Sonoma County wine executive's vineyard business firm accused of water quality violations
Prominent Sonoma County wine executive Hugh Reimers, who last month abruptly left as president of Foley Family Wines, faces allegations that his grape growing company has violated regional, state and federal water quality laws for improperly clearing land near Cloverdale to build a vineyard.
The North Coast Regional Water Quality Board accused his Santa Rosa vineyard management company, Krasilsa Pacific Farms, of violations of the water board’s local water rules, the California Water Code and the federal Clean Water Act for clearing and grading 140 acres. The water quality board concluded the work on a section of Krasilsa Pacific’s more than 2,000-acre property was done without applying or obtaining the necessary permits required by the county to operate a vineyard.
The board filed a notice of its violations on June 6 to Reimers, as manager of Krasilsa, listing 28 different locations on the property three miles east of Cloverdale where infractions were found by investigators with the board and Sonoma County Department of Agriculture. Many of those spots had multiple violations within the cleared land: a steep, grassy ridge featuring oak woodland between the Russian River and Big Sulfur Creek.
The water quality agency’s findings have not been linked to Reimers’ sudden resignation from Foley’s Santa Rosa wine company he joined in 2017 and he led as president since January 2018.
The water agency is in the process of determining what sanctions to levy against Krasilsa, said Josh Curtis, assistant executive for the agency. The penalties could range from a cleanup of the property in an attempt to return it as close as possible to its condition before Krasilsa’s work started in late 2017 or early 2018, to the assessment of fines.
Investigators with the water board and county ag department have forwarded their report and underlying findings regarding the Krasilsa land to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office. The case is under review by the district attorney’s environmental and consumer law division, office spokeswoman Joan Croft said.
The most significant allegations included in the inspection report prepared in February are: the removal of 40 acres of trees, including those within 500 feet of a natural water channel; the placement of branches, tree tops and organic debris in at least eight natural channels; the improper dredging and filling of at least 2,450 feet of a water channel and the dredging of at least 10,000 square feet of wetland.
Reimers, 47, a vintner from Australia who had been president of rival Jackson Family Wines of Santa Rosa until leaving to join Foley’s company, said in an interview Monday, since he has not received a copy of the inspection report prepared by the North Coast water board and county ag department in February or the notice of violation the board issued in June, he could not address the specific allegations against his grape vineyard enterprise.
However, he pledged to comply with the water board. “We’re absolutely more than willing to work with the water board to rectify any issue out there and correct the situation,” he said in an interview.
He contended the work in question Krasilsa performed on a portion of its land was “agricultural cultivation” of the soil.
“Everything we did was under agricultural cultivation,” Reimers said, in a reference to the 2,278-acre property near Cloverdale that his company bought in September 2017. “We are not building anything out there.”