“St. Francis Winery will consistently produce luscious, elegant, fruit driven wines that best interpret the richness and distinct varietal characteristics of Sonoma’s unique, diverse terroir.”
- St. Francis Winemaking Mission Statement
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 for over 15 years, 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 in 2002. 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 strives to create wines that are enjoyable, balanced and memorable. She fondly remembers her first bottle of St. Francis wine, a gift from her parents on her 21st birthday. It was a magnum of Cabernet Sauvignon, and she still has the empty bottle. “That was a special memory for me,” Katie says. “I want St. Francis to be the wine people remember.”
As a St. Francis Winemaker, Katie continues St. Francis’ long tradition of creating high quality wines from Sonoma County grapes. She oversees production of our top selling Zinfandels, Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.
In 2015 Katie was named Best Woman Winemaker by the International Women’s Wine Competition. Additionally, Katie was named Producer of the Year by the California Zinfandel Championship in 2014 and 2015.
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 Knights Valley and Alexander Valley, which gave him a special appreciation for Sonoma County’s diverse appellations and unique terroir. “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. He stayed at Schramsberg for four years, working as an enologist after graduation and later as Assistant Winemaker.
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. In 2016, Chris was awarded the North Bay Business Journal’s Forty Under 40, recognizing his leadership, talent and community involvement. Above all, he says, “I want to make wines you want to revisit again and again.”
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. “Whether we’re planting, pruning, leaf thinning, or preparing for harvest, it’s literally something different every day,” he says. “It can be challenging, but it’s the job I always wanted to do.
Derek brings more than 24 years of experience and a long family history of St. Francis winemaking to his role as Production Manager. Raised just miles away from the Winery, Derek came to St. Francis in 1990, following in his father’s footsteps.
Derek’s father, Dennis Borell, worked at St. Francis for 26 years, joining the production team in 1985 and later becoming Sonoma County Winemaker, a position he held until his retirement in 2011.
During his time here, Derek has mastered every aspect of wine production, from harvesting fruit to blending, barrel aging and bottling. His strong work ethic, attention to detail, cool demeanor and natural leadership ability led to several promotions, and he has been Production Manager since 2010.
In overseeing all facets of wine production, Derek works closely with our winemakers to make sure every bottle reflects our winemaking philosophy: to consistently produce luscious, elegant, fruit-driven wines that best interpret the richness and distinct varietal characteristics of Sonoma’s unique, diverse terroir.
Rick Bonitati joined the St. Francis team as 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. “I am inspired every day at St. Francis, being surrounded by such a great blend of talent, teamwork and positive energy”. 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.
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards President & CEO, Christopher Silva lost his battle to brain cancer. He fought it valiantly, but was overcome by the aggressive cancer.
Chris spent his childhood in Sonoma County, but left in the 1980s for college and law school, both at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He pursued an early career as an attorney in LA and then came back home to Sonoma where he reconnected with longtime friend, St. Francis Winery founder, Joe Martin. Joe had known Chris for many years and recognized Chris’ extraordinary energy, enthusiasm and his ability to connect with people. Chris was hired at St. Francis Winery as the Marketing Manager in 1998. Joe and Chris worked together for several years, traveling around the country and welcoming guests to the Winery. Chris fell in love with the wine business, St. Francis Winery and particularly with St. Francis “Old Vines” Zinfandel. He became the Chief Operating Officer and then was promoted to President & CEO on January 1, 2003.
St. Francis Winery was as much of a part of Chris as Chris was a part of St. Francis Winery. Chris had the ability to make connections everywhere he went with his boundless energy and enthusiasm.
Chris is sorely missed and fondly remembered for his energy, wit, compassion, generosity and tenacity.
“Our time at St. Francis will not be measured in years. It will be measured by the contributions each one of us makes—as individuals—to constantly improving the quality of our grapes and our wines. ‘Good enough’ is contrary to our mission.”