Kamala Harris Knows Her Wine

"She can talk about differences between California oak and French oak," says Cork Wine Bar's owner.

Cork Wine Bar owners Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts with VP candidate Kamala Harris. Photograph courtesy Cork Wine Bar.

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When Kamala Harris got the VP nom yesterday, Cork Wine Bar decided to nominate itself as the “Official #WineBar of #KamalaHarrisForVP.” (Oakland or San Francisco challengers welcome.) The 14th Street bar and market tweeted a photo of owners Khalid Pitts and Diane Gross—who famously filed an unfair competition lawsuit against the Trump hotel—alongside the California congresswoman at a holiday party she hosted there for staff last year. 

Harris has been to Cork several times with other political counterparts and hosted a fundraiser there as a presidential candidate. As the senator of a top winemaking state and a member of the Congressional Wine Caucus, perhaps it’s no surprise Harris is pretty savvy about wine.

“You know if you go to a foreign country and you know like six phrases or something? She’s well beyond that,” says Pitts. “She can talk about different varietals. She can talk about differences between California oak and French oak… She knows what she likes and doesn’t like, and knows why she doesn’t like it.” 

And exactly what it is she likes to drink? Pitts only offers this: “She does like her California wines, but she does have a great appreciation for Old World wines as well, because we don’t do domestic wines at Cork.”

Former Mirabelle bartender Zac Hoffman previously told Washingtonian Harris once asked him for a cup of ice so she could drop cubes into her white wine. But Pitts says he’s never seen such a thing. 

“The only Black woman I’ve seen put ice cubes in wine at Cork is my mother,” Pitts says. 

Maxwell Park owner and somm Brent Kroll says he once took care of Harris while she dined with Elizabeth Warren at now-closed wine bar Proof. He doesn’t remember too much about her wine preferences other than “she knew what she wanted and was super polite. She didn’t require any assistance.”

More memorable to Kroll was her approachability: “I went up to them and I was like, ‘Do you need me to keep people away or are you OK if people come up and talk to you?’ Because, you know, people are going to approach the table. And they said they were fine and they were super nice to whoever came up to the table. A lot of other people who have a high profile or are politicians are like, ‘I do not want people coming up to my table.'”

Pitts, who also knows Harris from his previous roles as National Political Director for the Sierra Club and Director of Strategic Campaigns at SEIU, likewise found her to be extremely gracious.

“The warmth you see on television is that same Kamala you see in person,” Pitts says. When Harris thanked her staff at the Cork holiday party, Pitts notes she also made a point to recognize the hard work of his staff.

And because you know you’re wondering: “She is a good tipper.”

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.