"Wine cave" owner responds to debate flare-up

During the final Democratic debate of the year, Senator Elizabeth Warren went after South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. “Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States," said Warren. 

Sen. Warren and some of the other candidates have been critical of Buttigieg's fundraising with high-dollar donors. He responded with a sharply-worded rebuttal. “If I pledge never to be in the company of a progressive democratic donor, I couldn’t be up here," said Buttigieg. "Senator, your net worth is 100 times mine.”

The heated exchange between the two grabbed headlines and made the term "wine cave" trend online. It's a reference to fundraiser for Buttigieg hosted at Hall Wines in Rutherford. "We had so many people from a very wide range, mostly here in Napa Valley," said Kathryn Hall, the owner of the winery.  "People came from far and wide, great opportunity to have a good conversation. 

Hall and her husband are the billionaire couple who hosted Mayor Pete. Kathryn said she had never met Buttigieg before the fundraiser, but backed him based on his plans for reform. She said she was surprised to be thrust into the mdidle of a debate fight.  She wants to remind people that these "wine caves" are used by most in the wine industry, a way to store wine in cool areas. Like many of the candidates, she says she supports campaign finance reform, but until it happens, says cash is crucial when running. "Today, money matters in a campaign," said Hall. "If you have a message, that's important, you want to get it out. And I think unfortunately, money helps you do that." 

Hall says there were about 35 to 40 guests at the dinner in the wine cave, all who gave the maximum $2,800 donation. She says Mayor Pete focused on his reform agenda. “How can the American people believe you’re going to stand up to the wealthy and well-connected when you’re president," said Senator later in the exchange. 

Buttigieg called it a "purity test" Warren couldn't pass herself.  His campaign has previously said: "The only thing people are promised at an event wtih Pete is that he will use that money to beat Donald Trump." 

Hall, who served as ambassador to Austria under President Clinton said her message is for voters to get engaged in the process, however they can. “Those of us who are lucky enough to live in the greatest democracy in the world, have a responsibility to be involved," said Hall. "That’s if you’re knocking on doors as I have done, working the polls, which I have done, or contributing.”