Log In / Join Now

Unfiltered: A Toast to the New President, with Actual Wine

Plus, pairing the inaugural wines with a Lincoln-inspired menu, Fred Franzia is denied his get-out-of-jail-free card, a Grand Award winner waives corkage, and a curious merger of wine and car

Posted: January 22, 2009

• Unfiltered was pleased to learn that President Barack Obama elected to serve outstanding wine at the official Inaugural Luncheon this past Tuesday in Washington, D.C. Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2007 was served with a seafood stew, and Goldeneye Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2005 was served with the duck breast and pheasant course. Duckhorn's winemaker, New Zealand native Bill Nancarrow, told Unfiltered that it was very exciting, and some of his friends even caught glimpses of the labels on TV. "They've poured our wines at the White House previously, and they've been poured to heads of state too. But as the momentum built about the inauguration, the emotions built too. It makes this that much more significant," he said. Korbel also made its seventh appearance at a Presidential Inaugural Luncheon—it was served at the 1985, 1989, 1993, 1997, 2001 and 2005 luncheons. That's quite a track record as the sparkling wine of newly sworn-in presidents.

We think Honest Abe would approve, even if he was a Republican.

• There was also a President Abraham Lincoln theme to the inauguration. In addition to swearing in on the same Bible as Lincoln had in 1861, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama chose a menu inspired by that served at Lincoln's inauguration, and the lunch was served on replica china of the design selected by First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. The official painting of the luncheon was Thomas Hill's View of the Yosemite Valley, meant to signify the dawning of a new era as well as Lincoln's signing of the 1864 Yosemite Grant. And the best part is, you can recreate your own Obama Inaugural Luncheon: The recipes for lobster, scallops, shrimp and black cod stew; brace of American birds (pheasant and duck) with sour cherry chutney and molasses sweet potatoes; and apple-cinnamon sponge cake and sweet cream glace are all available through the official inaugural website, and the Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc and Goldeneye Pinot Noir are being sold as a "presidential pair" in a commemorative wooden box through the Duckhorn Wine Company's website.

• Add California wine bad boy Fred Franzia to the list of people disappointed by former President George W. Bush. This past year Franzia was one of a record number of felons to apply for a presidential pardon, along with Conrad Black and Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Franzia, who was convicted of fraud in 1993 for falsifying the grapes used in Bronco Wine Co. bottles, never served actual jail time, but he did have to pay a $500,000 fine and step down as Bronco president for five years. The only problem, 15 years later? His record still states he is a convicted felon, which means he's prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition and can't run for office. Franzia put a bit of elbow grease into the effort, hiring an attorney who used to screen clemency applications and requesting recommendation letters from state representatives to whom he'd donated campaign funds. All to no avail, however. The Justice Department denied his request on Dec. 23.

Not exactly the same setting as the BYOBs we remember from college.

• Unfiltered continues to find flecks of silver lining to the ongoing economic downturn, and one of them is reduced wine prices virtually across the board. Add free corkage at one of the finest restaurants in the world to that list. New York's Alto, recipient of the Wine Spectator Grand Award, the highest honor a restaurant can receive in our annual Dining Guide, has announced that the $60 corkage fee on bottles of wine brought from home is being waived. Of course, common courtesy when it comes to corkage is to call ahead, and not to bring a wine that is already on the restaurant's list, which may be tough considering Alto has more than 2,300 selections. And before you decide to bring in that vertical of Château Haut-Brion you've been squirreling away for a special occasion, note that the corkage waiver only applies to one bottle per table. Unfiltered was all set to bring the biggest bottle in our collection when the hostess informed us, that's one 750ml bottle per table. Nevertheless, cheers to Alto for giving wine lovers one more thing to smile about on these economically rainy days.

Here's hoping the Alfa Romeo spumante only gets your motor running figuratively.

• Auto manufacturer Fiat knows that drinking and driving don't mix. In fact, the company has its own anti-drinking-and-driving webpage devoted to good things that don't go well together, i.e. fine wine and fine autos. Nevertheless, the Turin, Italy-based corporation has revved into an all-Europe distribution of its "fashion" wines. Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo wines are now being sold directly through dealerships all over Europe. The wines are produced by the Scrimaglio family, winemakers and growers in Italy's Piedmont region for more than 100 years. The various offerings include a Fiat Chardonnay, an Alfa Romeo spumante, and "Juventus," named after Fiat's Italian Serie-A soccer team. The Alfa Romeo wines aren't available in the United States, but if you have to be the only one on your block with one of the logo-crested bottles, all it takes is a quick trip to Italy. Of course, you won't be able to drive home with it in the trunk of your new Alfa Mi.To, but that means you can enjoy a bottle on the plane without mixing two great things that go terribly together.

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.