Gavin Newsom’s Future: Political or Viticultural?

Plus, the burgeoning market for virtual wine, a criminal enophile, Mark Twain memorialized on a bottle and more moth trouble in California
Feb 4, 2010

• Two-term San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom’s political future appears to be uncertain. In a recent interview with the New York TimesMaureen Dowd, Newsom talked about getting out of politics. “In a couple of years, you’ll see me as the clerk of a wine store,” Newsom said. A Wine Spectator Distinguished Service Award winner, Newsom is well-versed in the wine industry. Before getting into politics he opened the PlumpJack wine shop in San Francisco. PlumpJack has since grown into a small empire, with two Napa wineries, several restaurants, clothing stores and hotels. However, when he became mayor of San Francisco in 2003, Newsom put his portion of the company in a blind trust. The mayor’s office was quick to head off speculations on Newsom’s plans following the Times interview. In a statement to the San Francisco Examiner, a Newsom spokesman said that “The mayor was speaking tongue-in-cheek” about the issue, and would remain in public service. However, in a follow-up interview with the San Francisco Chronicle this week, Newsom said, “I wouldn't work at the wine store. I'd work at the winery." Unfiltered will see what he has to say the next time we spot him at Wine Spectator’s California Wine Experience, but we really don’t understand all the fuss—In an interview just before he was elected mayor, Newsom told Wine Spectator, "I enjoyed being a wine merchant. I like the romance of it, talking about it. I liked opening and closing the restaurant, being a host. I'd be happy to go back and do that," and who could blame him?

• It’s a bold new virtual wine world out there, with Twitter wines and WineSpectator.com’s own Facebook page. “Virtual goods,” as they’re called, are adding up to real money, even if they aren't real. Based on conservative estimates, Facebook users spent $28 million in 2009 alone on virtual goods in 2009—basically a simple graphic icon that you can proudly display on your Facebook page. Even those among us who wish to send someone a fancy bottle but don’t have the cash have another option. You want to send a bottle of Krug? Ruinart, maybe? Well now you can gift them, sometimes for free, sometimes for around $1. Unfiltered hopes this phenomenon might give the wine industry an economic boost, but don’t expect any recipients of these virtual bottles to invite you to share one over dinner.

• Unfiltered understands that after a hard workout, there isn’t much that slakes your thirst quite like a few glasses of Dom Pérignon (the real stuff, none of that virtual Champagne for us). In fact, the only thing better would be if they were free. At least that’s what one man from Fairfield, Conn., thought when he stole a few credit cards from a fellow gym member’s wallet while he was working out last month. The victim was alerted to questionable purchases by one of the issuing banks while he was still at the gym where the theft occurred. The opportunistic criminal had taste though—he hit several wine and specialty shops, buying over $1,000 worth of Dom. Eyewitness reports said he even asked for a case discount! In all, the thief made off with more than $7,000 in ill-gotten goods. With our penchant for spending most of our disposable income on wine, however, Unfiltered wonders if our creditors would have had the sense to call us if the same thief had lifted our wallet …

Though Mark Twain (née Samuel Langhorne Clemens) is often quoted as having said, in 1895, “There are no standards of taste in wine, cigars, poetry, prose, etc. Each man’s taste is the standard, and a majority vote cannot decide for him or in any slightest degree affect the supremacy of his own standard,” Unfiltered hopes that he might still give high marks to the wine recently named for him. Glenora Wine Cellars, in New York state’s Finger Lakes region, has recently released its Mark Twain Riesling ($16), a wine bottled and labeled to mark the 175th anniversary of the writer’s birth and 100th anniversary of his death. Twain was married and spent many productive summers in Elmira, N.Y., writing his books The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, among others, and he and his wife and children are buried in Elmira. Chemung County, in which Elmira is located, joins Berkeley, Calif., Hannibal, Mo., and Hartford Conn., in events honoring Twain this year, despite his professed feeling about anniversaries: “What ought to be done to the man who invented the celebrating of anniversaries? Mere killing would be too light.”

• Two Davis, Calif.-based environmental groups filed a lawsuit last week to stop the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) from setting pheromone-soaked twist ties out on residential properties in Davis to disrupt the mating cycle of the light-brown apple moth, which lays its eggs on grape leaves, leaving the larvae to feed on leaves and fruit clusters. The lawsuit claims that the twist-tie chemicals (the ties include a “Keep Away from Children” caution on the label) could be dangerous when set out where children are likely to be. The lawsuit, filed by Pesticide Watch Education Fund and Better Urban Green Strategies seeks to force the CDFA to follow environmental review protocols before exposing the public to what it views as potentially dangerous substances. Donald Mooney, a lawyer for the group, said, “The state’s exemption of itself from the requisite California Environmental Quality Act review, when they have clearly stated that as yet there has been no reported crop damage from the moth, is an abuse of the process.” With the daunting moth threat the Golden State seems to be facing, Unfiltered wishes Mayor Newsom would just summon Godzilla already.

Crime Theft Vineyard Pests Apple Moth Unfiltered

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