We’d like to introduce the faces behind Sonoma County Winegrowers.
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.
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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.
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Director of Marketing and Public Relations
Amy Tesconi joined the Sonoma Winegrape Commission in 2017 as the Director of Marketing and Public Relations. Her responsibilities include guiding and executing the marketing strategy for Sonoma County Winegrowers and promoting the quality of Sonoma County Winegrapes to local and national audiences.
Amy grew up in the farming community of Ceres, California among almond groves and wine grapes. After graduating from San Diego State University with a BA in Communications she spent 3 years working in Brand Management for a vitamin company before moving to San Luis Obispo in 2008 to pursue her MBA at Cal Poly. During graduate school, Amy spent her free time discovering new wines and visiting the many AVAs of the Central Coast. After graduating from Cal Poly she made her way back to Southern California where she spent two years as the Marketing Manager for Ponte Family Estate in Temecula and served as marketing chair for the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association.
In 2013 Amy fulfilled a dream of moving to Sonoma County, an area she had explored many times. She went to work in brand marketing for Benziger Family Winery, marketing sustainable and biodynamic wines. Most recently, she led direct-to-consumer marketing as Senior Marketing Manager for Mumm Napa and Kenwood Vineyards.
Amy lives in Santa Rosa and enjoys hiking, swimming, cooking, reading and traveling at every opportunity.
Director of Sustainability and Grower Education
Dana Cappelloni joined The Commission in 2018 as the Director of Sustainability and Grower Education. Her role is to support the organization’s commitment to 100% certified sustainable, making Sonoma County the first 100% sustainable wine region in the world. She also develops continuing education programs and events for the grape growing community.
A Bay Area native, Dana has over a decade of experience working in the wine, environmental and consulting industries. In her professional career she has focused on sustainable agriculture, energy efficiency, climate adaptation, sustainable business strategy, and designing and implementing Triple Bottom Line initiatives. Dana holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School, and continuing education in viticulture from Santa Rosa Junior College. Prior to joining SCW, Dana managed sustainability for Francis Ford Coppola winery. Dana worked her first crush more than a decade ago at Testarossa Vineyards and credits those early years with solidifying her love of the industry and the land.
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Business Development & Program Manager
As the Business Development and Program Manager, Alisha plays a dual role, working on behalf of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission (SCW) and managing the programs and development of the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation (SCGGF). In this, she is responsible for the commission sponsorship program, securing revenue for both SCW and SCGGF through donor outreach, grants, events and designing educational and workforce development programs for AG employees through the Foundation.
Alisha earned a BA in Political Science from San Diego State University. She has over 15 years experience raising funds and awareness for non profit and political campaigns. She has worked for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, The Nature Conservancy, Tramutola Public Mobilization and numerous political campaigns at both the local and national level.
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Valerie Pearce joined the Sonoma Winegrowers team as the Business Manager in May 2018. Her main responsibilities include supporting the President, Karissa Kruse, and working closely with the VP of Operations, Kate Piontek, with the daily administrative business activities. Valerie will also support the Center for Ag Sustainability and oversee the annual grower assessment process.
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!
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- Rachel Thralls, Wine Education Consultant
- Sheila Quince, Event Consultant
- Joe Browde, Sustainability Consultant