Staff Report

The Rev. Jess Knauft was installed as pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Santa Ynez on Saturday, Aug. 17.

Knauft has served Lutheran churches in Oregon and California for 33 years, including a congregation in Redondo Beach for 18 years. Most recently, he has been an interim pastor at Sherman Oaks Lutheran Church with a focus on multicultural outreach and ministry to those involved in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles.

Moving to the Santa Ynez Valley is a way for Knauft to connect with his interests in grape-growing and wine-making. In Los Angeles, he was affectionately known as the wine friar.

He believes that rediscovering the spirituality of wine and grape-growing will bring about a renaissance in the production of great wines. What began as a hobby in the garage of his home in Ramona in the early 1990s grew into a professional winery business in 2013. His entrepreneurial startup, Kinship Winery, is an e-commerce business that produces wine in Paso Robles from grapes grown in the Santa Rita Hills and other vineyards along the Central Coast.

Knauft has been married to his wife Debbi for 35 years. She is a partner leader with Children’s Hope Chest, which equips vulnerable children and their communities around the globe to escape the cycle of poverty.

She has been active in the implementation of the Blue Zones Project, an initiative of the Beach Cities in the South Bay of Los Angeles, which has resulted in increased health and wellbeing for the community. As a professional life coach, she nurtures clients through spiritual formation, leadership development and life purpose.

In addition to his new role at Shepherd of the Valley, Knauft said, he looks forward to being a spiritual advisor and “encourager” to the Santa Ynez Valley. He is eager to help people in the community to flourish with Biblical optimism, perseverance and humor. He believes that a change in one’s thinking can change one’s life.

Shepherd of the Valley, at 3550 Baseline Ave., holds Sunday worship services at 10 a.m. with adult Bible study at 8:45 a.m. Sunday School for children will be held at 8:45 a.m. beginning on Sept. 8.