Archive for the 'leaders and liters' Category

Politicians crush it, overseas

The former Soviet republic of Georgia has found an unusual labor source at harvest time: Former candidates for President and Vice President of the USA.

John McCain and Joe Lieberman picked grapes at the vineyard of the Georgian president and then crushed them underfoot. Mmm.

Which election year will we see current candidates for high office posing for the cameras and doing harvest work in the US? It will take a while for the perception of wine as some effete drink to wear off before it transforms into something that the coveted everyman voter likes to drink. I’ll go with 2032.

(Note: photo of McCain and Lieberman in action not available.)

Campaign booze paraphernalia

Forget soccer dads and hockey moms: there’s an even larger demographic that politicians can target. Drinkers! Gallup’s most recent poll pegged 66% of Americans as having some form of tipple.

A couple of weeks ago in Iowa, Obama bought a round of Bud Light at the Iowa state fair, setting off chants of “Four more beers!” Then he gave out a bottle of homebrew from the White House and later revealed the recipe. Now, his campaign store is selling a campaign BYO wine bag and a beer soda cozy with Biden’s smiling visage on it.

Mitt Romney, a Mormon, does not drink alcohol (though Paul Ryan may like off-vintage Burgundy). Nor does the Romney campaign store have any alcohol-related paraphernalia. Beer and wine as a wedge issue? The issue may not be insurmountable for Romney–recall another teetotaler who managed to win “the guy you most want to have a beer with” in the 2004 election.

Sarkozy, teetotaler, is out; Hollande, in. But is he a Champagne Socialist?

At the polls yesterday, French voters bid adieu to President Sarkozy who was famously, and incongruously, a teetotaler as head of France. “President Bling Bling,” as he was known, will now be replaced by “Mr. Normal,” Francois Hollande. As far as our beat is concerned, does that mean that a wine-lover will be returning to the Elysée Palace?

The last Socialist occupant, Francois Mitterrand, was a fan of the fruits of the vine. Segolene Royal, former partner of Francois Hollande and mother of his four children, said when she ran against Sarkozy in 2007 that while working as an adviser to late president Francois Mitterrand in the 1980s, she “learned that eating and drinking were the two pillars of the French art de vivre.” So there’s hope. And Hollande’s current partner, Valerie Trierweiler, was born in Angers and likes his cooking even if he uses too much butter. So there is hope, from a wine geek’s perspective, that he is a Champagne Socialist who might even be able to talk about the terroir.

Hit the comments with any intel you might have about le vin d’Hollande. And note the wine in the above photo.

Nondrinkers are terrible presidents. Discuss.

Timothy Egan has a piece up on the Opinionator column of the NYT with a provocative thesis on the correlation between teetotalism and presidential leadership: “The nondrinkers, at least over the last century or so, were terrible presidents.” Our country has a history of both binging on alcohol and abstaining so it is in an interesting lens for looking at leadership. However, it’s not perfect since Nixon liked wine but his presidency undeniably ended in disgrace and even Herbert Hoover apparently once had a large wine cellar. (For a timely, overseas example on whom voters have yet to render final judgment, President Sarkozy is also a teetotaler.)

But in gazing at the drink preference of Mt. Rushmore’s faces, George Washington liked Madeira and became a whiskey distiller after leaving office, Jefferson, of course, was the best friend wine geeks ever had in the White House, Lincoln once had a liquor retail license and later owned a tavern and Teddy Roosevelt apparently had a nightcap from time to time.

Clearly defining good and bad presidencies skates a little close to partisan coloring for this blog. But Lincoln had a good perspective: “The problem with alcohol, he said, was not that it was a bad thing, but a good thing abused by bad people.”

Deep throat reveals Cameron state dinner wines

Even though the White House is no longer printing the names of the wines on the menu nor releasing them after the fact, it turns out that we had our own “deep throat” at the event: none other than the wine person of the last decade, founder of Cellertracker, Eric Levine.

Sure enough, Eric posted the wines served, complete with tasting notes. For the full menu (pdf), click here. And, on a related note, what Michelle Obama has done with the organic garden at the White House is terrific.

Appetizers: crostini
Eric says there were a range of options at the bar and he opted for the Thibaut-Janisson Brut NV (limited availability; about $29). USA, Virginia, Central Region, Monticello. This seems to be a staple at the White House since it was on the menu (back when the wines were on the menu) for Prime Minister Singh.

Halibut course and salad course
2009 Peter Michael Chardonnay Ma Belle-Fille (about $80) USA, California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley
Eric describes the wine as “Prototypical Cali Chard.” Peter Michael also has appeared before at state dinners. In fact, the Bush White House served the Peter Michael “Les Pavots” 2003 (about $275) to none other than Queen Elizabeth when she visited in 2007.

Second course: bison Wellington
2008 Leonetti Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley (about $65) USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
Eric has a lot of experience with the producer but laments how young it is, saying while it worked with the food, the wine is “not so civilized yet at this stage.”

Dessert: steamed lemon pudding atop a bed of apples
2007 Iron Horse Vineyards Russian Cuvée (about $30) USA, California, Sonoma County, Green Valley
The White House usher has frequently poured sparkling wines with dessert; as I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of the idea as I think the dessert’s sweetness is likely to leave the wine tasting too tart, even in this case. Just let dessert be the dessert. Eric says “a nice idea but a tough pairing to really appreciate.” Iron Horse has also been poured numerous times at the White House; this wine, which has a higher dosage (the amount of residual sugar is unspecified), was developed for the Reagan-Gorbachev summits.

I’m still puzzled by the White House not listing the wines on the menu. If there was too much negative reaction to the wines served at the Hu dinner, which seems to have prompted this bizarre cork and dagger policy of not listing the wines, why not list these wines since none was over $100?

And why not be more original and creative? It’s not about simply spending more (as Bush did on the $600 Shafer Hillside select), it’s about being creative, even if you have a (artificially) tight budget. There’s a lot of excitement in American wine. Find it. Serve it. Otherwise, to paraphrase George W. Bush, it’s as if the White House usher is saying “Message: I don’t care.”

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

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?

Hip hop somms, deforestation, Presidential dining – sipped & spit

SIPPED/NOT SIPPED: Presidential wine
President Obama dined at restaurant Daniel in NYC last night. Wine director Daniel Johnnes (pictured above, right) tweeted that the wine selections would include Sandhi Chardonnay made by his friend sommelier Raj Parr. He tweeted: “Sandhi means alliance. What could be better?” But chef Boulud himself joined the discussion: ” Sorry @danieljohnnes , the #President @barackobama is not drinking tonight.”

SMOKED: something powerful!
In re: Bordeaux 2010 futures: “The wines are actually great value and I hope that the very good results of last year will be confirmed this year.” -Alain Juppé, Mayor of Bordeaux & French Foreign Minister [decanter]

SIPPED: bigg eurozzz
Liv-Ex compiles a list estimating the 50 Bordeaux chateaus worth more than 50 million euros.

VOLUME: cranked!
Sommelier Levi Dalton rounds up “the sommeliers I’ve rapped with.” [SoYouWantToBeASommelier]

ALMOST SIPPED: ABC gum (not gum arabic)
I like unfiltered wine but, really, can’t they get the chewing gum out before selling? [BBC]

SIPPED: courage
You can make lemons into lemonade. But coal slag heaps into wine? It’s happening in Pas-de-Calais in France. [WSJ]

SPIT: vineyard development?
In other vineyard development news, deforesting 2,000 acres for proposed vineyards meets resistance in Sonoma. [AP]

Wine confidential: state dinner with Angela Merkel

Last night the Obamas played host to Angela Merkel for a “State Dinner” (even though she is the head of government, not state–gasp!) in the Rose Garden. The meal included a salad from the White House vegetable garden; the full menu follows below. Oddly, the wine pairings were not announced! Has the usher at the White House grown tired of the slings and arrows from the blogosphere with each state dinner menu?

No matter–that leaves us a chance to do the pairings ourselves! Read more…


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