A Presidential Wine Request

Just the other day I came close to bemoaning the fact that American wine drinkers rarely quaff aged wines. My wife, who reads this blog religiously only because she likes it so much, reported that of late my posts have had a bit of the "bemoan" in them. So I’ve been trying to avoid that style of writing.

So, let’s call this post about Americans aging wine "A request". In fact, let’s call it a "Presidential Request."

I recently learned that the White House does not keep a wine cellar. Nope. There’s no dark room kept at just the right temperature that holds old vintages. It turns out that White House Assistant Usher Daniel Shanks, a former manager of the restaurant at the Napa Valley winery of Domaine Chandon, is charged with procuring wines for each state dinner.

What this means, most likely, is that well aged wines are unlikely to be served at the White House. Instead, they seek out current vintages to serve guests.

But what about when President Bush and the First Lady host a couple of old friends? Wouldn’t it be great if George could turn to the White House waiter and say, "Would you mind bringing us one of those 1991 Chateau Montelena Cabernets I saw the other day?"

Of course, George is not a drinker. But, shouldn’t the First Host be able to dip into the stash when the good friends come over. More importantly, I can’t think of a better venue for preserving consecutive vintages of American wines than at the White House. I couldn’t take up too much room; just a big walk in closet somewhere. In fact, it could be a "Federal Cellar": a collection of wines from every state in the Union. Wouldn’t it be great if when Bush hosts a few Texans he could dig down into the First Cellar and pull out a bottle of 1990 Llano Estacado "Texas High Plains" Cabernet Sauvignon?

Over in Scotland yesterday, Bush shared dinner with the most powerful people in the world. Guess what the President saw them lift to their lips….A 1990 Chateau Climens. I’ll grant you. That wine was probably a bit young. But still, it wasn’t a 2003 vintage.

For the record, the powerful ones dined on Marrbury smoked salmon and roasted langoustines, followed by roast fillet of lamb accompanied by broad beans and peas, aubergine caviar and parmesan polenta. they drank wines from Italy, Germany and California.

Since the Johnson Administration (that’s 1964 to 1968 for those of you who just graduated high school) the White House has only served American wines. This seems a reasonable policy to me. But I just can’t get past the fact that the American wines that are served must be so young. It tells the guests that American wines can’t age. And throughout the world the ability of a wine to age is viewed as one of the requirements of a great wine.

What we need is a president with a background in wine. Of course, had the last election gone differently we may just have had someone who apparently appreciates wine.

Still, we need someone in the White House who can describe the balance, tertiary bouquet and impressive structure of a well aged wine while also winning the war on terror. What’s Randal Grahm of Bonny Doon doing in 2008?

Posted In: Culture and Wine


One Response

  1. Mike Duffy - July 7, 2005

    Great post, Tom. And I’ll admit to being very surprised that the White House doesn’t have a cellar (even just a little 24-bottle wine fridge in the pantry). What does Laura B. serve her friends when they come over to watch reruns of “Sex in the City?”

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