THE SUPPORTING CREW
Because Kirk Venge owns two wineries and has several custom crush clients, our supporting crew are multi-tasking masters that bridge all aspects of selling and winemaking duties across multiple vineyard and winery locations.
One would think producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at its finest comes with a stiff conformity to seriousness. Not here! Wine nerds first, sardonic humorists second, and in love with our profession, you won’t find a more dedicated group committed to achieving perfection.
Tres Amigos Running The Show At Croix Estate
Bradley Adler started his tenure at our sister winery, Venge Vineyards, before being drafted by Jason to assist in the final days of construction to finish and open the Croix Estate winery for visitation. While he forgot to bring a wine opener to the “opening ceremony” on Good Friday of 2018, he has shown every bit of tenacity and muscle to grow and keep Croix Estate’s business aesthetic and brand approach with our clients right on point. He's especially charming when he drops the South African accent, even though he’s lived in the states nearly all his life.
Travis Schimmer’s parents, who live just down the street from the winery, dropped in at Croix Estate months before our official opening spouting magnificent praises upon their son. We interviewed him just to chop him down. Boy were we mistaken in our initial assumptions. This guy’s is the ultimate entertainer extraordinaire and a downright cool dude. No subject is lost on Travis. A Sonoma County native, he has been integral in helping to build our consumer direct business to a point where we now sell all of our wine 100% consumer direct.
Thomas Schwarting represents an audacious poach on our part from the five-star hotel circuit. A hotel management professional who has worked with only the finest hotel establishments throughout his career, we first met Thomas at Farmhouse Inn while on a company retreat. When we got word that his stint at the Montage may be coming up for a change, we moved quickly. Unsuspecting and super freakin’ funny, this guy is a master fit with us at Croix Estate. We cannot wait to see how he leads the evolution of our hospitality to the next level.
Mama Bear, Sheila Franks-Williams
Like Jason, Sheila has been with our family operation from the beginning, joining the Venge Vineyards’ team in late 2010 and did the heavy lifting on growing our consumer direct programs. From consumer direct marketing to estate design and aesthetic, Sheila has been the glue that keeps our properties in tip top design shape. She was instrumental in setting up Croix Estate with just the right balance of modern and craftsman design.
Behind the Winemaking Curtain
It’s no secret that making great wine takes a ton of pure talent in both the vineyard and the cellar of every operation.
Omar Olivera has been a farming guru and cellar master extraordinaire for the Venge family for over 20 years. He started working with Kirk Venge at the old Rossini Ranch winery and is now an anchor in our cellar vineyard operations. He’s amiable and wickedly funny. He knows how to run a press, a Pellenc sorting system, and a tractor like no one on staff (although, he does break a lot of end posts! Oh, and smashed our new fence at Croix Estate just one week after being built!).
Mauricio Olvera has a heart of gold, is remarkably detailed when it comes to working our cellar and is a natural born leader. He’s a master task technician and the heart of our barrel operations. Ask him where anything is, he knows the precise location without written reference.
Martin “The Piper” Jimenez worked with the Robert Rue family for over 20 years before we acquired their winery to convert it into the new home of Croix Estate. We are grateful he chose to remain on with our team as he knows every vine and every water pipe (The Piper!) on our Estate Zinfandel vineyard like the back of his hand. He moves slow and deliberately, and has just the right temperament for how we approach growing on our estate vineyard.
Adriene Vergara pumps out cellar tasks with precision and a positive spirit that is unparalleled in our history. He comes across as a little shy, but warm him up with a cold cervesa at a company holiday party, and he fits right in with our core craziness! Coming up on three years with the winery, we look forward to seeing him blossom.
Nestor Arroyo joined us one harvest ago full-time after earning his stripes in the trenches of all things winemaking. He’s a bit quiet, but with a few more company parties under his belt, that new car smell will be thoroughly broken in.
Jade Hendry comes to us as our first ever Enologist on staff. Highly educated and a total geek – we love her! She started as a harvest berry sampler and it quickly became obvious that we had to draft this rare talent onto our team. Crafty, sly, and gregarious, Jade brings a good balance of levity when it is absolutely needed and is a very balanced, dedicated leader among our cellar team. No drama, just the work and a whole lot of joy!
Chase “Wolf Dog” Ratley joined us as our Assistant Winemaker in 2021 following the retirement of our previously tenured assistant winemaker and wow, what a difference Chase has quickly made in our winemaking under the guidance of Kirk Venge. This is next level stuff, especially when it comes to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Ever the feisty advocate for experimental exploration, this guy has the right stuff, especially when it comes to sardonic humor and inuendo. As a former Navy submariner, he brings much needed ballast to our winemaking ship!