Learn

About
Us

OUR GROWERS

We Are a
Community

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.

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 18 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.

OUR GROWERS

We Are Families

85% 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!

George Martinelli

Glenn Proctor

Mark Sanchietti

The Sangiacomo Family

Taylor Serres

Bret Munselle

Duff Bevill

Kevin and Linda Barr

Brad Petersen

Brad Petersen

John and Terri Balletto

Jim Pratt

Tony Bugica

Our Team

Karissa Kruse
President

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.

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

Contact Jennifer 

Joy Finn
Director of Marketing

Joy Finn joined the Sonoma County Winegrowers team in September 2022. As Director of Marketing, her role entails crafting and executing the strategy for the marketing, promotions, and brand-building efforts for the organization.

Born in Lake Tahoe and raised in Walnut Creek, Finn has deep roots in Northern California. In 2005, she earned a degree in English at Sonoma State University, where she was exposed to the world of wine through community events and school programs.

After graduation, her growing curiosity for wine and love of people inspired her to work in the tasting room at Roshambo Winery in Dry Creek Valley, an experience that forever derailed her plans to work as an English teacher. This role paved the way for a passion for the wine industry and an appreciation for the Sonoma County lifestyle. Later, she worked at La Crema Winery, transitioning to the direct-to-consumer side of business as a wine club coordinator and events coordinator.

In 2012, she ventured into wine marketing, serving as the marketing and events manager at Kosta Browne in the Russian River Valley. In 2015, Finn returned to Vintage Wine Estates, specializing in marketing and communications. After adding eCommerce, digital marketing, and content creation to her skill set, she joined the team at Magito Wines.

After 17 years in the industry, Finn has developed an appreciation for the distinctive and remarkable subculture in Sonoma County. Married to her college sweetheart, Alex, the two have traveled and lived abroad in New Zealand, Australia and Southeast Asia. The Finns and their two children live in Santa Rosa. Today, she continues to follow her passion for people, wine and community at Sonoma County Winegrowers.

Contact Joy 

 

Karen Hart
Director of Communications & Strategic Programs

Karen Hart is the Director of Communications and Strategic Programs with Sonoma County Winegrowers. She joined the organization in September 2022. In this position, Hart is helping to guide and shape the next generation of communications and strategic programs for Sonoma County Winegrowers, as well as the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation.

Hart brings more than 30 years of experience as a writer, editor and communications consultant. An award-winning writer, she studied journalism at Illinois State University, and went on to work in the corporate sector for companies such as State Farm Insurance, Mercer, Inc., Procter & Gamble and Sara Lee Bakery.

Originally from the Midwest, Hart moved to Sonoma County in 2000 and has worked for numerous publications in the North Bay, writing about agriculture, wine, food, tourism, real estate, health care, insurance, interesting people, extraordinary organizations, beautiful homes and once she even had the opportunity to write about a fancy treehouse, where she conducted the interview with its two happy, young owners. Most recently, she served as editor-in-chief at NorthBay biz magazine, a business-to-business magazine, covering Napa, Marin and Sonoma counties with more than 50,000 readers.

Hart grew up in the heart of Illinois and hails from a family of farmers who grew corn and soybeans, now a third-generation operation. As a young girl, she developed a deep appreciation for farmers, the farming lifestyle, community, and Mother Nature. She is the mother of two (grown) sons, Daniel and Davis, and lives in Sonoma County, where she plans to stay. And though she’s a long way from her Midwest roots, the family ethos that “a little dirt never hurt” will, no doubt, serve her well at Sonoma County Winegrowers and the Grape Growers Foundation.

Contact Karen:

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

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.

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 staying active, 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

Joy Finn

Karen Hart

Valerie Pearce

Phuong Luu

Kayla Holdren

Sophia Bianchi

Our Board of Directors

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

2022/2023 Commissioners
  • Chris Crispo
  • Joe Dutton
  • Ray Johnson
  • Tyler Klick
  • Marissa Ledbetter Foster
  • George Martinelli
  • Mark Orsi
  • Glenn Proctor
  • Dan Rotlisberger
  • Steve Sangiacomo
  • Taylor Serres
Commissioner Alternates
  • Mary Calla Rowan
  • Domenic Carinalli
  • Kris Hicks
  • Whitney Hopkins
  • Jamie Lowe
  • April Nalle
  • Brad Peterson
  • Richard Schaefers
  • Justin Seidenfeld
  • Matt Vogensen