The Sonoma County town of Windsor is small. Tucked between the better-known destinations Healdsburg and Santa Rosa, Windsor had just 27,128 residents as of 2019.
But when The San Francisco Chronicle published an investigation early last month, in which four women accused Windsor’s mayor of sexual assault, the news rippled outward. The mayor, Dominic Foppoli, 38, had been crowned “prince of the wine country.” He was a rising political star and winery owner, The Chronicle reported, whose ambitions embodied those of the town itself.
Since the initial investigation, more than a dozen state and local lawmakers have demanded that Foppoli step down, and he faces a recall effort. Three more women, including a former mayor of Sonoma, have also come forward with accusations of sexual assault and abuse. Foppoli has denied wrongdoing.
The investigation surfaced more than accusations of a pattern of misconduct by one person. It also shined a light on the insular culture of the local wine industry, and how that industry is closely entwined with the region’s politics.
Woman-Owned Wineries, a wine club and directory aimed at elevating female entrepreneurs, to share her perspective, which she emphasized is based solely on her observations and experiences.
Harvey Weinstein had just come up, Bill Cosby’s case had just come up — it was that time. And it was also one of the first years with really terrible wildfires.
In the midst of all that, when I was evacuated because of those fires, I just wanted to do something for the community. And I started thinking about making a list of women-owned wineries locally — just good folks to patronize. At that time, the list was only about 50.
That’s out of how many wineries? Do you have a sense of the scale?
There’s hundreds. We started with that list, and it was so popular we decided to invest in researching nationwide, and it’s not definitive, but it’s now about 600 wineries strong. That’s out of 10,000 wineries.
How do people get into winemaking, or how do they become wine entrepreneurs? Reading the reporting about the Foppoli case, it seems very expensive to get started, and a lot of winemakers have a lot of generational wealth or family expertise.
I’m hesitant to say, “This is how it works,” because I see people come into winemaking and winery ownership from all different angles.
You don’t need to buy land in order to be a winemaker or to have a wine label. You don’t even have to buy all of the equipment, because there are a number of custom crush facilities that can accommodate you if you have the money and can hire out a winemaker who’s already working at a custom crush facility.