Trump – Macron state dinner wines

Last night’s state dinner in honor of French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte was the first of Donald Trump’s term. Would the current occupant of the White House shatter wine protocols at state dinners? Would the teetotaler whose name adorns a Virginia winery serve his own wine?

The White House has a tradition of serving only American wines at state dinners. This president was not going to put waves in that particular chardonnay glass–MAGA and all that. The menu included a chardonnay and a pinot noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the white from Domaine Serene and the red from Domaine Drouhin. The focus on Oregon is apt since it is an area that has attracted many French winemakers and makes many wines in a Burgundian style. The Drouhin family was the first French family to buy vineyard land in Oregon back in 1987. And perhaps because the White House Events usher who selects the wine likes symmetry, he put Domaine Serene on the menu as the family behind it bought a property in Burgundy in 2015.

The official announcement of the menu had some interesting verbiage, noting the vines at Domaine Serene were “a combination of French plants from Dijon.” The statement continues that the wine was “aged in 40 percent French oak barrels for more than 12 months”–what of the remaining 60%? The Domaine Serene site clarifies that the wine was aged in 40% *new* French oak barrels. That makes more sense. On the Domaine Drouhin “Laurène,” the state dinner site says that the wine was “fermented in French Oak barrels.” (Can you believe they found two wines made in America that were aged in French oak? :P) By contrast, the Domaine Drouhin site says that the wine was first “fermented with indigenous yeasts, and then placed into barrels (French oak, never more than 20% new).” Details!

The White House Events usher also has a predilection for pairing off-dry sparking wine with ice cream. So he subjected the diners to an off-dry sparkling wine with dessert. Hopefully, someone can have a summit with him to lay down all off-dry sparklers with dessert!

Also, check out how Trump is holding his wine glass–eegad, someone alert Robert Mueller of this wine crime!

Full menu after the jump.
Also, check out this video of Emmanuel Macron’s wine tasting skills in action.

Full Menu:
First Course:
Goat Cheese Gateau
Tomato Jam
Buttermilk Biscuit Crumbles
Young Variegated Lettuces
Domaine Serene Chardonnay “Evenstad Reserve” 2015 (find this wine)

Main Course:
Rack of Spring Lamb
Burnt Cipollini Soubise
Carolina Gold Rice Jambalaya
Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir “Laurène” 2014 (find this wine)

Nectarine Tart
Crème Fraîche Ice Cream
Schramsberg Demi-Sec “Crémant” (find this wine)

Full “leaders and liters of wine” coverage

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Vote Emmanuel Macron! A blind tasting

The French presidential election is heating up. Polls show Emmanuel Macron defeating Marine Le Pen in the decisive second round on May 7 by 62-38 (yes, polls have been deceiving ahead of recent elections but this is a big margin).

We are single-issue voters around here and that issue is wine! Actually, that’s not true but we will roll with it. Recent French presidents have hovered at or near zero when it comes to passion for wine. Jacques Chirac’s tipple of choice was reportedly Corona. Nicolas Sarkozy famously didn’t even like wine. Current president Francois Hollande sell off a chunk of the presidential wine cellar–but he also canceled a lunch with the Iranian president after the guest insisted no wine be served.

Macron, a former minister of Finance who is a mere 39 years old, exhibits some wine savvy. Although he was raised in Picardy, not a region known for wine growing, he says that his grandparents told him that red wine was “guilt-free” since it is an antioxidant.

The journalists from Terre de Vins and Sud-Ouest conducted a wide-ranging interview about wine. Among other things, Macron admitted that a meal without wine would be “a little bit sad because wine is a part of the French table…our civilization.” He even talks about the pleasure of food-wine pairings! It may not seem like it since you’d expect all French presidents to support wine. But these are kind of fighting words right now as the rate of wine consumption has been in decline and the health crowd that takes a dim view of wine has been ascendant in policy circles.

Macron then submitted himself to a blind tasting with the journalists! (Video above) Can you imagine a leading presidential candidate doing that here? Usually they run away from it, heading toward beer, if anything. And a blind tasting? That’s high-risk stuff for anyone!

But Macron comports himself amazingly well, showing a breadth of knowledge (even though he did offer that the likes Miraval rosé, which comes from the estate of erstwhile Brangelina) as well as taste preferences (says he doesn’t like high-acid whites). He correctly guessed both a Bordeaux blanc and a Coteaux de Provence by region, and even the red he guessed as a Bordeaux but was off by a few appellation (trust me, it’s easy to make mistakes…). I’m sure he will pour some fun wines at the Elysée Palace over the next five years.

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State dinner wines for the Nordics!

Tonight at the White House, President and Michelle Obama will welcome not one Nordic leader–but all five! What will they be drinking out of horned helmets in the viking style? Actually, it will be out of crystal glasses but we have the deets for you on the Nordic state dinner wines.

The dinner will honor leaders from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland. The weighty item of the summit is how to address an increasingly aggressive Russia ahead of a NATO summit in July. But on menu tonight will be an American cuisine with a Nordic twist: the dinner will be outside in a tent with a clear top to evoke the Northern Lights and in honor of new Nordic cuisine, guests will forage food on the White House grounds and gather their own root vegetables and ramps to bring back to the table. Ha! That would be awesome but they won’t be doing the foraging themselves. Instead, local radishes will be served on pieces of wood from the back yard. There will also be chicken and waffles. The full menu follows below. See this piece from WaPo for a discussion of the menu. (And check out the episode on Magnus Nilsson from Netflix’s “A Chef’s Table” or David Chang’s The Mind of a Chef with Noma’s Rene Redzepi if you want to see the new Nordic cuisine in action.)

The wines include the Trisaetum Dry Riesling “Estates” 2014 from Oregon to start with Ahi tuna (about $38; find this wine at retail). Then guests will have the Grgich Hills Fume Blanc “Estate” 2013 with a vegetable dish (about $25; find this wine at retail). And the braised short ribs will come with a red blend (mostly merlot) from the newish Virginia winery, RdV and their “second wine” the largely sold-out “Rendezvous” 2010 (about $75; find this wine at retail).

While this lineup wins points for diversity (No chardonnay! Three states!), serving a wooded Sauvignon Blanc does make us pine for a some wikileaks from White House usher responsible for wine selections. Ah well, the Nordics are too gracious to say anything–and the prices paid will seem like bargains for anything from their wine monopoly stores.

State dinner wines for the Nordics!

Chicken and Waffles

Duroc Pork Belly with Granny Smith Apple Salad

Venison Tartare with Truffle Vinaigrette

Deviled Eggs with Ossetra Caviar

Langoustine Roll with Spiced Beets

Aquavit Seafood Cocktail

Baby Radish with Vermont Butter and Maldon Salt


Salt-Cured Ahi Tuna with Pickled Young Radish and Watermelon Juniper Granite
Paired with Trisaetum Dry Riesling “Estates” 2014 (about $38; find this wine at retail)

Tomato Tartare with Cardamom Yogurt, Micro Lettuce and a Citrus Vinaigrette
Paired with Grgich Hills Fume Blanc “Estate” 2013 (abbout $25; find this wine at retail)

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs with Hot Kale Salad and Thyme Dumplings
Paired with RdV “Rendezvous” 2010 (about $75; find this wine at retail)


Caramel Almond Mille-Feuille with Vanilla Bean Chantilly and Lingonberry Cream

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State dinner wines for Justin Trudeau


I had fun the other day when a new channel from Canada called. The reporter asked me which wines I would serve for tomorrow’s state dinner at the White House in honor of PM Justin Trudeau, the first state visit of a Canadian prime minister in 20 years.

Without knowing the menu, I recorded a quick video hit about my selections, playing fictional sommelier for a day. Since the piece may not make it online, here were my selections (BREAKING: the official wines chosen for the dinner have now been released and they follow below):

Because Justin Trudeau is young (for a PM), hipster PM, it’s a great time for the White House to highlight some younger wineries or hipper wines. The White House usher who presides over the selections, Daniel Shanks, is quite conservative in his picks, often squandering a chance to do something different, as I have pointed out previously. Now is the chance to be bold and do something different! To that end, and within the parameters of only serving domestic wines at the White House, and recognizing blowback about serving expensive wines that happened once before, I chose to have no Chardonnay or Cabernet. Forging new ground!

Here are my picks:

Ravines, “Argetsinger” vineyard, Riesling, 2013. (find this wine)
Riesling from the Finger Lakes has been getting better and better. It’s a limestone’s throw from Canada and would show respect to their own cooler climate wines. And this wine, the only one made from the steeply sloping Argetsinger vineyard, is impressive. And at $30, it’s not budget busting either so the Department of Defense will still have money left over for $1,000 screw drivers.

Sandhi, Sandford & Benedict Pinot noir 2013 (find this wine)
Santa Barbara has been hopping lately. So why not celebrate that by selecting a newish wine from the region doing a great job? Raj Parr, born in Calcutta and now a US citizen, is a partner in this winery. Given Trudeau’s welcoming stance to Syrian refugees and immigrants more generally, it seemed only appropriate to honor the vinous contributions of a first-generation immigrant here. The wine is beautifully structured and could do with some more aging but they will have to suffice with a decant at the State Dinner. Also, these vines were planted in 1971, Trudeau’s birth year.

Copain, Syrah, Brosseau Vineyard, 2012 (find this wine)
This restrained, elegant syrah would do well at any dinner—state dinners included. Justin Trudeau had his own transformation from snow border and boxer to politician and prime minister. Wells Guthrie, wine maker and partner at Copain, had his own transformation, shifting from making big ass syrah to the current style that is more akin to the Northern Rhone. And the winery name is French, one of Canada’s official languages. And it means “friend,” something we will all need in Canada if Trump is elected!

***Oops, I guess there’s supposed to be a sparkling wine. How about one from Under the Wire or Ultramarine?

Which wines would you choose?

The official wines will be:
Pence Chardonnay “Sebastiano” 2013 (find this wine)
Cliff Lede “High Fidelity” 2012 (find this wine)
Chateau Chantal, Ice Wine, 2013 (find this wine)



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Trump winery: it’s yuuuge!


Last night after winning the Michigan primary, Donald Trump gave a press conference more worthy of QVC than C-SPAN: he had on display a variety of his Trump-branded products, including Trump steaks (free ginsu knife set?) to Trump Water and Trump Wine.

At one point, Trump, an avowed teetotaler, launched into a discussion about Trump Wine saying that it was the biggest winery in the East coast! And one of the biggest in America! Somehow, he stopped short of exclaiming that it’s yuuuuge, but, as we all know, when it comes to bank accounts, hands, and polls, size matters with this fellow.

Let’s fact check this! Trump bought Kluge Estate Winery and 776 acres of adjoining land near Charlottesville in 2011. At the time, twitterati derieded this wondering if he would rename the wine “comb-over cuvée.” He then commented on the acquisition: “I’m really interested in good real estate, not so much in wine. This place had a $28 million mortgage on it, and I bought it for $6.2 million. It’s a Trump deal!”

On the winery web site, they state that the estate today has 1,300 acres with 200 acres of vines planted to vinifera. The winery is 50,000 sf with 100,000 gallon tank capacity. the site size nothing about relative size but modestly states that they are proud to be among the 260 wineries in Virginia today. And hidden under the “Legal” tab, there’s this nugget: “Trump Winery is a registered trade name of Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing LLC, which is not owned, managed or affiliated with Donald J. Trump, The Trump Organization or any of their affiliates.” Oops.

To say that it’s the largest winery on the East Coast is a bit like being the tallest in Lilliput: California makes 89% of American wine and some vineyards there, such as Fred Franzias, have tens of thousands of acres of vines planted.

And from a tourism perspective who would ever want to vineyard because it is the biggest? If that were the case, Modesto would be the epicenter of wine tourism, rather than places like Napa. Try googling “biggest vineyard in Finger Lakes” and you’ll see how wine people don’t care as much about size since the results are for the best wineries to visit. But for a real estate developer who doesn’t drink wine, I guess you can see how quantity is more important than quality.

What do your stats tell you–does this claim hold up? Have you tried the wine? I see they have a “fortified chardonnay…”

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Winston Churchill spent $150k a year on wine

Winston Churchill spent $150k a year on wine

We all knew that Winston Churchill had alcohol in his veins for a good part of his life, but how much did all that grog cost?

The Economist reviews a couple of new biographies about Churchill, one of which looks at his finances. (No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money. By David Lough.) Although he was born into an aristocratic family, he didn’t have lots of money. but he knew how to spend it on Cuban cigars, polo ponies and Champagne. One vinous tidbit that emerges from the balance sheet analysis: they write that between 1908 and 1914 (his early years in politics) “the Churchill household spent an average of £1,160 on wine alone each year—£104,400 ($145,000) in today’s money.” Gives me a hangover just thinking about it!

Churchill also had some other memorable quotes about wine. In the War, he said, “Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne.”

“Champagne should be cold, dry, and free,” he said at another time.

And, finally, he is renowned for a few zingers, including this:

“Dinner would have been splendid…if the wine had been as cold as the soup, the beef as rare as the service, the brandy as old as the fish, and the maid as willing as the Duchess.”

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State dinner wines for President Xi

state_dinner_wine_china2Tomorrow night, President and Mrs. Obama will host President Xi Jinping of China for a State Dinner at the White House. And we have been able to procure the menu for the “Autumn feast”–with the wine pairings!

The White House has a tradition of serving only American wines. This policy has been in place since the 1960s, though “Tricky Dick” Nixon was known to pour American wines for guests, while he had Chateau Margaux served to him from a bottle wrapped in a white cloth napkin.

Thus it seems odd that the first wine on the menu tomorrow night is listed as “Shaoxing wine.” Shaoxing wine is a traditional Chinese wine fermented from rice. While no vintage or producer is listed on the menu, one is left to assume that this is, in fact, a wine…from China! Is this a break from the tradition of serving only American wines? It turns out: no. A query to a White House staffer clarified that the rice wine from China is in fact only an *ingredient* in the soup and will not be served qua wine.

Even if it were served , it’s not necessarily a bad thing to pour a wine from the guest of honor’s country. In fact, it can be respectful to show the honored (American) guests to the country’s wines. But I’m fine with the all-American approach too. Earlier this year, there was a sake toast (after the domestic sparkler) for Japan’s PM Abe.

The last state dinner for a Chinese president, the White House served

a back-vintage wine that fetched about $400 a bottle (though that’s not what they paid) and got pilloried for the cost. The white and the red at this dinner are the Penner-Ash Viogner from Oregon clocking in at $23 (find this wine at retail) and the Pride Mountain Merlot “Vintner select” hitting the register for $80 a bottle (find this wine at retail). These will pair with Maine lobster and Colorado lamb.

The final wine, used for the toast, will be the Schramsberg Crémant Demi-Sec 2011 (find this wine at retail). Even though they have been poured over 100 times at the White House, having a Schramsberg nonetheless hearkens back to Nixon’s 1972 “toast to peace” with Zhou En-Lai. But…the wine served tomorrow is a sweet demi-sec rather than a blanc de blanc, continuing the undiplomatic predilection of the White House usher for serving off-dry sparkling wines at state dinners.

The wines are selected by the White House usher, Daniel Shanks who has served three presidents. Anita Lo, the chef owner of Annisa in NYC, will be in the kitchens for this the ninth state dinner under Obama.

State dinner wines for President Xi

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Leaders and liters: Putin and Berlusconi uncork trouble

Today’s installment of “Leaders and Liters,” our series on world leaders and the wines they drink, features an unusual figure: Vladimir Putin, purported teetotaler. His partner in what seems like a buddy flick was none other than Silvio Berlusconi who is certainly no teetotaler, instead known for his bunga bunga parties.

Vlad and Silvio met up in the Crimea late last week and, among other sites, they toured the Massandra winery, which apparently houses a formidable collection of old bottles. After the cellar tour, Berlusconi asked the pro-Russian winery director if they could taste. The winery director then uncorked a 1775 sherry from Jerez de la Frontera, brought to the winery under the reign of Catherine the Great by Count Mikhail Vorontsov, a “wine-loving count served as governor-general of Crimea for more than two decades in the early 19th century.” Wine geeks might say, after the tour, they hit the sack together!

The winery director now faces prosecution. “This is one of the five bottles that constitute not only Massandra’s or Crimea’s heritage, but the heritage of all Ukrainian people,” the prosecutor was quoted as saying. He valued it at $90,000. But since Crimea is no longer part of Ukraine, it will be difficult to prosecute. Ukraine has also banned Berlusconi for three years.

In other news, a bottle from the 1891 vintage also went missing that day. Berlusconi was seen on Russian TV asking if he could try a bottle…Video after the jump.

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State dinner wines: a lucky 8 for Shinzo Abe?

There was a state dinner last night at the White House–the eighth for the Obamas–in honor of visiting Japanese PM Shinzo Abe. About 200 people attended, new china was revealed (above), and “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto was in da haus. Recall that Obama and PM Abe ate at the counter of sushi master Jiro Ono last year, so they clearly like good food.

But what vin-quiring minds want to know is…what were the wines? Would this be a lucky 8 for PM Abe given the lackluster wines the White House wine steward served previously?

The full menu is reproduced below so you can see the wines with the various course. The headline is that the head of the Sonoma Marketing Board (is there such a thing?) must be grinning like a cheshire cat since it was an all-Sonoma lineup. A vinous grand slam (or wait, with three wines, would that only be a triple?). First up was 2013 Ryo-fu Chardonnay from Ken and Akiko Freeman, followed by the 2010 Morlet Family Vineyards “Joli Coeur,” a pinot noir from the Sonoma Coast, and finally, the 2007 Iron Horse “Russian River Cuvee.”

While Sonoma is a wonderful place, It’s not clear what was driving Daniel Shanks, the White House Usher, in featuring the all-Sonoma lineup: there are other great places making wine in America. I personally would have included a domestic dry riesling as a white because there are some good ones now; they are also spring-y and pair well with Asian foods. And Luc Morlet, wow, one of his wines hasn’t been featured since…oh, last year’s dinner for Francois Hollande. Again, same comments as Sonoma: there are a lot of great pinot noirs being made in the US, so why the repetition, Mr. Shanks? And Iron Horse is frequently served (btw, this specific wine is not on their web site so it could be a sweet sparkling wine, which Shanks has served previously).

The champagne toast was replaced by a sake toast. Full menu follows below:

Toro Tartare and Caesar Sashimi Salad
Smoked Salmon – Grilled Chicken – Koji
Vegetable Consommé En Croute and Shikai Maki
Bamboo Shoots – Wailea Hearts of Palm – Pineapple
Tempura Cured Ham
Freeman Chardonnay “Ryo-fu” 2013

American Wagyu Beef Tenderloin
Spring Vegetables – Maui Onion Veal Jus
Morlet Pinot Noir “Joli Coeur” 2010

Silken Custard Cake
Kuromitsu Sauce – Fresh Fruit – Abekawa Mocha

A Sip of Tea
Matcha Strawberry Square – Sencha Tea Cup
Tea and lemon Cakes – Sweet Tea Chocolates
Iron Horse “Russian River Cuvee” 2007

Previous state dinner coverage

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