An American Whine Cave

The sixth Democratic debate drew just over 6 million viewers, the lowest number so far. This isn’t surprising, as the debates have been largely unremarkable and disinteresting, not very debate-like outside of insipid zingers, and so even the most passionate Democratic party adherent struggles to find a reason to squander a few hours of her life listening to childish squabbling in an effort to catch fire and emerge from the crowd as a winner.

But this debate offered an attack of some interest against the youngest, and gayest* of the candidates, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. By shifting from left to more rational, the 37-year-old third-class city mayor has gotten traction, causing the socialists no end of angst. And they went after him for fund-raising in a . . . wine cave.

To reach the wine cave that set off a firestorm in this week’s Democratic presidential debate, visitors must navigate a hillside shrouded in mossy oak trees and walk down a brick-and-limestone hallway lined with wine barrels. Inside the room, a strikingly long table made of wood and onyx sits below a raindrop chandelier with 1,500 Swarovski crystals.

The furnishings drew the ire of Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on Thursday, when she chastised Pete Buttigieg for holding a recent fund-raiser in a wine cave “full of crystals” where she said guests were served $900 bottles of wine.

No, they were not sipping a 1982 Ch. Petrus, but whatever wine they made at Craig and Katherine Hall’s winery, who are devoted to the Democratic party and progressive causes. So why is their wine cave under attack?

On Friday, the billionaire couple who owns the wine cave — wine is often stored underground because of the cool, stable temperatures — said they were frustrated that their property had set off one of the fiercest back-and-forths of the debate. Watching the contentious moment on television, they grew frustrated as Ms. Warren and other candidates used their winery as a symbol of opulence and the wealthy’s influence on politics.

“I’m just a pawn here,” said Craig Hall, who owns Hall Wines, which is known for its cabernet sauvignon, with his wife, Kathryn Walt Hall. “They’re making me out to be something that’s not true. And they picked the wrong pawn. It’s just not fair.”

It’s a nice wine cave, and it’s hardly unusual for wineries to have wine caves, even if it has a long table and a crystal chandelier. If there are no wineries, then there would be no wine. Is that Liz Warren’s real beef, that wine is an evil spiiit? If not, and there are wineries, someone has to own them. Nancy Pelosi does. So does Gavin Newsome. Why not Craig Hall?

But in this election cycle, some Democratic candidates have criticized the spending of wealthy donors like the Halls, arguing that their large contributions can lead to outsize influence on policy — or even jobs in a future administration. Ms. Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, in particular, have harped on other candidates for soliciting wealthy donors and traveling from coast to coast to attend fund-raisers.

And indeed, large contributions can lead to both influence and positions, as it did for Katherine Hall.

Mr. Hall, 69, made much of his fortune in the real estate industry and said he started a business at 18 with $4,000 from his savings account. Ms. Hall, a lawyer and businesswoman, served as the United States ambassador to Austria under President Bill Clinton after donating to his re-election campaign. Her family has worked in the wine industry since the 1970s.

There is a strong thread of outrage in progressive politics toward the wealthy. Some argue that there is no justification for any person to be a billionaire. Some argue that no one can reach that degree of wealth without committing crimes against humanity. Bill Gates got shredded for his wealth, despite all he’s done for others. Now the Halls learned that their wine cave was a den of iniquity, held up in a Democratic presidential debate as the representation of the obscenity of wealth and power.

Mind you, neither Bernie nor Liz have ever missed a meal either. Ironically, Mayor Pete was likely the poorest person on the stage, having not had the time as yet to amass an appreciation of fine wine.

For the Halls, the scrutiny has felt personal. Mr. Hall said that during the debate, Ms. Hall turned to him and jokingly said she might go buy something for herself instead of contributing to another political campaign.

As Jake reminded me here the other day, there will be 8500 children starving to death in America while the wealthy stroll down the dock to their yachts “with smaller yachts parked inside them.” Whether that number is real doesn’t matter. His point is that there are rich and there are poor, and the poor suffer. Will they suffer less by vilifying the wealthy who contribute to progressive causes and the Democratic candidates?

Jake and I discussed this has he drove us in his Lexis to a tent city in Portlandia, where he got out and handed over his keys to a homeless housing challenged person, who was immediately beaten to death by a dozen neighbors who stripped the car so they could offer parts for sale on eBay.

We reached no conclusion, as I explained that there would be a constitutional problem with creating a federal crime of possession of a net worth of a billion or more dollars, but we both enjoyed the subtle ’89 Ch. Marguax in utilitarian crystal stemmed glasses to compliment a modest Osetra on toast points. Jake then took off in an Uber, leaving me to pay the check and a generous tip.

*Gay was once a sufficient descriptor of being, you know, gay, but it now comes with a full set of baggage purchased from Palestine. Mayor Pete apparently only bought the two-suiter, so his gay cred is deficient.

7 thoughts on “An American Whine Cave

  1. L. Phillips

    “. . . who was immediately beaten to death by a dozen neighbors who stripped the car so they could offer parts for sale on eBay.”


    A cynic would think you invented Jake just to have a proper foil.

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