You were in the wine business well before you got into politics. What drew you to it?
It was a way of connecting with my father [William Newsom, a former judge and the former manager of the Gordon P. Getty Family Trust]. My political advisers would suggest I get a better answer, but it’s the truth. Even though he’s a third-generation San Franciscan, my father’s very European in some ways, and he loves wine. When I was young, he’d often say, “Hey, smell this. Taste this.”
Did you ever travel to explore wine with him?
We used to go to the medieval horse race, the Palio, in Siena every few years, right when all those crazy Super-Tuscans were becoming popular, Solaia and Sassicaia and Tignanello. I was a teenager, so while everyone on the trip was jumping up and down about the wine, I was drinking my Diet Coke. Then, a few years later, when I was 23, there I was opening a wine store, Plump Jack Wine & Spirits in San Francisco.
- Why You Should Rediscover Napa Now
- The Ultimate Guide to Napa Valley
- Is Santa Barbara the Next Napa?
How did you evolve from vintner to politician?
That wine store is actually the reason I got into politics. When we were applying for our permit, city inspectors came in and slowed everything down because we didn’t have a mop sink. I was like, “The whole store is carpeted. Why the hell do we need a mop sink?” I was one of those “mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore” guys, and eventually when [Mayor] Willie Brown heard about me, he said, “I’m sick of this guy complaining—I’m gonna make him part of the solution by appointing him to the Parking and Traffic Commission.” That was the impetus for my whole political life. That wine store. And that damn mop sink.