The wine cave everyone’s been talking about

The term being used is “wine cave” _ but, ah, it’s not just any wine cave.

In Dallas, Craig and Kathryn Hall are household names. Kathryn once ran for mayor. And Craig is the force behind Hall Arts, which adorns the Dallas Arts District with a new 183-room hotel, office space, the Texas Sculpture Walk and four gourmet restaurants. The couple also owns two wineries in the lush Napa Valley of California, and it’s those that are making national news _ as a hot point in the 2020 presidential race.

Democratic rivals of South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg are seizing on a recent fundraising event as a way of hurling barbs at Mayor Pete, as The New York Times puts it, “for soliciting campaign contributions from wealthy donors.” Blasts from two candidates bombarded Buttigieg during last Thursday’s debate.

And where did the fundraiser in question take place? The term being used is “wine cave” _ but, ah, it’s not just any wine cave.

The Halls, who own the Hall St. Helena and Hall Rutherford wineries, are taking issue with how the Buttigieg fundraiser has been portrayed, though the wine cave in question is part of Hall Rutherford.

To wit, The Times offered this cheeky description, noting that 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.” Artist Donald Lipski designed the chandelier.

The crystals alone gave Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts all the ammunition she needed. She blasted Buttigieg for holding a fundraiser in a wine cave “full of crystals” where, according to her, guests were served $900 bottles of wine.

“Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States,” Warren fumed.

The Halls have already sharply contested that description, noting that the winery’s most expensive wine costs about $350 a bottle, though you can buy an extra-large bottle _ equivalent to four standard-size bottles _ for about $900. And, the couple say, they did not serve the most expensive wine during the fundraiser, which the Halls attended.

Asked for comment on Monday, Craig Hall gave this statement to The Dallas Morning News:

“We were honored to be able to host Pete and hear more about his stance on our country’s issues, and we had a lively, informative discussion to gain a better understanding of his platform. The evening was hosted in our working wine cave (which are common in the wine industry and have been used for thousands of years to store barrels _ they are also more environmentally friendly, as they require no refrigeration, heating or humidity control.) At the end of the day, we all have one common goal _ to support and elect the candidate who we believe will have the most positive impact on our country and will best advocate for all Americans.”

When it came to fixating on the wine cave, Warren wasn’t the only critic wielding a barbed corkscrew.

Former tech exec Andrew Yang, who is also running for the Democratic presidential nomination, said candidates should not have to “shake the money tree in the wine cave.”

Mr. Hall chose to address that criticism in a story published in The New York Times: “I’m just a pawn here,” said the man who with his wife owns Hall Wines, which is known for its cabernet sauvignon. “They’re making me out to be something that’s not true. And they picked the wrong pawn. It’s just not fair.”

And, well, as it turns out, the wine war cuts both ways.

Mother Jones reported Saturday that in June 2018, Sen. Warren held a fundraiser at City Winery Boston, where guests who contributed at least $1,000 received a souvenir wine bottle, according to The Associated Press.

Craig Hall also told The Times that he didn’t know if any billionaires attended the Napa fundraiser (unless, of course, we count him).

“I don’t think anyone came with the expectation that they were going to become Pete’s good buddy for some personal purpose,” Mr. Hall told The Times.

The Halls’ Democratic roots go way back.

In 1997, President Bill Clinton appointed Kathryn Hall as U.S. ambassador to Austria. For the rest of his second term, the Halls lived in Vienna, in the official residence of the U.S. ambassador, where President John F. Kennedy and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev held a pivotal summit meeting in 1961.

In Vienna, the ambassadorial Halls threw parties where, at times, guests included Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel, Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, novelists Toni Morrison and Richard Ford, wine connoisseur Robert Mondavi, fashion designer Geoffrey Beene and former President Jimmy Carter.

After they were married, the Halls gave more than $234,000 to Democrats in the 1996 elections, which helped elect Clinton to a second term.

(c)2019 The Dallas Morning News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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