San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has been earning plentiful coverage and comment for his actions relating to gay marriage. I will leave the commentary on that issue to political weblogs, of all stripes, and instead call your attention to Mayor Newsom’s connections to one of this site’s favorite topics, California wine.
In a story in its current issue (not available online), The Wine Spectator profiles Newsom’s former role, abandoned on his taking office in San Francisco, as managing partner of The PlumpJack Winery -- named in honor of Shakespeare’s Falstaff -- which he founded in conjunction with Gordon Getty. The mayor’s winery-related profile can be read here. The PlumpJack group's interests have grown over the years to include wine shops, restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues. Newsom divested himself of his interest in all of them, on undisclosed terms, prior to his swearing in.
This set me to thinking about other wine-related politicians. I knew, for instance, that Republican Brooks Firestone, tire heir and founder of Santa Barbara County’s pioneering Firestone Vineyard, had served two terms in the California Assembly. A quick bit of Googling leads to the discovery that he is still in politics, currently running for the position of county supervisor, on a platform opposing a proposal to split the current Santa Barbara County in two (north and south, the north to become “Mission County”).
There’s more, of course. Looking for a wine-related angle to the recall of California Governor Gray Davis? Republican Assemblyman Ray Haynes, in an item posted a year ago, suggested vinous hanky-panky with State pension funds:
The concerns of those keeping a watchful eye on CalPERS are not merely speculation. Many actions over the last few years have provided cause for outrage. Early last year, for instance, the CalPERS board invested more than $100 million into Premier Pacific Vineyards. The head winemaker there just happened to be a major fundraiser for Governor Davis who, by the way, appoints three of the CalPERS board members.
There is no indication that this story had any impact on the recall election. Governor Schwarzenegger is known to be partial to cigars, but his positions on California wine are less clear. There is evidence, however, that he approves of the wines of Austria.
And then there’s California Republican Congressman George Radanovich, "the first full-time professional winemaker to serve in the House" and co-founder (with Democratic Congressman Mike Thompson) of the bipartisan Congressional Wine Caucus. The Caucus’ Web page seems not to have been updated recently, but the group claims 215 members representing all 50 states, and seems to favor positions such as setting aside state-level restrictions preventing direct shipments from wineries to consumers.
(And look here: SCOTUSBlog reports that the State of Michigan has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a 6th Circuit ruling permitting such shipments. [Thanks for that link, David.])
Coming soon, I think: a look back at how the law relating to wine Got That Way, with special attention to the repeal of Prohibition in the 21st Amendment, and perhaps a look at White House attitudes toward wine. It’s riveting stuff!