Trigger warning: This article contains details of sexual assault that may be troubling to folks and to sexual assault survivors.
In a statement to members of the press, Joe Foppoli — the part-owner and COO of Christopher Creek Winery and the eldest brother of Dominic Foppoli — said Dominic Foppoli is no longer an employee of the winery.
“I am taking measures to remove him completely from anything to do with Christopher Creek Winery, including ownership, anything on the permits and whatever else,” Joe Foppoli said.
The announcement comes following the meticulous San Francisco Chronicle investigation published last Thursday that details the story of four women who claim that Dominic Foppoli sexually assaulted them.
Since the publication of the story, a fifth woman has come forward with sexual assault allegations and Windsor Town Councilmember Esther Lemus has also come forward with claims that Dominic Foppoli sexually assaulted her.
According to a report from KCBS radio’s Mike DeWald “In a separate statement dictated to KCBS Radio, Lemus pushed back against Foppoli's accusation, with her attorney calling the allegations "outrageous." Instead, Lemus contends that on two occasions in the past year, she believed she was drugged and put into sexually compromising positions — with the common element being Foppoli.
In a statement released on April 10 by Foppoli, he said he is innocent of any such claims and credited the incident to “political and social machinations.” He claimed that Lemus had pressured him into “an intimate experience” that he did not want by someone “more influential and with power over me.” He claims Lemus threatened his political career if he told anyone of their interactions. Lemus has denied all of his claims.
(See our story here, detailing both of their statements.)
“While I cannot comment on ongoing investigations, or I will not comment on ongoing investigations, I believe that elected officials should be held to a higher standard, so I feel that my brother should step down. The whole thing that’s going on is not good for our community, all the allegations and this thing (that’s) continuing to evolve are really disgusting,” Joe Foppoli said.
Joe Foppoli said he was not aware of anything that may have been going on after hours at the winery. According to reporting by the Chronicle, a young woman from southern France said she attended a party at Christopher Creek Winery in 2019, while interning at a local winery, and that Foppoli drove her to an unfamiliar house where he sexually assaulted her.
Joe Foppoli said, “Honestly, all the allegations that came out in the San Francisco Chronicle were completely new to me and I’m totally just shocked and appalled,” adding later, “I didn’t even know about the letter in 2017.”
According to the Chronicle’s reporting, then-mayor Debora Fudge received an email Nov. 20, 2017 that described sexual misconduct by then-vice mayor Foppoli toward women who rented the Christopher Creek Winery guesthouse in 2013.
“Personally, I was not aware of anything that may have been going on after-hours, (and am) disgusted by all of the allegations. I am a person of faith and as I take over, moving forward and I have more ability to do so, I’m going to be making sure that none of this is even able to happen,” Joe Foppoli said. “I am a family man, I’ve been married 15 years, I leave here at the end of the day unless we have a specific sanctioned event or promotional thing with our wine club members, which never happens after hours. We’ve done a handful of other things here after hours, privately that I was aware of and never was anything like what has been discussed in the media.”
Joe Foppoli said his younger brother texted and called him early on following the first Chronicle article and that Dominic always sought his advice on strategies, but that he told him the situation was on him and that he was disappointed in him.
The older Foppoli said he last spoke to Dominic Foppoli last Friday. “He sent me an email, he’s sent me texts, but I told him, ‘Don’t contact me. I’m going to deal with this the way I feel is best for everybody going forward.’”
Joe Foppoli said, “Again I’m not commenting on what happened or what may happen, but at the very least, my brother has admitted to very poor lifestyle choices,” adding that, being a person of faith, he was deeply disappointed in him.
Joe Foppoli allowed press up the long driveway leading to the Christopher Creek Winery Sunday morning, April 11, before demonstrators arrived for an organized protest scheduled for 11 a.m. By the time he returned to the bottom of the drive after giving press a statement, a small group of protesters were waiting.
Sophia Williams — one of the women who has come forward with sexual assault allegations against Dominic Foppoli — attended the protest with her family and a small group of other protestors demanding justice and calling for the resignation of Foppoli.
Williams attended the small protest in front of the winery on Limerick Lane with her husband and her two young children who came up with their own protest signs that read, “Mayor your own body,” and “you’re not a good listener.”
“I just talked to them this morning and just said that somebody touched me and I said please stop and he didn’t listen — because they know about consent — and so I ran away and she (Williams’ daughter) decided that he wasn’t a good listener and then (Williams’ son) told me he should just mayor his own body,” Williams said.
She continued, “My experience 15 years ago, all these years, I just thought of it as a drunken mistake from us both and so hearing more women come forward, like the Windsor council member, just makes me feel more and more lucky that, hearing so many women have been drugged and feeling like my story could have been completely different if that happened. That I felt lucid enough to get away.”
Another protestor, Allegra Wilson of Santa Rosa, said she feels that “the power structure” has covered for Dominic Foppoli and that it is unacceptable.
“When people have money, when they’re rich, white men, they have protections that the rest of us don’t and they have people around them who will not report them, who will support them in these abuses and it’s disgusting, and they also have the power over the people that they’re abusing,” Wilson said.
Izaac Limón, a senior at Sonoma State University, heard about the allegations a few days ago and said that it feels like the officials in Sonoma County have a “colorful past to say the least and something needs to change.”
Limón continued, “These are elected people that are for towns, for cities, for Sonoma County and it doesn’t seem like they really care for the people. It’s really just a push it under the rug type of thing that I’ve been noticing.”
Santa Rosa resident Hollie Clausen, who was born and raised in Healdsburg, also attended the demonstration and led the small crowd in a series of chants including, “Chuck the wine, it’s time to resign,” and “no justice, no peace.”
When asked why Clausen organized the demonstration and why she wanted to come out to the winery, she said she wanted to let the Foppoli family know that the community is paying attention now.
“The community is paying attention and that we’re not going to stop until he resigns,” Clausen said.
In a statement released on Saturday, Dominic Foppoli said that he is “completely innocent of the conduct alleged” in the Chronicle’s article. He also stated that he would not resign despite countless calls for his resignation from public officials.
“I am fighting back and will clear my name,” Foppoli wrote in the statement.
“It’s total bulls---,” Clausen said when asked what she thought of Foppoli’s statement and plans to not resign. “It’s typical, privileged white male, to deny everything, but I think it’s pretty obvious that he’s lying and that his response is typical but not unexpected.”
On Sunday afternoon the Town of Windsor announced plans to hold a special meeting on April 14 at 6 p.m. to consider demanding the resignation of Mayor Foppoli.
“I think that they are doing the right thing. I think that that’s really what needs to happen,” Clausen said of public officials’ calls for the mayor to resign. “I know that they don’t hold any sort of authority to make it happen, but I think that them calling for it in general lets everybody know how serious this is.”
In the state of California, council members can only force out another council member or mayor following a felony conviction. The other option for those who want him removed is the recall process, which is set to get underway Monday.
Clausen said the Christopher Creek Winery demonstration won’t be the last.
“We intend on holding demonstrations at most of his businesses that he’s involved in. The ones that have already fired him and denounced him we’re going to leave them alone, but anybody who’s still involved with him, they’re next. We’re going to show up there,” Clausen said.
Prior to the conclusion of the protest, Clausen climbed up to the Christopher Creek sign and posted her protest sign up. The sign read, “Foppoli resign! No rapist wine!”