Our team at St. Francis is a wonderful mix of industry veterans and dedicated individuals who have brought a passion for the art and craft of winemaking to St. Francis Winery. Their teamwork and experience, along with the synergy of their collaborations, make for an impressive and stunning line-up of wines.
A key member of St. Francis Winery’s production and winemaking team since 2002, Katie Madigan became a St. Francis Winemaker in 2011.
For Katie, winemaking is the perfect combination of science and creativity. A chemistry major at UC Santa Barbara, she joined St. Francis as a harvest intern. After working long hours for four months, doing everything from lab work to vineyard visits, she was hooked. “I loved the fast pace and diversity of the job,” she says. “I didn’t want to leave at the end of every day.”
Two years later, Katie became a full-time lab tech at St. Francis and began studying Enology & Viticulture at UC Davis. Promoted to Assistant Winemaker in 2006, she focused on Chardonnay production and championed night picking of all Chardonnay fruit to preserve flavors, aromas, and acid levels.
Katie's relentless pursuit to make wines that reflect the beauty and uniqueness in each vintage is what got her to where she is today. Her vision has always been to “produce self-expressing, balanced wines from a region known most for its diverse terroir.”
As a St. Francis Winemaker, Katie continues St. Francis’ long tradition of creating high quality wines from Sonoma County grapes. She oversees production of St. Francis Winery's top selling Zinfandels, Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays as well as many of our other popular white wines. In 2015, Katie was awarded “Best Woman Winemaker” by the International Women’s Wine Competition. She also won Zinfandel Producer of the Year in 2014 and 2015 at the California Zinfandel Championship.
Chris Louton brings cutting edge knowledge and finely honed hands-on experience to his role as Winemaker. He joined St. Francis in 2013 after nearly seven years as part of the winemaking team at Napa’s Beringer Vineyards, where he focused on the luxury tier of wines and helped craft award-winning Cabernet Sauvignons and other Bordeaux varietals.
As Associate Winemaker at Beringer, Chris became a devoted fan of Cabernet Sauvignon from unique terroirs from Diamond Mountain, Knights Valley and Alexander Valley, which gave him a special appreciation for Sonoma County’s diverse appellations. “The wines from Sonoma express themselves differently than the wines from Napa,” he says. “They have their own unique brightness and great intensity. This is a spectacular place to make Cabernet.”
Making world-class wines wasn’t the career Chris originally planned for himself. He was studying biology at UC Davis with every intention of becoming a veterinarian when he took a winemaking class his senior year. That class hooked him, and instead of applying to vet school after graduation, he went back to UC Davis to study enology and took a job as a harvest intern at Schramsberg Vineyards in Calistoga. Four years later, Chris left Schramsberg as Assistant Winemaker and having built they’re Cabernet Sauvignon program. He’ll tell you that “I didn’t choose Cabernet, Cabernet chose me!”
At St. Francis, Chris oversees production of our Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals, as well as our popular Sauvignon Blanc. His goal is to create wines that are approachable, yet compelling, and always a true expression of Sonoma County. Under Chris’ leadership, St. Francis’ Bordeaux’s continue to receive the highest acclaim from national publications. In 2016, Chris was awarded the North Bay Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty, recognizing his leadership, talent and community involvement.
If you ask Jake what brought him to St. Francis, he’ll tell you it’s our commitment to sustainable practices. Jake manages the farming of our 400 acres of Certified Sustainable Estate Vineyards, overseeing all aspects of vineyard life required to maintain healthy vines and ensure the highest quality fruit.
Jake’s philosophy on managing St. Francis’ estate vineyards is two-part. He farms the vineyards with an eye towards making the wine, so quality is key to everything he does. “I have the same goals as the winemakers and the entire team at St. Francis,” Jake says. “We’re all working together to make the best wines that reflect Sonoma’s unique, diverse terroir all while taking care of our employees and the environment.” Secondly, do the right things at the right times. “If canopy management is timed correctly the vines cooperate perfectly.”
Jake joined St. Francis in 2014 after nearly nine years as a vineyard manager at E. & J. Gallo Winery. For five of those years, he managed the acclaimed Monte Rosso Vineyard in Sonoma’s Moon Mountain appellation. Before coming to Sonoma, he spent over three years as vineyard manager at Justin Vineyards & Winery in Paso Robles.
Jake graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a Bachelor’s Degree in Agricultural Business and a focus on Viticulture. A recognized leader in “green” viticulture, Jake assisted in revising the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices, which sets standards for sustainable practices in the wine industry. He is also a home winemaker.
Jake loves variety. Managing day-to-day operations in the vineyards—his dog, Willie, always by his side—Jake’s duties change daily depending on the needs of each vineyard, the weather, and the time of year.
Executive Chef Trevor Eliason is the creative genius behind the unforgettable culinary offerings at St. Francis Winery. After graduating at the top of his class at Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon, Eliason took an externship at The French Laundry, where he spent the first two years of his impressive career. In conjunction to that, he was the Pastry Chef for Bouchon Bistro.
Chef Eliason brings an extensive wine and food pairing background and over 15 years’ of fine dining experience. Early in his career, he worked at the dynamic Va de Vi Bistro & Bar Restaurant (Walnut Creek, CA), and built a successful culinary program as the Culinary Director at Nickel & Nickel (Oakville, CA) and Far Niente Winery (Oakville, CA). Eliason also spent time creating custom wine paired dinners for winery clients, including Kuleto Estate, Chappellet Winery and Francis Ford Coppola. Most recently, he was the Head Chef for Press Restaurant (St. Helena, CA), a high-end steak house with one of the largest Napa wine cellars in the United States.
Eliason describes his culinary style as seasonal Northern Californian cuisine. “Being located in Northern California, we are blessed to be able to grow, raise or catch anything we need from fresh fish to local dairy and produce.” His passion for wine and food goes hand-in-hand. His approach to creating a pairing always starts with tasting the wine. Then, he tours the garden for inspiration and everything else falls into place.
In addition to creating dishes for the Winery’s celebrated Wine & Food Pairing, Chef Eliason oversees all Winery events and culinary programs, including daily Wine and Cheese pairings, Private Estate Dinners, and our immensely popular seasonal dinners. He also oversees the Winery’s 2-acre organic vegetable and herb garden, which supports all of the Winery’s culinary experiences.
Rick Bonitati joined the St. Francis team as President & Chief Executive Officer in early 2018. With over 30 years of experience in the fine wine business and a focus primarily on Sonoma County wines, Rick’s passion for premium Sonoma County wines is a perfect addition to St. Francis’ leadership team. After graduating from University of Miami in FL with a Bachelor’s degree in Music Merchandising, Rick visited California for the first time. He spent a week in the Sonoma area and fell in love with the region, the wines and the people. It was on that trip he set a goal to be part of the wine community.
Fast forward three decades, Rick is an accomplished leader who quickly moved up the ranks in sales and later in winery management. Beginning his career with the Gallo Family, he later moved to Jackson Family Wines holding various roles from National Sales Manager of the Artisan and Estate Division to General Manager of La Crema and Hartford Family Winery, culminating as Senior Vice President of Production for California and Oregon. Most recently, Rick was the Chief Operating Officer for Paul Hobbs Wines’ domestic and import portfolio.
Rick believes it is imperative to “work hard and have fun doing it.” His strategic approach to business is to empower collaborative leadership and establish clear objectives and tactical action plans for constant improvement and growth. His team approach along with his pursuit of consistent development is perfectly aligned with the driving force behind St. Francis’ dedication to excellence.
Robert (Bob) Aldridge joined the St. Francis team in 2002 as the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer. His extensive background in finance started at General Electric Company (GE) in 1989 after he graduated from Siena College in Albany, New York with a bachelor of science in Finance and concentrations in Mathematics and Accounting.
Bob quickly moved up the ladder at GE holding positions over the years including, Manager of Competitive Analysis and Manager of Finance for Mergers, Acquisitions and Business Development. During this time, Bob also graduated from GE’s rigorous Experienced Financial Leadership Program which included executive courses at Wharton, Kellogg and Harvard. At the time, Bob was one of the youngest managers within the company. In 1999, Bob was promoted to the Executive level (top 10%) of the General Electric Company.
After joining the winery in 2002, Bob became a level 1 Sommelier by passing the exams given by the Court of Master Sommeliers in San Francisco. Fascinated by the whole wine growing process, Bob enrolled at UC Davis and graduated from their 2 year Viticulture and Enology extension program.
Bob’s vast work experience has been a great asset to the St. Francis team. Bob drives the strategic business goals into clear tactical actions and runs the operating side of the business. Bob has always been on the forefront of cultivating a work culture defined as friendly and positive supported by ownership, teamwork and a drive for excellence. In 2011, Bob was named Leading CFO of the North Bay by the North Bay Business Journal.
Bob appreciates all aspects of the wine business including taking in the view from the top of our Lagomarsino Estate Vineyard and tasting wines and comparing blends with the winemakers. He also enjoys spending time with his wife Tracey and their two children, Jack and Elena.