“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.”
Our team at St. Francis is a wonderful mix of industry veterans who’ve been with the Winery since the beginning to many new, fresh faces. All are extremely talented and dedicated individuals who have brought a passion for the art and craft of winemaking to St. Francis Winery. Their abilities and the synergy of their collaborations make for an impressive team and stunning wines.
"It’s exciting to watch the next generation of St. Francis take shape—one that remains committed to crafting the finest quality Sonoma County wines, while providing the best service to our Winery guests and Wine Club members."
- President & CEO Christopher Silva
A key member of St. Francis Winery’s production and winemaking team for nearly 10 years, Katie Madigan became a St. Francis Winemaker in 2012.
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 and Chardonnays as well as many of our other popular white wines.
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. 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 and the opportunity to be part of our “new generation” winemaking team. Jake manages the farming of our 400 acres of Certified Sustainable Estate vineyards, overseeing all tasks required to plant and maintain healthy vines and ensure the highest quality fruit.
“As vineyard manager, 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 we possibly can while taking care of our employees and the environment.”
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 nearly 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 and certified St. Francis as a California Sustainable Winery. 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.
A fifth-generation Sonoma County native, Christopher Silva is firmly rooted in Sonoma County agriculture. He was raised in a family of Petaluma dairy farmers, and nine years after graduating from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, he retired from practicing law to join St. Francis Winery. At the age of 38, he became President & CEO of St. Francis in 2003. He understands firsthand that a farmer’s footprint and intimate knowledge of the soil, microclimates and terroir of the region are the most important ingredients for healthy vines.
As President & CEO of St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, Chris has a specific focus: crafting world class Sonoma wine. St. Francis is best known for luscious, elegant, fruit driven Sonoma County Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and “Old Vines” Zinfandel. Widely awarded as a quality leader, St. Francis is committed to being the premier producer of handcrafted Sonoma wines in each of its categories. Additionally, St. Francis was named “#1 Restaurant in America” by OpenTable in 2013 in recognition of its farm to table wine and food pairings offered on site to Winery visitors each day.
Under Chris’ leadership, St. Francis has also been recognized for its many green practices. A 457-kilowatt Solar Energy System, installed in 2004, provides up to 40% of the Winery’s energy from the sun. St. Francis has taken aggressive steps in water and creek conservation, recycling, eco-friendly packaging, and created an on-site sustainable vegetable garden to support its culinary programs. St. Francis is Certified Sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.
Committed to mentorship and community involvement, Chris served on the Board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Sonoma County and is now on the Dean’s National Advisory Board of the UNLV Harrah College of Hotel Administration. In 2011 he was honored by UNLV as the “Food & Beverage Industry Executive of the Year” and was named “2011 Healthy Business Leader” by the Northern California Center for Well Being in recognition of his workforce wellness initiatives at St. Francis. In recent years, North Bay Business Journal has repeatedly named St. Francis Winery & Vineyards one of the "Best Places to Work" in Northern California.
Chris was elected Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for 2011. In 2014 he was elected Chairman of the Santa Rosa Junior College Wine Studies Advisory Board. His son Joseph and daughter Sydney are sixth-generation Sonoma County natives and attend local public school, where Chris served on their School District Foundation Board. He has taught college classes in legal research and legal writing, and lectures nationally regarding wine, law, and business. Chris' life story and approach to running a business have been featured in The New York Times, Luxist, AOL Daily Finance, and Corporate Wellness Magazine.
“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.”