronics recycling industry. She conducted audits in hazardous waste, radio-active waste, scrap metal, electronics recycling, glass recycling and materials recovery facilities across several continents. Farrant’s strong tenacity, work ethic, and passion for sustainability helped pave her way to successfully navigate different cultures, corporate structures, employee dynamics, and other aspects of a client’s business to confirm and educate them on implementation of their product certifications for recycling. Prior to that, Farrant worked globally on behalf of both the Gates Foundation and the Clinton Foundation in Ghana working on sustainability and environmental health issues.

Farrant holds a Bachelor of Science in Agroecology and Environmental Sustainability from the University of Hawaii at Hilo. She also volunteers in the local community, including coaching the El Molino High School girls’ varsity soccer team.

Andriana Duckworth, Relationship & Program Manager

Born and raised in Sonoma County, Andriana Duckwork has always felt a strong connection, immense appreciation and true love for vineyards and wine country life.

After receiving her BA in Politics and Public Administration from the University of San Francisco, she began work for California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom in his public relations office. A change of heart prompted her to leave the San Francisco area and move back home to the beautiful hills of Bennett Valley to work as a Marketing and Sales Associate for her family’s locally owned and operated award-winning BBQ Sauce Company called TWG Barbeque Co. In July of 2014, her dreams of working in the wine industry came to fruition when she joined the Sonoma County Winegrowers team. She hopes to pursue an MBA in the Wine Business Management Program from Sonoma State University in the next couple of years.

Melissa Vogt, Education and Communications Manager

Melissa Vogt has been working in the wine industry since she began freelance writing about wine and food in 2010. She is thrilled to have accepted the position of Education and Communications Manager at Sonoma County Winegrowers in June 2017, and is excited to take a more active professional role in the local Sonoma County community she now calls home.

Originally from Southern California, but transplanting herself to the Bay Area in 2004, Melissa has never looked back. She loves Sonoma County and after living here since 2012, is happy to now call this place her permanent home. Prior to joining Sonoma County Winegrowers, Melissa’s has worked in the wine industry via the fields of editing, writing and communications with various local and international publications—including most recently Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Wine Country This Week and SommSelect. She has a Master’s Degree in Rhetoric and Composition from Sonoma State University and a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Humboldt State University.

Building her career in the wine industry has been a natural path for Melissa, having grown up in a big Italian family where the best moments revolved around wine and food. Working for the grape growers in Sonoma County feels like coming home.

Robert LaVine, Sustainability Consultant

Robert LaVine is a well-respected viticulturist with more than 30 years of winegrowing experience throughout California with an emphasis on implementation, education, and promotion of sustainability. Most recently, LaVine worked at Fetzer Winery as Director of Sourcing where he was responsible for sourcing grapes, juice, and bulk wine for production of luxury, premium, and popular priced brands from throughout California and throughout the world. This included leading the company’s efforts to promote sustainability with its vineyard sources throughout the state, including organic producers. Prior to that, LaVine worked for two decades at Robert Mondavi as Director of Winegrower Relations in the Central Coast region. During this time, he was a founding member of the Central Coast Vineyard Team, a groundbreaking group of winegrowers that took a leadership role in the early adoption of sustainable vineyard practices. He was also on the development committee for Sustainable in Practice (SIP) program. LaVine has a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Davis.

Steve Tellez, Creative Consultant

Steve worked in the Entertainment business for over 30 years as a Television and Feature Film packaging agent, before being brought on board at Sonoma County Winegrowers as Creative Consultant in January 2017.

Prior to joining Sonoma County Winegrowers, he spent 14 years with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), and was involved with the careers of top-tier actors, writers, directors and music artists. Steve also worked on initiatives with the CAA Marketing and branding division with clients such as Coke a Cola, Harley-Davidson and Mattel Toys. Steve graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He has also served multiple years on the Board of Directors of the Academy of Country Music, as well as the Valley Community Healthcare Clinic (North Hills).

Steve and his wife, Kirsten, developed a 21-acre Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard on Pine Mountain in the Alexander Valley in 2003.

Lori Petersen, Finance Manager

Lori Petersen was hired in October 2015 and is very excited to be a part of the Sonoma County Winegrowers. She is passionate about farming, the wine industry and the integrity of the SCW sustainability mission. She is married to Brad Petersen, a vineyard manager for Silver Oak Cellars, SCW Board Member and 3rd generation local. Lori is a California native and thinks she may be approaching “local” status after living in Sonoma County for over 30 years. She is also an Enrolled Agent (which means she is licensed to prepare tax returns), and comes to the commission with over 30 years of experience in public accounting. She is a seasoned tax professional and has been an auditor and business manager in the music entertainment industry. Lori loves helping people and being a part of the greater good.