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A Napa Valley Wine Cave Was the Hot-Button Issue of the Democratic Debate

Plus, a Wawa data breach may have affected thousands of customers, and more news to start your day

Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren stand at podiums on a debate stage.
Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren clashed over wine caves and big-dollar fundraisers at the last presidential debate of 2019.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Wine caves emerged as the star (or villain?) of the latest presidential debate

The most explosive moment of last night’s Democratic debate centered around wine caves — not so much the caves themselves, which are just subterranean structures ideal for the storing and aging of wine, but rather what they represent: “high-dollar fundraisers, political access, and who gets to have it,” as Vox’s Ella Nilsen writes.

On the debate stage, Sen. Elizabeth Warren took issue with Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who recently courted attention and controversy by attending a private fundraiser, hosted by billionaire owners, that took place in their Napa Valley wine cave complete with a chandelier made out of 1,500 Swarovski crystals.

Said Warren at the debate:

So, the mayor just recently had a fundraiser that was held in a wine cave, full of crystals, and served $900-a-bottle wine. Think about who comes to that. He had promised that every fundraiser he would do would be open-door, but this one was closed-door. We made the decision many years ago that rich people in smoke-filled rooms would not pick the next president of the United States. Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States.

Buttigieg’s response was equally fiery, pointing out Warren’s own personal wealth and the closed-door fundraisers she had hosted as a Senate candidate, and arguing that he’s not going to turn down money that would help in the fight to defeat President Donald Trump in the general election.

Warren’s and Buttigieg’s spar was cut short when Sen. Amy Klobuchar jumped in to declare that she had “never been to a wine cave,” but that she had once visited a “wind cave.”

Later, Andrew Yang also referenced wine caves, saying that his campaign finance idea, in which every American is given “Democracy Dollars” to contribute to political candidates, would lead to more women running for office “because they don’t have to shake the money tree in the wine cave.”

With three solid name drops in a high-profile debate, wine caves should be thankful for the free press. But not every vintner is pleased with the attention; California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who got his career started in the wine business, had this to say to HuffPost reporter Igor Bobic: “Having a wine cave— it’s my business. It’s how I started. It’s a point of pride, it’s one of America’s great exports … I don’t know that it’s helpful to have those kinds of debates.”

And in other news…

  • A Wawa data breach may have collected debit and credit card information from thousands of customers at all of the chain’s locations over the course of 10 months. [NBC News]
  • The City of Minneapolis, after discovering that downtown locations of Pizza Hut and Potbelly didn’t pay any time off for employees in 2019 (naughty!), is making the two franchises pay back workers $50,000 in unpaid sick leave (nice!). [The Takeout]
  • The romaine lettuce nightmare continues, with the CDC’s latest confirmation that there have been 138 cases of E. Coli in 25 states. [CNN]
  • How whiskey stones became an enduring hallmark of holiday gifting season. [Vice]
  • A “pizza joint” was busted for actually being an illegal arcade machine gambling den in Santa Ana, California. [CBS Los Angeles]

All AM Intel Coverage [E]