Wine and fudge at the White House

There was a lot of fuss this week about wines to be served at the White House state dinner for Prime Minister David Cameron. There’s been a blackout imposed on wine lists at official functions since President Obama was teased by right-wing bloggers for serving Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, which was selling for more than £300 a bottle. The realities were, (1.) the wine had been selling for just over $100 until the news got out that it was to be served at the White House, and (2.) the White House always buys the wine at the wholesale price. Still, as so often and unfortunately, someone at the White House caved in. Thanks to Eric Levine, founder of CellarTracker, who posted the menu, we now know that wines served included Thibaut-Janisson Brut sparkling wine (from Virginia), Peter Michael Chardonnay (often served when Brits come over, as Sir Peter is British), Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon, and Iron Horse, another sparkler, with dessert. Levine deservedly took credit for the leak, so I assume there won’t be a mole hunt.
       But, still. . . a blackout on what is, after all, legitimate news? Is this an election-year sop to evangelical Tea Party types? The President has a habit of being non-confrontational, but this, really, is chickenfeed. And of course the chatter around the affair is illuminating. Some people decry the American-wine-only policy as provincial (would Sarkozy serve Sonoma Zinfandel?); others complain about the state of the cellar, which amounts to 500 or so bottles, but that’s been the case for years. State dinners are political theater, and the wines served are part of the performance, chosen for the occasion (many years ago, when Queen Elizabeth came to Washington, the White House social secretary discovered she liked “German wines.” At least, that’s what I at Wine Institute was told, and I sent a list of California Rieslings; one was served, and she was happy. That’s how it goes.)
          As for the current flap, I’m suddenly nostalgic. Jimmy Carter –who was very open to wine--would have explained to the puritanical pygmies that wine’s an agricultural product; Ronald Reagan would have dismissed it with a quip; and Bill Clinton would have told them off, probably at length. I can’t see anyone on the top level of politics at the moment capable of doing anything like that any more.

Rioja: Still good news

Tasting at Decanter magazine’s recent Spanish Fine Wine Encounter certainly confirmed the superiority of the 2001 vintage in Rioja (which is, thanks to Rioja’s being under-rated, still available on some restaurant menus and still affordable compared to other older wines), and the elegance of the 2004 vintage.  A masterclass presenting wines from Marques de Murrieta reaffirmed the point, and provided a preview of another winner: 2007 Marques de Murrieta Reserva, which will be released near the end of 2012, is lovely, vibrant and well-structured, really delicious, and one that will be most rewarding to cellar. Well worth looking out for in the autumn. . . Otherwise, there was one disappointment, 2007 Dalmau, an attempt at a “super-Rioja,” blending Tempranillo with (you guessed it) Cabernet Sauvignon,  aged in (you guessed it again, right?) new French oak, quite concentrated, and indistinguishable from many other “international style” wines aimed at the monster-wine crowd. It’s part of what the winery calls “a new era in quality winemaking.”
copyright 2010-2018 by Brian St. Pierre