Cork and dagger: Should wines served in the White House be disclosed?

state dinner menu

Remember the state dinner when the White House served green curry shrimp with a 15.6% alcohol grenache for the Indian premier? (and the typos!) Or a “Carlos Santana” brut sparkling wine with dessert for the Mexican president? Oh how we howled at those selections wondering if the White House wine steward was trying to derail diplomacy single-handedly.

Then, with the open-air state dinner for Angela Merkel, the White House stopped publishing the names of the wines served. Thanks to your contributions, we were able to determine two of the wines.

Was it the slings and arrows of the blogosphere that prompted the new policy? Probably not. It’s more likely that the White House doesn’t want to take the heat at this point in the economic recovery for pouring expensive wines: After the White House served a wine selling worth about $400 a bottle to President Hu of China, Stephen Colbert joked that it “should have been a sweatpants-potluck with box wine and a sleeve of Oreos.” Somehow, I doubt Colbert will ever be the White House usher.

The new policy of vinous non-disclosure prompted Bloomberg political reporter Margaret Talev to investigate. But she didn’t get a substantive response from either the usher or the First Lady’s office explaining the new policy.

This week, David Cameron will be in DC for a state dinner. Without knowing the menu, I think the White House should look to repay the courtesy of the Queen when the President visited London and underscore the “special relationship” between the two countries. After highlighting some up-and-coming producers, it would be appropriate to uncork some California cabernet with age, such as a top wine from the 1991 vintage, or reaching even further back to one of the gems from the 1970s. Subtle, elegant, distinguished and generous–it’s hard to argue with those qualities at the highest level of hospitality.

What do you think the White House should pour for Cameron? And do you think they should return to printing the wines on the menu or otherwise disclose the names of the actual wines poured?

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12 Responses to “Cork and dagger: Should wines served in the White House be disclosed?”


  1. Absolutely, they should print the wines!! Why shouldn’t the public know what’s being poured at the White House? Not publicizing the wines is one more aspect of insulating the White House from scrutiny.


  2. I used to work there (Press Corps) and when going over to the East Room to set up, we went past the wine cellar and the recycling bins. Sometimes the cellar was open and I would get to look in, my requests to enter were denied. But I did see a few things. Notably Dessert wines, Tokaj and some nice Ports. Also I was able to look into the recycle bins and see what had been consumed the night before. Most often it was US made wines. Under Clinton, Ironstone bubbly was popular as was Sonoma Cutrer Chard. Ravenswood was often seen as well. I know when the French were in town Bordeaux appeared, it always seemed like bring ice to Eskimos to me. Why not show them what we could do? Eventually they started locking the bins, spoiling my fun. Considering that they get crap for whatever they do, especially in these austere times, I am not surprised that they don’t advertise the high life. Trust me they don’t drink plonk, even when its a crowd of 500 or more. Particularly at State Dinners.


  3. [...] Cork and dagger: Should wines served in the White House be disclosed? [...]


  4. I have the entire Wines & Vines publication for the year 1963.
    It clearly shows the California gift basket that JFK was perusing.
    Ficklin Port
    Inglenook
    Charles Krug
    Cribari……..


  5. [...] and wine educator Tyler Coleman has also looked into this issue , coming up with the truly inspired headline of “Cork and [...]


  6. Anything but Caymus, Shafer, Phelps or some other syrup mascerading as wine.


  7. [...] In Bloomberg, Margaret Talev writes an in-depth piece on wine at the White House – and notes a shift in disclosure policies. Dr. Vino comments on his blog. [...]


  8. I don’t see why they wouldn’t be disclosed. Do they have a sommelier?


  9. [...] vino americano”, ha notato Tyler Colman, docente della New York University e blogger di vino (Dr. Vino).  Lo sa bene, ad esempio, Kerry Murphy della DuMol Wines. Dopo che il suo Chardonnay è stato [...]


  10. Looks like Eric from CellarTracker was at the state dinner. Wines were a Virginia (Thibaut-Janisson)and Cali (Iron Horse) bubblies, a Leonetti Cab. Sauv., and a Peter Michael Chardonnay.


  11. Dale – Indeed he did (lucky him!). Here’s the link to my reactions to what our “deep throat” revealed, circumventing a silly policy.


  12. Apparently Stephen Colbert said that given the U.S. debt held by China, the Hu dinner “should have been a sweatpants-potluck with box wine and a sleeve of Oreos.” He’s got a point.

    But, seriously, it would be nice to know what’s being served. Maybe the W.H. figures they get flak for everything–much of which is undeserved–and don’t need flak about the wines they serve.

    What I think is very important is serving wines from many different producers. Just like Michelle Obama wears clothes from many designers, which gives them a boost, they should reach out to many different wineries in different regions.

    I wonder if the wines are donated. I’d guess that at least some of them are.


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