Nancy Pelosi’s Napa: Wealthy Friends and One Man’s Porsche Crash


Spokesperson Nancy Pelosi had just urged Brown University alumni to stay resilient and “better angels‘ over Memorial Day weekend, when she was forced to turn her attention to a less uplifting situation: her husband’s arrest in California.

The details of the incident were not particularly flattering.

The eve, May 28, Paul Pelosi, 82, had been in Oakville, one of the country’s most exclusive enclaves, and left a small dinner party at the hedge-lined estate of Alexander Mehran, a longtime Democrat friend and donor.

Mr. Pelosi got behind the wheel of his black 2021 Porsche 911 to drive the six miles to Pelosi’s Napa Valley home. According to the police report and eyewitnesses, it was around 10 p.m.

He walked a little over half a mile, trying to cross State Route 29 and make a left. But a jeep came down the highway and hit Mr. Pelosi’s car as it turned.

The police who responded arrested him on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and suspected of driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher. He is scheduled to appear in court again on August 3. If criminal charges are filed, he will then be charged. (The driver of the jeep was not arrested.)

It may not have been just the alcohol that prevented Mr. Pelosis from driving. Two people who have spoken to Pelosi since the crash said Mr Pelosi had cataract surgery in the days leading up to dinner. (Doctors are somewhat divided on when it’s acceptable to drive, with estimates ranging from 24 hours to two weeks.)

The speaker went into crisis mode. Larry Kamer, a crisis manager who has a home in Napa and has worked for high-profile clients including Harvard University and Nike, was hired Sunday afternoon. The family also consulted with John Keker, one of San Francisco’s most prominent defense attorneys, and Lee Houskeeper, a longtime public relations executive for San Francisco political types including former Mayor Willie Brown.

The newly formed team had to contend with some unwelcome certainties: The accident would draw attention back to Mr. Pelosi’s driving problems, including an accident as a teenager that killed his brother. It would also send reporters – from TMZ onwards The Napa Valley Registry — crawling for every detail.

And it would shine a spotlight on the Pelosi’s California life, where the pair occupy two homes, including one 16.55 hectares gated estate and mingle with other wealthy residents at a time when economic hardship weighs heavily on many of those of lesser means.

Finally, a representative for Ms. Pelosi issued a succinct statement stressing that Ms. Pelosi distances herself from the accident.

“The spokeswoman will not comment on this private matter that occurred while she was on the east coast,” it said.

The Pelosi have had a weekend home in Napa Valley since 1990, when they spent $2.35 million on their property came with a Palladian style villaguest house and pool.

“It’s not a palace,” said Mr. Brown. “If you go up there you’ll find that some people have places with caves for the wine and all that stuff. They don’t. You have a place to actually live, without servants. You wouldn’t make the Three Tenors sing.” But the Pelosis have a vineyard from which they sell grapes.

“Everyone in San Francisco has a place in Napa now,” Mr. Brown continued. “Anyone who can afford it.”

Neighbors are aware of Ms. Pelosis’ regular presence, in part because of the safety details that come up when she’s in Napa and can cause traffic delays. Ms. Pelosi and her husband also host a regular summer gathering attended by many of the biggest names in the Democratic Party.

Ms. Pelosi, also 82, usually goes to Memorial Day weekend dinner, which her husband attended just before his arrest, at the Oakville home of Mr. Mehran, a large commercial real estate developer. In an interview, Mr. Mehran said he had been friends with the Pelosis for more than 50 years. He has reportedly donated more than $1 million to Democratic politicians and groups since the 2020 election cycle Data from the Federal Electoral Commission.

The Pelosis have moved to Napa, an often closed world where family, political, and social circles overlap. They’ve got their spots: Ms. Pelosi eats Pizzeria Travignean artisanal pizzeria (where Chelsea Handler was recently spotted) and gets some coffee the model bakery (where David Beckham is a regular). She can be seen attending Sunday mass at St. Helena Catholic Church and sometimes foots the bill for her daughters and granddaughters to get manicures at Blush, the local nail salon.

But even in Napa, Ms. Pelosi, who doesn’t seem to wear California casually, is often seen in the tailored suits that are her Capitol Hill trademark. After all, the Pelosis remain in the heart of San Francisco and have lived in Pacific Heights, perhaps the city’s most exclusive neighborhood, since 1987, where they own a three-story red-brick townhouse.

They regularly perform at the city’s biggest social events – including the San Francisco Symphony’s inaugural gala – and have season tickets to the San Francisco Giants and the San Francisco 49ers. They’ve been known to make shopping a sport of their own at the local Giorgio Armani boutique (where Ms. Pelosi was spotted two weeks ago).

Mr. Pelosi, who holds investments in commercial real estate and the technology sector, is still a proud presence in the city’s society at 6ft 2, well dressed and with a full head of salt-and-pepper hair. But more than a dozen people interviewed for this article said they had never seen evidence that Mr Pelosi was drinking excessively. (Ms. Pelosi does not drink at all.) “Paul is a social drinker,” said Mr. Mehran, 71. “That’s the best way to put it.”

However, Mr. Pelosi has had a number of car accidents throughout his life. At 16, in 1957, he was behind the wheel of a sports car that was involved in an accident. His brother David, who was a passenger, was killed. (A jury eventually acquitted Mr. Pelosi of the involuntary manslaughter charges, according to news reports at the time.)

In the late 1970’s, Ms. Pelosi became the leader of the Democratic Party in Northern California. On her way to a barbecue for a local politician, a car she was in with Mr. Pelosi and some of her children overturned. No one was hurt, and Ms Pelosi hitched a ride to meet donors.

The Pelosi camp declined to comment to The New York Times on who was driving.

Paul Pelosi’s family roots are in San Francisco, but he met Ms. Pelosi when they were both college students in Washington, DC. The two had a lot in common. They were liberal Democrats and practicing Catholics. And both were Italian-American kings.

When they settled in San Francisco in the late 1960s, Mr. Pelosi’s connections in the city catapulted them into influential circles. His brother Ronald Pelosi, a rising political star on the San Francisco board of directors, was married Barbara Newsomthe aunt of future Governor of the State Gavin Newsom and the sister of William Newsom (Gavin’s father), an appeals court judge who administered the trust of oil tycoon John Paul Getty.

Nancy and Paul became friends with John Paul Getty’s son Gordon and Gordon’s wife Ann Getty. The families stay close. Last November, just before I went to Glasgow to address the COP26 UN World Climate Summit, Ms. Pelosi officiated at the wedding of Mr. Getty’s granddaughter, Ivy Getty. (Mrs Getty, the wore a 16ft veil and mirrored dress by John Galliano for Maison Margiela, is an oil heiress; Criticism from progressive Democrats followed.)

Ms. Pelosi’s rise into politics began as a fundraiser, but as her children grew up, she began considering running for office. In 1986, Representative Sala Burton, a friend of the Pelosi family, was hospitalized with terminal cancer. A special election was called to replace her.

Ms. Pelosi decided to run for her seat, but her home was just outside the county. So Mr. Pelosi rented the townhouse in Pacific Heights, and the family moved about 15 blocks northeast. Ms Burton supported Ms Pelosi days before her death. The rest is history.

Some analysts are eyeing Ms. Pelosi to the most effective loudspeakers ever lead the House of Representatives, and she is a seminal figure in American politics. She has at times spoken out about how her faith influences her politics and her desire to expand the social safety net, and is credited with getting the Affordable Care Act through the House.

But it’s clear that this spring has been a challenge for her.

She has watched as the landmark bill passed by the House of Representatives, the $2 trillion Build Back Better Act, has stalled in the Senate. Additionally, House Democrats appear poised for a shellac this fall, which would mean Ms. Pelosi would have to step down from the speaker’s gavel after 35 years in her congressional career.

There was plenty of sympathy and a certain protective instinct among the powerful political and social figures inhabiting the world of the Pelosis after what happened over Memorial Day weekend.

A person who witnessed the accident said that both cars were totaled and that Mr. Pelosi sat in the car, seemingly frozen, for several minutes before the sheriff and members of the fire department arrived moments later.

Neither Mr. Pelosi nor the driver of the jeep were injured.

Some friends felt that Mr. Pelosis’ all night in the Napa County Jail after the accident was excessive. Others wondered why their boyfriend hadn’t preempted the whole ordeal by simply getting a ride home.

And some local residents suggested that in an earlier era in Napa, driving after drinking was met with understanding rather than criminal charges.

“I just feel awful about what happened because there was a time when something like that happened, the cops would take you home,” said society doyenne Diane Wilsey, better known as Dede.

Ms. Wilsey, owned by Mr. Pelosis co-administrator at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center, is a Republican but has donated to several of the Speaker’s political campaigns and sees the couple socially in California.

“I don’t agree with Nancy on everything, but I can’t think of anyone cuter than Nancy or Paul,” she said.

In the meantime, according to The San Francisco Chroniclethe Napa County District Attorney was busy shutting down about 1,500 angry calls inspired by right-wing experts, including Donald Trump Jr., claiming without evidence that Mr Pelosi would face “no consequences” for the incident. Mr Pelosi is expected to return to court in August. Local authorities emphasize that he will not receive any special treatment.

Steve Edder and Thomas Fuller contributed reporting and Kitty Bennett contributed research.


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