New wine industry group forms in debate over worker safety in Sonoma County

A new wine industry coalition has been formed to advocate for wineries and vineyard operators in the debate over complaints about worker safety, especially during wildfire evacuation.

The Sonoma Wine Industry for Safe Employees has been established in response to concerns raised by local labor groups, such as North Bay Jobs with Justice, which have advocated for additional safeguards for workers during wildfire season.

The local industry’s main trade group, the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, is established as a marketing organization under state law and is not authorized to engage in such political debates, Karissa Kruse, president of the group that is more formally known as the Sonoma County Winegrowers, said in an email to members.

“Given the impact of our industry on our local economy, please consider sharing the website link with your friends, family, employees, vendors, neighbors, elected officials, customers and others,” she wrote in her email.

This is not the first time that a wine industry group has formed over a local political debate outside of the main business trade groups established in Sonoma County.

The United Winegrowers for Sonoma County lobbied in past years over rules governing winery events, which still has not been resolved yet but is now much less acrimonious. That group is no longer active, according to federal nonprofit filings with the IRS.

Members of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors have expressed interest on delving more into the topic though many of the rules are regulated under state law and enforced by Cal/OSHA such as air quality levels and worker safety.

Wine Library shows latest video featuring Zelma Long

The Sonoma County Wine Library Association will showcase its latest video as part of its series on the local industry featuring enologist and winemaker Zelma Long. The event will be held 7 p.m. Thursday at Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa.

Long had served as CEO of Healdsburg’s Simi Winery and is a founding partner of the Vilafonté Winery in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

The video screening will be followed by an informal question-and-answer session with Long. To purchase tickets for the event, visit the group’s website at

St. Helena winery beefs up management team

Jean Hoefliger has expanded his role at Maxville Winery: He is now part of the new general management team to advise and lead all aspects of the St. Helena winery’s business.

Hoefliger, under his JH Wine Consulting business, joined Maxville as consulting winemaker in 2020 and will remain in that role.

His clients include such wineries as AXR, The Debate, Denali Estate and Harbison Estate Wines. Maxville Winery is located in the Chiles Valley region of Napa County and has 100 acres of vineyards planted to Bordeaux varietals.

“Maxville is truly a hidden gem and has all the essential ingredients to become one of the next iconic wineries in Napa Valley,” Hoefliger said in a statement.

Compiled by Bill Swindell. Submit items to

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