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Sonoma County Winegrowers Adds Marketing & Operations Expertise


SANTA ROSA, Calif. (May 20, 2024) – Sonoma County Winegrowers has turned to a veteran of the local wine industry to lead the organization’s marketing and operations.  Valerie Wathen, most recently the general manager of Dutton-Goldfield Winery in Sebastopol, will join Sonoma County Winegrowers on June 3 as the organization’s vice president of marketing & operations.

“We are really excited for Valerie to join us.  As a former winery general manager, she is a problem solver and understands the complexities of the wine and ag business from the vineyard to the marketplace.  She will be able to jump in and quickly add value helping us to promote Sonoma County winegrowers and our wines throughout the country,” said Karissa Kruse, president and CEO of the Sonoma County Winegrowers.  She added, “One of the things I love most about Valerie’s perspective is her appreciation for our farmers and their families. That is who we are now and forever.”

Raised outside of Washington, D.C., Valerie moved to Sonoma County in 1989.  Surrounded by the region’s renowned wine and food, she applied her marketing skills to the local wine industry in the 1990s.  In 2002, she became the first and only employee at Dutton-Goldfield Winery.  Working with the winery owners, she helped build the brand from the ground up.  Over the next 22 years, Valerie was a hands-on general manager and oversaw the Winery’s sales, marketing, financials, IT, maintenance while often driving a forklift around the warehouse.

Said Wathen, “I’m very excited to join Karissa and the team at Sonoma County Winegrowers. They are doing some amazing, ground-breaking work promoting Sonoma’s grape growers and the wine industry, driving sustainability efforts, and crafting innovative partnerships that build awareness across the country. It’s the perfect next step for me to use my experience to contribute to their continued success.”

About Sonoma County Winegrowers

Sonoma County Winegrowers (SCW), was established in 2006, evolving from the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association, which was first launched in 1983 by local grape growers inspired to work together to elevate the region. SCW is a marketing and educational organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier grape growing regions. With more than 1,800 growers, SCW’s goal is to increase awareness and recognition of the quality, sustainability and diversity of Sonoma County’s grapes and wines through dynamic marketing and educational programs targeted to wine consumers and influencers around the world.  In 2014, Sonoma County’s winegrowing community embarked on a major initiative to have all Sonoma County vineyards certified sustainable. Today, 99% of the vineyard acreage in Sonoma County has completed certification by a third-party auditor making Sonoma County the most sustainable winegrowing region in the world.  In addition, in 2020, SCW became the exclusive pilot partner for the California Land Stewardship’s Climate Adaptation Certification. In 2022, SCW began envisioning a Farm of the Future which it officially introduced in 2023.  SCW’s sustainability efforts have been recognized with California’s highest environmental honor, the 2016 Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA).  Learn more at www.sonomawinegrape.org.