Jake Terrell of Sonoma Valley’s St. Francis Winery & Vineyards wins Forty Under 40 award
Responsibilities with your company: We have around 400 acres under vine on three different properties. I am privileged to manage all aspects of these estate vineyards, from planting new vineyards to harvest.
In 25 words or less, how do you exemplify the spirit of being a top Forty Under 40 professional?
It’s rare to be an optimist and be a farmer, typically those are mutually exclusive. But having a positive attitude is crucial to success.
Years with company: Three
Length of time in current position: Three years
Number of employees who report to you: 20
Greatest professional accomplishment: For six vintages I had the privilege of living on and farming the famed Monte Rosso Vineyard. It is a beautiful example of sustainability with 130-plus years under cultivation. I have been able to take what I learned at Monte Rosso and apply it to the amazing vineyards at St. Francis Winery.
Greatest professional challenge: Definitely my first job out of college; I was given the opportunity to manage the estate vineyards for Justin Winery in Paso Robles.
I was absolutely not qualified for that job, but somehow talked my way into the role. While I got a great education at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, I had never farmed before and I didn’t grow up farming. My father is a nuclear engineer, so this apple fell far from that tree. I learned a ton in a short amount of time.
Best advice received: It’s cliché, but the old adage of if you love your job you’ll never work a day in your life is the best advice I’ve ever received. I have quite literally the best job in the world. I get to go out with my dog (Willie) in the vineyard every day and manage vineyards for a winery that is passionate about quality rather than yields.
Single most important event in your professional life in the last 12 months: Joe Martin, our founder, planted our original St. Francis Vineyard, the Behler Vineyard, in the early 1970s. I was given the opportunity to replant this amazing site and I put the first new vines on the property last spring.
What steps is your company taking to sustain your organization and morale in the current economy?
Quality sells. Period. Everything we do in the vineyards is focused on the goal of making the best possible wines that reflect Sonoma’s unique diverse terroir.
Next professional goal: My next professional goal is definitely convincing my children (10, 9) to follow in their father’s footsteps in the wine industry.
Education: Bachelor of science degree in ag business from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo”
Hometown: Los Osos, Calif.
Mentor/admired businessperson: One of my first managers in the wine industry, Jon Winstead. He taught me how to lead by example and to always question the status quo. He taught me to ask questions, to never do something because “that’s what you’ve always done.” I have now learned that while he is/was a great mentor, he is terrible at fantasy football.
Typical day at the office: One of the greatest things about my job is that every single day is different. This isn’t a job for those who love monotony. But you can find me most days going around our vineyards and making sure our dedicated crew leaders, tractor drivers, foremen, etc. and I are all on the same page.