Meet the Team: Mark Vernon

Blog Post

Mark Vernon joined Ridge in 1998 as General Manager and was President & Chief Operating Officer for seven years. Working closely with the Executive Team as CEO, Mark is focused on ensuring Ridge continues its sixty year tradition of producing exceptional single-vineyard wines while at the same time ensuring its financial success. Mark is also a Board Member and works closely with Ridge Chairman Paul Draper to chart Ridge’s long-term future direction. Prior to joining Ridge, Mark was CEO of two successful Silicon Valley software companies. A native Californian, Mark grew up in Palo Alto and became passionate about fine wine as a young adult. He will always remember his first trip up Monte Bello Road to taste wine at Ridge and enjoy a picnic lunch there with friends on a beautiful summer afternoon.

Mark Vernon, CEO, in vineyard
Mark Vernon, CEO of Ridge Vineyards

1. What made you want to join the Ridge team?

I am a wine lover and had enjoyed Ridge wines over the years prior to going to work at Ridge. When I found out that Ridge was looking for a General Manager I interviewed for the job. Meeting Paul Draper, Wilma Sturrock and Donn Reisen during the interview process convinced me this would be a great place to work. They were all interesting, smart and passionate people engaged in making and selling some of the best wine in the world. I joined Ridge in September of 1998.

2. How do you feel Ridge differs from other wineries?

It starts with the people. We have an incredible group of people who love fine wine and look at their work not as a job, but as a mission to grow the best grapes, make the best wine, and bring that wine to as large an audience around the world as possible.

3. What are some of your fondest memories while working at Ridge?

Early on while working for Ridge, I took my wife to dinner at The French Laundry. I identified myself as working at Ridge and the sommelier immediately told me that Ridge was one of his favorite wineries and that it must be wonderful to be working for Paul Draper. Needless to say, we had a wonderful dinner that night.

Another fond memory is when I went to my first Ridge harvest party. My son was only 4 years old but I was told that the harvest party is a family affair and that my wife and I should bring him. We did, and sure enough there were many children there at the party. He had a ton of fun, especially when the children all got to take a swing at the piñata filled with candy.

4. What is your favorite Ridge wine?

I love a well-aged Monte Bello with the right food. But I also love Lytton Springs and Geyserville with some age on it.

5. How has your role changed over time?

When I was hired, I was brought in as “the business person.” I had successfully managed several businesses before joining Ridge but this was the first winery I worked for. Paul told me he wanted Ridge to be professional but not corporate. My goal was to modernize and improve our business practices but to keep Ridge feeling like a small, family-oriented business.

As time progressed, I began to learn more and more about how we grow fine wine grapes and how we make our wine. When Paul retired, I started to provide more leadership on the production side of the company. My goal is to continue the legacy of high quality fine wine production started by Dave Bennion, perfected by Paul, and now carried forward by our Head Winemaker John Olney. As I have focused more time on the production side of Ridge, I have delegated the management of Ridge’s business operations to our President David Amadia and his leadership team.

6. If you could go wine tasting anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

While working at Ridge, I have had the opportunity to taste wine in most of the wine-producing countries of Europe including France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Austria, and Hungary. Places I have not been to taste wine that I would like to go to someday are Australia and South Africa. In both cases, they are very interesting and beautiful places and produce some excellent wines.

7. What’s your favorite Ridge fun fact?

Ridge was founded by four PhDs in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science from the Stanford Research Institute. Read more here.

8. If you could make one recommendation to our guests, what would that be?

Drink the wine that gives you pleasure, whatever that may be.

9. What’s something you want readers to know about Ridge?

To truly understand what makes our wines special, you must come and visit us at Ridge.