In 1971, businessman Joe Martin and his wife, Emma, purchased a 100-acre vineyard known as Behler Ranch in the Sonoma Valley town of Kenwood. The fruit from this vineyard was sold to area wineries until 1979, when a winery was built to produce estate-bottled wine. St. Francis Winery was named after St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and protector of the natural world.
At the time when St. Francis Winery was beginning to bottle its own wine, there were only a handful of wineries in Sonoma and the region was searching for an identity. The arrival of winemaker Tom Mackey in 1983 was the beginning of important growth at St. Francis and in Sonoma, as he and St. Francis helped to pioneer a Sonoma Valley style and pinpoint the varieties that were ideally suited to Sonoma soils. St. Francis was the first in the region to plant and bottle Merlot, and soon introduced Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel wines to the portfolio. The winery’s first “Old Vines” Zinfandel was released in 1989, establishing one of its star varietal offerings and contributing to Sonoma County’s growing reputation for top-quality Zinfandel. Today winemakers Chris Louton and Katie Madigan, play an integral role in continuing St. Francis’ success.