What They’re Drinking in D.C. Today

What They’re Drinking in D.C. TodayIt’s Inauguration Day. The public Inauguration Day, anyway. (A private oath ceremony was scheduled to have taken place yesterday.)

President Barack Obama becomes the 17th American President to be sworn in for a second term. And even though today’s ceremony doesn’t figure to generate nearly as much excitement as Obama’s first inauguration four years ago—a true history-making occasion—don’t count on much getting done in our nation’s capital.

Why? Because at the Inaugural Luncheon that follows the ceremony, there’s going to be a whole lot of wine consumed by members of the President’s Cabinet, Congressional leaders, Supreme Court justices and diplomats.

Talk about a “power lunch.”

If the luncheon follows tradition, it will begin with a toast featuring Korbel’s Natural Champagne, crafted from grapes grown in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley.

This figures to spark criticism from the French, who insist that only wine made in the Champagne region of France may be labeled “Champagne,” but Korbel’s use of the term has been grandfathered in since Korbel has been making “California Champagne” longer than any French person has been alive—130 years.

According to Margie Healy, Korbel’s Vice President of Communications, today marks the eighth Presidential inauguration at which Korbel Champagne has been uncorked. The first was in 1985—the coldest Inauguration Day on record, with a noontime temperature reading of 7 degrees—when President Reagan was sworn in for the second time.

The tradition continued with George Bush’s inauguration in 1989, Bill Clinton’s in 1993 and 1997, George W. Bush’s in 2001 and 2005, and Obama’s first in 2009.

In a break with tradition, the luncheon will include two wines from New York state—thanks to the work of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the man in charge in inaugural festivities.

“This is a major breakthrough for New York wines,” said Jim Trezise, President of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, in a press release, “and we are deeply grateful to Sen. Schumer for providing this opportunity.”

The New York wines to be served—accompanied by New York seafood, bison, apples, cheeses, honey and maple syrup—are the 2010 Tierce Dry Riesling and the 2009 Bedell Merlot.

The Tierce Riesling is the result of a collaboration among three Seneca Lake winemakers: Peter Bell of Fox Run Vineyards, Johannes Reinhardt of Anthony Road Wine Company, and David Whiting of Red Newt Cellars.

Several years ago, the trio decided to combine efforts and craft a cuvee out of their individual lots of Riesling. The question they sought to answer: Would a cuvee be superior to each of their individual Riesling bottlings?

I’m not sure whether “superior” is the best word to describe Tierce, but it’s certainly an exceptional rendition of Riesling, as are the Fox Run, Anthony Road and Red Newt Rieslings that contribute to it.

I’ve not tasted the 2009 Bedell Merlot, but according to the press release, it was “aged for 10 months in older French barrels, creating a complex, soft, elegant wine ideal for accompanying foods.”

Yes, including the foods being served at today’s Inaugural Luncheon.

Here’s hoping the Korbel and Tierce wines help bring our nation’s leaders closer together, eliminating the political gridlock that has been in place for so long. That may be a naïve wish, but it’s certainly one worth toasting.

Finally, a small bit of Inauguration Day trivia: Among all recent U.S. Presidents, Ronald Reagan probably was the most avid wine drinker—which makes perfect sense, considering he made his home in California for so many years.

Reagan reportedly had particular fondness for well-aged reds, which you can read about in this three-decade-old story from People magazine.


Tomorrow: An update on some of the top wine bars in President Obama’s hometown—Chicago.

Posted in Editor's Journal
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