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.
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.
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.
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.
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 COO and Head Winemaker John Olney.
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.
Ridge was founded by four PhDs in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science from the Stanford Research Institute. Read more here.
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