My brother, Rick, and I are here in the Santa Ynez Valley, enjoying some wine tasting here in God’s Country. Yesterday we stopped into the Firestone Winery for some tasting. I thought it would also be fun to rub his considerably-left-of-center nose in all of Brooks Firestone’s GOP paraphernalia that usually adorns the walls. Alas, due to an imminent remodel on the tasting room, all of the Republican goodies have been put away. Like a good red-meat-eating conservative I ponied up to the tasting bar for some Cabernet Sauvignon. Um…. No. There is NO Cabernet there (Nor any Pinot Noir, for that matter).
BROOKS FIRESTONE: MODERATE WINE AND POLITICS
I couldn’t help but think to myself — "Of course Brooks doesn’t make Cabernet — a bold, decisive wine — there is nothing bold or decisive about him…" Don’t get me wrong, Firestone does produce a lot of great wines (my mom really likes his fruity and sweet Sauvignon Blanc) — and the I was State President of the California Republican Assembly at the time) – he ran to the left of Tom Bordonaro in that primary. Firestone was recently elected to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. I’m sure that in this role, he is continuing his fine tradition of compromise and moderation. I find it funny and ironic that Firestone was elected to the "swing" district – I’m sure that creates some fun nail biting at the County Hall of Administration.
Believe it or not, I don’t dislike Brooks as a person. And I think his bride, Kate, is a neat person. I also admire Brooks’ support of grassroots activists with his annual hosting of the Firestone Weekend Retreat (I’ve noted a conservative tilt in that event, I’m happy to report). But I’m afraid that if Brooks had won that 1998 run for Congress, that he would be just one more moderate Republican in Congress opposing the conservative Republican Study Committee’s efforts to shrink federal spending…
DON SEBASTIANI BOLD CONSERVATIVE…
Thinking about Republican vintners does make me think of another former legislator in the wine biz — Don Sebastiani. Don, a good friend for many years, was in the legislature the first half of the 80′s, retiring in 1986. During his time in the Assembly, he earned a reputation for being smart, savvy and an ideologically committed conservative. He is strong, bold and decisive. When I had lunch with him in the months preceding the recall election, he talked about his admiration for State Senator Tom McClintock. He is a donor to conservative causes – a great American.
DON SEBASTIANI THE WINE NEGOCIANT…
Don is a third generation member of the famous pioneering Sonoma County winemaking family. A few years ago, he stepped away from his leadership role at the Sebastiani Winery, and started a new venture, Don Sebastiani & Sons, with his sons, August and Donny. They are wine negociants. So while they own no vineyards, they buy a tremendous volume of grapes and make and sell great wine…and they sell a lot of it. You may be familiar with some of their labels – Pepperwood Grove and Smoking Loon, among others. In 2004, Sebastiani and Sons was the 16th highest volume seller of wine companies in the United States, moving over 1,000,000 cases of wine!
Of course, underscoring the differences, both ideologically and stylistically between Brooks Firestone and Don Sebastiani — Don and his sons produce some wonderfully bold and complex Cabernet Sauvignon. I can’t wait to get home and open a bottle! Perhaps I will toast to Don’s eventual return to politics…though I don’t think he would join me in that toast – he loves working with his boys too much!
Then again, Brooks is in politics AND wine…Don??? :-)