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Bill Foley’s wineries affected by Northern California fires

Golden Knights owner Bill Foley felt the effects of the wildfires in Northern California, as several of his wineries were temporarily shut down and one of his properties sustained extensive damage.

“It’s been terrible,” Foley told the Review-Journal last week.

Foley and his wife, Carol, were in California during mid-August when dry lightning strikes sparked the August Complex Fire that has burned more than 1 million acres across several counties. It is the largest fire in state history, according to Cal Fire.

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Lightning also ignited the Hennessey Fire in the Napa Valley and burned more than 350,000 acres since it began Aug. 17. Foley owns 10 wineries in Napa and nearby Sonoma County, according to the Foley Food & Wine Society website.

“What the fires did was, they were all over, but there was a big fire in Sonoma County back in the mountains. That kind of shut down grape picking, and then there were more fires in September,” Foley said. “So basically the grape crop is gone this year. Smoke taint has destroyed the grapes, and the fires still aren’t under control.

”It’s not healthy. It’s smokey and it’s just not a healthy situation. It’s bad.”

Foley said the wine business already sustained heavy financial losses during the coronavirus pandemic without visitors and on-premise sales.

Any damage to the grape crop would cause further hardship.

“We’ve basically lost our vintage,” Foley said. “We’ve got enough fruit in to do about half what we normally produce. We still don’t know if some of it has smoke taint. We won’t know until close to fermentation.”

Foley-owned Calistoga Ranch, a luxury resort in Calistoga, California, is temporarily closed after it was ravaged by the Glass Fire that started Sept. 27. That blaze has burned nearly 70,000 acres and destroyed more than 600 homes, according to the Napa Valley Register.

“It burned to the ground. It’s gone,” Foley said. “Strange situation.”

This is not the first time wildfires have affected Foley’s wine business. In 2017, one of his wineries in Sonoma County was evacuated as flames approached the property. One of his employees lost his home in Santa Rosa, California, to that fire.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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