Learn

About
Us

The Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, also known as Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW), was established in 2006 as a marketing and educational organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier grape growing regions. SCW has oversight by California Department of Food and Agriculture which supports producer regions.

With more than 1,800 growers, SCW’s goal is to increase awareness and recognition of the quality and diversity of Sonoma County’s grapes and wines through dynamic marketing and educational programs targeted to wine consumers around the world.

In January 2014, SCW committed to becoming the nation’s first 100% sustainable winegrowing region by 2019. As of September, 2019 99% of vineyards are certified by a third party auditor. These sustainability efforts were recently recognized with California’s highest environmental honor, the 2016 Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA). Today, SCW continues our sustainability leadership with a new climate adaptation certification program. For more information, visit our sustainability page.

Our Board of Directors

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

2021/2022 Commissioners

  • Mark Sanchietti (Chairman)
  • Marissa Ledbetter Foster (Vice Chairman)
  • Mark Orsi
  • Tyler Klick
  • Joe Dutton
  • Ray Johnson (Public Member at Large)
  • Chris Crispo
  • Bret Munselle (Treasurer)
  • Brad Petersen
  • Steve Sangiacomo (Secretary)
  • Taylor Serres

Commissioner Alternates

  • Mary Calla Rowan
  • Domenic Carinalli
  • Anna Darden
  • Kris Hicks
  • George Martinelli
  • Whitney Hopkins
  • JW Reynoso
  • Richard Schaefers
  • Jamie Lowe
Our

Mission

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.

Our

Values

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.

Our Team

Karissa Kruse
President

Karissa Kruse is President of the Sonoma County Winegrowers. She joined the organization 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, 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.

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 that 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.

In January of 2020, Karissa announced that Sonoma County Winegrowers is the exclusive partner with the California Land Stewardship Institute to launch a Climate Adaptation Certification, a first of its kind for agriculture. This exciting initiative will move beyond best practices in healthy soils to analyze the whole farm and implement climate friendly farming practices that minimize greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration, which vary by soil type and microclimate.

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. Karissa is 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. Karissa is on the Board of Directors, Board Development Committee and Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way of Wine Country and past Board Chair. She is on the Board of Directors of Sonoma County Tourism, Sonoma County Harvest Fair and Health Action Council. In 2020, Karissa joined the Board of Directors for the California Association of Winegrape Growers and First 5 Sonoma County.

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.

Contact Karissa

Jennifer Richards
Vice President, Operations & Business Development

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 Santa Rosa with her 12-year-old daughter, Leilani and her boxer, Lollipop.

Contact Jennifer 

Christine Lilienthal
Vice President, Marketing & PR

Christine Lilienthal joined the team at Sonoma County Winegrowers in April of 2022 as Vice President of Marketing & PR. In her role Christine oversees and lead SCW’s Marketing to include advertising, outreach, collateral, education, events, social media, innovation, media outreach, and team development. She works closely with President, Karissa Kruse and VP of Operations and Business Development, Jennifer Richards to assist in long term planning and execution.

Christine has worked in the wine industry for over 30 years in Marketing. Her breadth of experience includes brand management across all channels, new product development, brand positioning, trade marketing, process improvement, budget management, analytics, creative direction, and media outreach. She is looking forward to working with the winegrowers of Sonoma County and sharing their stories with the world.

Christine grew up in Sonoma County where her parent set down roots to build a small farm and raise their family. She went to school in Graton and Forestville and later graduated from Sonoma State University. In her spare time, Christine loves to hike, run, read and work in her garden. She also loves spending time with friends and family. She lives in Yountville with her husband, Bryan and their three rescue dogs.

Contact Christine 

Valerie Pearce
Senior Business Development & Education Manager

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!

Contact Valerie

Natasha Van Leuven
Marketing Manager

Natasha joined the Sonoma County Winegrowers team as Marketing & Events Manager in 2020 and in 2022 moved to the role of Marketing Manager with a keen focus on enhancing websites, emails, media buying and grant tracking. Natasha provides marketing, communications and operations support for our local, regional, national, and global marketing initiatives and works closely with our Social Media and Events Manager.

Natasha is born and raised here in Sonoma County with a love for all things local – local foods, wines, events, parks, people and so on! Natasha graduated with her BA in Broadcasting & Electronic Communications from San Francisco State University and jumped right into the media industry with CBS Television. Feeling a strong urge to move back home to Sonoma County, Natasha found a Marketing & Events role working with the AVA organization in Dry Creek Valley, where she learned the region, its growers, and varieties while managing the County’s longest running consumer wine and food-based event. Her passion and specialization directly translated into an open opportunity with the Sonoma County Winegrowers, allowing Natasha to utilize her skills into a much larger, County-wide canvas and scope!

Natasha spends her time cooking, walking her Great Pyrenees mix, practicing yoga, traveling, at family dinners, reading & singing to her daughter, and wining & dining with her husband. She finds joy in living sustainably and strives to live a non-toxic lifestyle.

Contact Natasha

Phuong Luu
Operations Manager

Phuong is a Sonoma County native and grew up in the Coffey Park neighborhood. After college she moved to Silicon Valley and worked for tech start-ups, supporting high growth companies by helping them scale and expand their operations. After meeting her spouse and desiring a slower pace of life, she convinced her husband to move back to her hometown with the promise of less traffic, good wine, and beautiful landscapes. Currently, she resides in Santa Rosa with her husband, son, and dog, Nugget.

Phuong has over eight years of experience working in administration with skills in project management, streamlining operations, and event planning. Previously, she has worked for local organizations such as Social Advocates for Youth and Sonoma County Tourism. She is extremely passionate about Sonoma County and thrilled to continue working for a community-driven organization.

Contact Phuong

Kayla Holdren
Social Media & Events Manager

Kayla joined the Sonoma County Winegrowers team in October of 2021. Her main responsibilities include in curating and executing spectacular events locally and in the market as well as building the social media footprint for the Sonoma County Winegrowers and expanding reach across multiple platforms.  She works closely with the VP of Marketing and PR, Christine Lilienthal, and they are working build out additional content and channels.

Kayla grew up in Sonoma County and is looking forward to continuing career path in the wine industry. She graduated from Sonoma State University in 2020 with a degree in Business Marketing. During her time at Sonoma State, she interned at a local winery, Russian River Vineyards, and continued working there full time as the Marketing Coordinator. Working in a small, family owned winery, Kayla gained experience in not only marketing but also event planning, project management, operations and employee communications.  In Kayla’s free time, she enjoys cooking, going to the beach, wining & dining with her boyfriend, spending quality time with friends & family, and cuddling with her dogs & kittens. 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!

Contact Kayla

Sophia Bianchi
Marketing & Operations Coordinator

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 also assists Phuong Luu, Operations 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!

Contact Sophia

Karissa Kruse

Jennifer Richards

Christine Lilienthal

Valerie Pearce

Natasha Van Leuven

Phuong Luu

Kayla Holdren

Sophia Bianchi

Committees

The Sonoma County Winegrowers are supported by several committees comprised of members of our Commission Board, winegrower and viticulture leaders, our Sonoma County community, as well as the greater wine industry. They are a valuable resource for our promotional and grower education efforts.

Finance Committee

The Sonoma County Winegrowers Finance Committee meets regularly to discuss the finances of the organization, including monthly budgeting, long-term financial planning, and more. The committee is comprised of members of the Commission Board, Executive Committee, and staff members. They meet on the first Monday of each month.

Sustainability & Grower
Education Committee

The Sustainability Committee discusses the latest news, strategies, and other topics related to our goal of 100% sustainability by 2019. The committee is comprised of winegrowers, wineries, representatives from AVA’s and other regional groups, vineyard management companies, and other members of the community. The Committee provides guidance and support to our educational programming, including development of topics and content for our various grower meetings and events.

President’s Council

The President’s Council is a collection of Sonoma County AVA leaders, regional marketing associations, and other members of the Sonoma County wine industry community, who collaborate on marketing initiatives, share ideas, current trends, upcoming AVA marketing activities, and other promotions impacting Sonoma County’s winegrowers and vintners. This group is a great example of the collaboration and partnerships that have helped elevate Sonoma County, its vineyards and wines.

Interested in joining the President’s Council? Contact Karissa Kruse at [email protected]

Marketing Committee

The Marketing Committee reviews current marketing and promotional activities of the Sonoma County Winegrowers, and discusses new marketing trends, tools, and other related topics that can positively impact our promotional goals to expand awareness for Sonoma County Winegrowers and our larger partnership with Sonoma County Vintners and Sonoma County Tourism. The committee is comprised of winegrowers, wineries, representatives from AVA’s and other regional groups, tourism, and other members of the community.

All Notices & Agendas

These notices and agendas are for our regularly scheduled committee meetings. You can find the notice for each meeting below. Select the title to view more information about the meeting and view the attached agenda.

Title Committee Posted
Executive Committee Meeting Executive Committee June 29, 2022
Executive Committee Meeting Executive Committee June 9, 2022
Finance Committee Finance Committee May 25, 2022
SCW Board Meeting – June 2022 Executive Committee May 25, 2022
Executive Committee Agenda Executive Committee May 5, 2022
Finance Committee Finance Committee April 19, 2022
SCW Board Meeting – May 2022 Board April 19, 2022
Executive Committee Meeting Executive Committee April 7, 2022
Finance Committee Finance Committee March 23, 2022
SCW Board Meeting – April 2022 Board March 22, 2022
Executive Committee Meeting – March 2022 Executive Committee March 3, 2022
SCW Board Meeting – March 2022 Board March 1, 2022
Finance Committee Agenda – March 2022 Finance Committee February 25, 2022
Executive Committee Meeting – February 2022 Executive Committee February 8, 2022
SCW Board Meeting – February 2022 Board January 26, 2022