Abel Maldonado: Lieutenant Governor of Transforming Loss Into Our Wine Gain
December 5, 2012
When life gave Abel Maldonado a couple of lemons, he made wine.
The lemons were political losses: He finished behind Gavin Newsom for lieutenant governor in 2010 and Lois Capps for Congress this fall.
He's got some time on his hands, hence he's sticking his feet in the barrel.
The wine is a Pinot: Maldonado, who grew up on a small family strawberry farm and studied crop science at Cal Poly State University, describes it as "classy, bolder, big body, but still a Pinot."
"Growing strawberries, broccoli and cauliflower is totally different than wine," he says. "You have your heart and soul in your vineyard, then you put it in the bottle, and taste all the fruits of that dedication to your vineyard. Not that your heart isn't in the row crops—you just turn the crop around two to three times a year. Grapes, once planted, are there 30 or 40 or 50 years or longer. You put in the bottle is what you put in the land."
They're slated to bottle about 100 cases of his first vintage of Pinot next month for wine clubbers and a couple of restaurants. (He's also growing Chardonnay). After Maldonado tasted his juices yesterday, he told the Weekly, "they're just fantastic." But ever the politician, he deflected repeated questions around its retail price.
"When you know what you've done, and put your heart and soul and mind to the grapes, then baby them through fermentation," he says, "you know you're going to have something good. But this was, 'Wow.'"
He says his first call when coming up with a name was to Coastal Luxury Management's David Bernahl.
"It's a neat opportunity to cultivate land and the family ranch there," Bernahl says. "It carries a lot of sentiment for him. It's a way to showcase and share the family ranch.”
Maldonado says Bernahl's advice for the label name echoed that: Connect it to family.
The former LG also turned to his Tweepsies for counsel—maybe because he’s always aspired to be a man of the people. (“When you're making wine, you're really connected to the soil. When an elected official, you're really connected to the community.”) After the barrel tasting, he Tweeted, "Wow! Just tasted our first vintage of Pinot Noir. Any ideas on a name??"
For the Republican made famous for breaking budget deadlock and strict party votes to make 2007's budget possible, how about Non-Partisan Pinot?
Or how about this: For whoever posts the best idea for a name for the wine from our one-time state senator—who calls our community "a beautiful place to live that also allows us to make great wine"—on the Weekly Facebook page wins two tickets to Osio Cinemas and $10 in credit at next-door Cafe Lumiere.