Wine Ink: Oregon wines poured at White House
May 2, 2018
The current news cycle is so volatile that it is often difficult to remember what happened yesterday. But just last week, the White House hosted the first State Dinner of the Trump administration for French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte. Remember? The hugs, handshakes and kisses that made all the news? And that was just the two presidents.
Anyway, the folks on Pennsylvania Avenue faced a dilemma very familiar to many of us when we host modest meals for friends. What wines to pour? And as difficult as the decision is in our own houses, it was even more complicated for the White House.
Start with the consideration that POTUS, the Commander in Chief, the host of the dinner, the man who was to make the toast, is a teetotaler. That's right, the man does not drink. Not even wine. In fact, he has claimed that he has never had a drink (October 26, 2017 "…And to this day I've never had a drink, and I have no longing for it."), though there are a plethora of photos that would seem to indicate that that might not necessarily be accurate. In any event, selecting wines for our guests is easier if we know a bit about wines and surely there are plenty of others in the White House who do. Both know and drink.
Next is the obvious question of whether The White House would simply pour wines from the winery that bears the name of the president. Donald Trump purchased a winery in Virginia at a foreclosure auction in 2011 and promptly put his name on it. He has said that he owns it (Aug. 15, 2017… "I own actually one of the largest wineries in the United States, it's in Charlottesville"), but according to a disclaimer on the Trump Winery website (TrumpWinery.com/legal/) that might not necessarily be accurate either.
At the end of a voluminous legal disclaimer, which perhaps Facebook should consider adopting, there is language that says the winery is not owned, managed or affiliated in any way with Donald J. Trump or any of his affiliates. Besides that, it is a bit officious to pour your own wine at a state event, right? I mean, you just wouldn't.
And lest we forget, the White House was tasked with satisfying a pretty sophisticated crowd in this first State Dinner. You would expect the president of France has had the opportunity to taste, and pour, many of the world's finest wines. And a working understanding of both Burgundy and Bordeaux would likely be part of his curriculum vitae. Not to mention that the billionaires invited included Rupert Murdoch, who has a small vineyard in Bel Air, and Bernard Arnault whose LVMH owns Château Cheval Blanc, Château d'Yquem and Dom Pérignon. It was a tough crowd.
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So what to do?
Well, someone got it right. The selections included two wines from Oregon, a Domaine Serene Chardonnay "Evenstad Reserve" 2015, and a Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir "Laurène" 2014, along with a slightly sweet sparkling desert wine from California, the Schramsberg Demi-Sec Crémant 2014. All three were inspired choices. American wines with French ties that fit the bill perfectly.
Domaine Serene and Domaine Drouhin are both located in Dayton in the heart of Oregon's Willamette Valley, a region that is one of the world's best places to grow and make chardonnay and pinot noir. The two varieties are the hallmarks of France's Burgundy region.
Domaine Serene Chardonnay "Evenstad Reserve" 2015, according to a statement from the White House, is "the product of American and French collaboration — a combination of French plants from Dijon that thrive in the volcanic Oregon soil and colder temperatures." In addition, the owners of the winery, Grace and Ken Evenstad, bought a winery in Burgundy, Château de la Crée, in 2015.
As for the pinot noir, Domaine Drouhin was one of the first French-owned wineries to take a stake in Oregon back in 1987. Véronique Boss-Drouhin, a scion of one of France's most esteemed winemaking families, oversees the production of the Oregon wines and the Maison Joseph Drouhin wines in Burgundy.
And the Schramsberg wine, paired with a Nectarine Tart and crème fraîche ice cream, is made with a leading grape called flora (a cross of sémillon and gewürztraminer developed at UC Davis). Various vintages of this wine were served at state dinners and inaugural luncheons hosted by Presidents Reagan, Clinton and Obama. It would seem to please the palates of presidents.
Interestingly, the four top wine states in terms of production, California, Washington, New York and Oregon, were all blue states in the 2016 election. Coincidence? Perhaps.
And maybe, yet another challenge for the White House's wine selection process.
Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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