Schramsberg is an iconic American sparkling wine and it’s no surprise that it as been poured at the White House over 100 times. Last week, I caught up with Hugh Davies on the phone to ask him about the experiences for this second installment of our two-part mini-series, Entertainer-in-Chief. Two instances stood out to me of serving Schramsberg at state events.
Hugh, 42, told me that in 1972, his dad, Jack, got word from the Nixon White House that they would need 13 cases of Schramsberg 1969 blanc de blanc. And those cases had to be delivered to Travis Air Force Base. Hugh said that it was all a bit mysterious but his dad loaded up the cases into his jeep, drove them over to the Base where he got paid and left the wine.
Then three weeks later, images of Nixon’s historic trip to China were broadcast back to the US. And there was good old Nixon raising a glass of Schramsberg with Premier Zhou En Lai in a “toast to peace.” Hugh said that Barbara Walters reported from Tiananmen Square that Nixon and Zhou had just toasted with the Schramsberg “blank de blank.” Thirteen cases must have kept the whole delegation happy!
In what would be a bookend to state dinners and Schramsberg during Hugh’s mom’s lifetime, the Schramsberg brut rose 2004 was served at the state dinner with Queen Elizabeth II in Washington last year. The Teetoaler-in-Chief did not call and there was no drop-off at an AFB. Instead, the head usher just ordered it through the local distributor and Hugh didn’t even know it was being served.
…the urbane Thomas Jefferson, who occupied the residence from 1801 through 1809. Jefferson moved swiftly to grace the President’s House with all the trappings of the leader of a great new country, including stocking it with fine wines from around the world. Jefferson’s Williamsburg education and worldly ways imbued him with a predisposition for the pleasures of the palate, and his extensive travels throughout France and Italy in the 1780s made him a student of wine.
When he ascended to the presidency, Jefferson had wine vaults constructed below the east colonnade to house his sizable collection. (The area is no longer used for that purpose.) He is said to have spent more than $11,000 on wine during his two terms as president, a sum that in today’s economy would equal roughly $175,000.
Jefferson was a gracious host, regularly dipping into his private collection to entertain foreign dignitaries, as well as his colleagues and opponents, in high style. In Jefferson’s day, presidents didn’t have expense accounts, but rather were expected to run the household from their own salary. Indeed, it is said that Jefferson was generous to a fault, entertaining so lavishly that financial problems would follow him to his grave. [Wine News]
Wow, what a gent. And what an exemplary, overstretched American consumer! Good thing home equity loans hadn’t been invented or he might have set off his own mortgage crisis at Monticello.
With the Iowa caucuses (finally!) happening tonight, we need a wine lover’s guide to the presidential election.
Mitt Romney: According to the NYT, he is so “vigilant about nutrition” (read: boring!) that he eats the same meals every day. Anathema to the wine lover! Added bonus: teetotaler. No love from wine geeks.
Mike Huckabee: He’s reputedly a charmer, plays guitar, knows (or knew) how to eat, and jogs every morning. But he’s also a southern Baptist minister, so he doesn’t dance and is a teetotaler. So close, yet so far. Wine pick: “Fre,” a de-alcoholized wine.
John McCain: He used to be more of a loose cannon eight years ago. Now, the fire in the belly appears as mere embers. His wine is a 10 year old Turley Zinfandel, fiery in it’s youth, now sadly without vigor.
Barack Obama: This man has got style. Heck, one commentator even said he was the “wine track” candidate some time back. So he’s our man for the White House. He’s also quite a blend himself, born in Hawaii to a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya and lived early on in Indonesia. This eloquent American blend could be none other than one of the finest wines in America, with structure and spice: Ridge Monte Bello.
Hillary Rodham Clinton: We know Hillary hearts New York but is she cold as ice? Wine pick: Standing Stone, Vidal, ice wine 2005, Finger Lakes.
John Edwards: he’s made it far on his “two Americas” theme. We know what that means–beer America and wine America. We’ll split the difference and put him down for a Franzia box wine.
The wild cards
Ron Paul: this guy may be crazy–he wants to eliminate the IRS, the Federal Reserve and a host of government departments and restore the gold standard–but if he is, then he is rich and crazy thanks to his $19 million in fund raising last quarter. Wine pick: Armand de Birgnac, Ace of Spades, “gold bottle,” non-vintage Champagne $300.
Fred Thompson: This Tennessean seems like a natural fit for Bourbon. No love from wine geeks.
Christopher Dodd: His move to Iowa in a desperate attempt to score fourth place makes him seem pandering. And nothing tries harder to be a crowd-pleaser yet fails to inspire more than Merlot.
Bill Richardson: He’s big and he claims to have the most foreign policy experience. Wine pick: the brawny 2004 Numanthia from Spain.
This just in from the Pyonyang bureau: Kim Jong-Il says cheers with wine!
The despotic ruler of North Korea was known for his lavish lifestyle. However, UN sanctions, enacted last year, aimed right at his silky soft underbelly banning trade in crystal, silk scarves, designer fountain pens, furs, leather luggage, jet skis, and Harley-Davidsons.
Now the Financial Times reports that the Dear Leader “has given up cognac so that his liver can last a few more years.” And with a $1 million a year budget for ‘yak, that is quite a lot of Louis XIII not consumed.
Given Kim’s apparent deteriorating health, would he and President Roh Moo-hyun raises glasses of wine to toast the summit? As the picture picture above shows, he’s still enjoying red wine in big glasses!
And just in case you were wondering what to pair with blueberry wine, here’s a quick take on the summit menu:
The South Korean delegation was served with a variety of North Korean food specialties, including boiled beef, stewed ribs, carp stew and trout soup.
Pyongyang’s famous blueberry wine and Ryongsung beer was served during the dinner, and watermelon and roasted chestnuts were saved for dessert.
I stopped by Willi’s Wine Bar, in operation in the 1st arrondissement since 1980, today for lunch. Afterward I fell into conversation with Mark Williamson a.k.a. Willi. He was lamenting the decline of enjoying wine in the political class in France–as evidenced first and foremost by President Sarkozy. He told me in exasperation that a former prime minister was in for lunch yesterday and he didn’t even order wine. Wow. Lunch and no wine, OK, perhaps. But in a wine bar?!?
Mark has a once-a-month sort of blog. Since it’s nearly impossible to find, I’ll post a link here to a recent rant about Sarkozy and a brief overview of the likes and dislikes of other French pols, past and present. My favorite vignette: the last of the hard core Socialist prime minsters, Pierre Mauroy, polished off the official PM’s cellar within a week back in 1981.
We know that President Nicolas Sarkozy doesn’t drink alcohol because he said he is “too busy” (even if we caught him having a glass of Sancerre on the campaign trail). Even Reuters has a story lamenting the fact.
So what are we to make of this video then of a press conference immediately after Sarkozy had a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, also a teetotaler? As the newsreader mentions in his lead, “apparently they only drank water together.”
The question of which wine to serve the Queen is not one that arises in Washington very often. But last night it did at the state dinner for 130 honored guests. The Teetotaler-in-Chief went with an all-domestic–nay, Napatastic!–youthful, line-up (though somehow a “Champagne” dressing appeared on the salad).
Straight from the White House, last night’s menu:
Spring Pea Soup with Fernleaf Lavender
Chive Pizzelle with American Caviar
Newton Chardonnay “Unfiltered” 2004 (find this wine)
Dover Sole Almondine
Roasted Artichokes, Pequillo Peppers and Olives
Saddle of Spring Lamb
Fricassee of Baby Vegetables
Peter Michael “Les Pavots” 2003 (find this wine)
Arugula, Savannah Mustard and Mint Romaine
Champagne Dressing and Trio of Farmhouse Cheeses
Schramsberg Brut Rosé 2004 (find this wine)
While German Chancellor Angela Merkel may get (unwanted) pats on the back from George Bush–literally–will she win plaudits from Jacques Chirac for her wine choice? “Hell yes” seems to be her answer.
As the current chair of both the EU presidency and the G8, Merkel has to set the agenda not only for talks on trade and the EU constitution–but also the wine list for the formal dinners at the summits.
Chirac may be her toughest critic since he was unable to restrain himself when Britain held the EU presidency a few years ago. Referring to the British, he told Vladimir Putin and Gerhard Schröder, “You can’t trust people who cook as badly as that. After Finland, it’s the country with the worst food.”
While trying to keep Chirac from making off-handed remarks in front of open mics may be tough, Merkel had no trouble to find a riesling for the gatherings according to DeutscheWelle (although they fail to mention what it is).
But the red was more of a challenge. She chose a 2003 “Assmannshausen Höllenberg Spätburgunder,” a pinot noir from the Rheingau region to pour at the EU summit in March and the G8 summit in June. The wine’s name literally translates as “Hell’s Mountain,” a reference to the steepness of the vineyard where the grapes grew. And with an a New Worldy 15 percent alcohol, if enough of the dignitaries drink the pinot noir, they may end up “Sideways” before the end of the conference. One hell of a summit, you might say.
Chirac will be on hand in March but his successor will represent France in June . We will be watching for stylistic differences. George Bush, a teetotaler since his 40th birthday, will perhaps stick with the Gerolsteiner.
“Leaders and liters of wine: French presidential contenders 2007” [Dr. V]