Inauguration 2013: Wine battle, USA vs. France

In Washington DC they can argue about anything, including wine pairings for the Inauguration. Photo: The Wine Coach

WASHINGTON, January, 17, 2013—On Monday January 21, President Obama will once again be sworn in as President of the United States of America at the 57th Presidential Inauguration.

The menu for the Inauguration Luncheon has been announced, along with the chosen wine pairings and it’s causing a bit of controversy. The wines for the luncheon include a white from the Finger Lakes region of upstate NY, a red from Long Island and a dessert sparkling wine from California that calls its wine Champagne.

The French are upset by the use of their protected term ‘Champagne’ that is supposed to be reserved exclusively  for sparkling wine that is created by wineries in the Champagne region of France. All other bubblies made in the world are supposed to use the term “sparkling wine” not “champagne.” The law here in the U.S. allows some domestic vintners that have been using the term “champagne” since before 2006 to continue to it on the label if the name of the wine includes the origin of the grapes.

While the debate rages on about wine labeling, another curious question arises. With all 50 states making wine, why are only 2 of them, California and New York, represented at the Inauguration?  The menu also includes Hudson Valley Apples, as well as cheese, maple syrup and honey made in New York.  Is it any wonder that New York’s senator, Chuck Schumer, is in charge of the festivities this year?

To settle the French dispute and give some variety to the luncheon, I suggest expanding to 2 pairings for each dish and making this a tasting luncheon where guests vote on their favorite wine for each course. Consider this a sort of wine election where party lines and many other issues will certainly blur. In a blind tasting you don’t know the identity of the wine in the glass. This allows for objectivity (something rarely seen in DC) so that personal bias is taken out of the equation.

To challenge the Tierce dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes is the Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris at almost half the price. Its crisp acidity along with flavors of pear and green apple make it an equally delicious pairing for the lobster. Oregon Pinot Gris is a great value and often underappreciated white in the crowded wine shelves. Pinot Gris is the name we us in the US and France for the same grape that the Italians call Pinot Grigio.

As a secondary pairing for the bison course, I suggest a rival Merlot but one made by an American winemaker, Paul Hobbs, in Argentina.  Vina Cobos is the Argentinean arm of Paul Hobbs’ wine empire that is based in Sonoma, California. The Felino Merlot has a great balance of fruit, acidity and tannin that is sure to give the Bedell Cellars a run for the money.  On a side note, it has been reported that the White House will only serve domestic wines which if true I think is quite sad. Are they only wearing clothes made in America, too?

Lastly, to settle the Champagne riff once and for all, we have a challenger from Moet & Chandon called Nectar Imperial that is a demi sec Champagne.  It has the sweetness to pair beautifully with the Apple Pie but would also be a nice contrast to the aged cheeses. The Nectar Imperial will set you back quite a bit more than the Korbel but it is Champagne in every sense of the word.

While the Inaugural Committee will most likely not add a blind tasting component, you can easily do this at home. All the recipes are found on the Inauguration website and the wines needed are listed below. To search for these wines in your area use

Chances are most of us will never attend an Inaugural Luncheon but we can eat and drink like we did!

First Course:

Steamed Lobster with New England Clam Chowder Sauce

Tierce 2010 Dry Riesling, Finger Lakes, NY $30

Challenger: Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris, Salem, Oregon $16

Second Course:

 Hickory Grilled Bison with Red Potato Horseradish Cake and Wild Huckleberry Reduction

Bedell Cellars, 2009 Merlot, North Fork, Long Island $18

Challenger: Vina Cobos Felino Merlot, Argentina (made by Sonoma winemaker Paul Hobbs) $18

Third Course:

Hudson Valley Apple Pie with Sour Cream Ice Cream, Aged Cheese and Honey

Korbel Natural, Special Inaugural Cuvee Russian River Valley Champagne, California $17

Challenger:  Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial Demi Sec Champagne, France $42

Laurie Forster, The Wine Coach®, is a wine educator, radio show host and author of the award-winning book “The Sipping Point: A Crash Course in Wine.” Her specialty is delivering wine edu-tainment for corporate events, group tastings and team-building seminars. She is also a sought after guest expert on radio shows across the country, including Martha Stewart Radio.

Read more of Laurie’s work at The Sipping Point in the Communities at the Washington Times.

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This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Laurie Forster

Laurie Forster, The Wine Coach® is a wine educator, dynamic speaker and author of the award-winning book The Sipping Point: A Crash Course in Wine. Laurie was not born with a silver corkscrew in her mouth. In fact, growing up Laurie thought wine was pink and came in a box. After several stressful business dinners trying to order off wine lists the size of a phone book, she began educating herself on wine. In 2001 she left the business world to professionally study wine and save others from these awkward moments. Laurie began her wine career in Manhattan where she studied with the American Sommelier Association to earn her certificate in Viticulture and Vinification. She has since earned an Advanced Certificate with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET), completed her first step towards certification with the Court of Master Sommeliers and has trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley. Laurie’s specialty is creating unique corporate keynotes, team building events and group tasting seminars where she can deliver on her mission to demystify wine one glass at a time. She is also a regular contributor to several magazines; a sought after guest expert on TV and radio stations across the country, including Martha Stewart Radio. For more visit:

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