Today, President Barack Obama was sworn into office, and wine lovers across the country are excited that a wine drinker is back in the White House for the first time in eight years. While the president's drinking habits are perhaps the last thing we considered when casting our ballots, his first term comes as more and more Americans are drinking wine, and the country's drinking habits will no doubt evolve over the next four years. And while Pres. Obama's affinity for fine wine was not a significant political issue, he cruised to the Oval Office on the support of 20 of the top 25 wine-consuming states. Some of Wine Spectator's senior editors have also made Obama and his inauguration the subject of recent blogs, including James Laube's chance encounter with the former Sen. Obama, Harvey Steiman's plan to toast a new era and James Suckling's American pride. This Thursday we'll offer more Inauguration Day coverage with our regularly scheduled Unfiltered column, but for now, here are all the Unfiltered items from the past year that featured the new Commander in Chief.
• One thing a new U.S. President never lacks is advice. While Barack Obama has received mostly positive marks for his cabinet hires so far, a grassroots campaign of foodies is trying to influence his pick for Secretary of Agriculture. This past week, a group sent Obama a letter calling for the next secretary to be focused on sustainable farming and healthy food. (Historically, the Department of Agriculture has tended to focus on industrial agriculture and big commodity crops such as corn, wheat and rice.) Signed by notables like author Michael Pollan, rancher Bill Niman and chefs Rick Bayless, Dan Barber and Alice Waters, the letter reads, "From rising childhood and adult obesity to issues of food safety, global warming and air and water pollution, we believe our next Secretary of Agriculture must have a vision that calls for: recreating regional food systems, supporting the growth of humane, natural and organic farms, and protecting the environment, biodiversity and the health of our children while implementing policies that place conservation, soil health, animal welfare and workers' rights as well as sustainable renewable energy near the top of their agenda." (Waters sent a separate letter to Obama, offering to help plant an organic, sustainable kitchen garden on the White House lawn.) Supporters of the campaign can sign the letter at fooddemocracynow.org.
Posted: Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008
• The presidential election is over, and President-Elect Barack Obama is busy interviewing potential cabinet members, but political experts will spend the next four years analyzing the election returns. A popular technique among political consultants in the past two races is microtargeting—looking for likely supporters by analyzing what they eat, what cars they drive, where they shop, even what magazines they subscribe to. But one factor they may want to be looking at is, which voters drink wine? Unfiltered's crack election team has crunched the numbers, and it's clear that states that like wine voted for Obama in overwhelming numbers. Nine of the top 10 wine-consuming states voted for Obama—only Texas broke rank and voted for Sen. John McCain. Looking further down the list, 20 of the top 25 wine-consuming states went for the President-to-be. In fact, the District of Columbia and the 28 states that voted for Obama drank 79.7 percent of the 300 million cases of wine consumed in the U.S. in 2007. (Wine consumption numbers by state come from the recently-released The U.S. Wine Market: Impact Databank Review and Forecast, 2008 edition, published by Wine Spectator's parent company.)
Posted: Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008
• As for the incoming President's wine-and-food tastes, Unfiltered has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to find out what Obama keeps in the 1,000-bottle wine cellar in his Hyde Park, Chicago, home. We do know he likes several popular Chicago restaurants, including chef Rick Bayless' upscale Mexican eatery Topolobampo—the staff told reporters that the President-Elect enjoys both wine and margaritas. Obama and his wife, Michelle, celebrated his victory the weekend after the election at Spiaggia, an Italian Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner. Obama has told reporters his favorite food to cook at home is chili. And when he visits his childhood home state of Hawaii, he opts for local comfort food, grabbing the plate lunch at Rainbow Drive-In in Honolulu.
Posted: Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008
• What Unfiltered lacks in political savvy, it makes up for in wine expertise. And while we don't necessarily recommend choosing our next president based on sight, aroma or body, we appreciate the pre-election poll at Washington, D.C.'s Oya Restaurant & Lounge for getting wine involved in the political process. In June, the restaurant launched its "Road to the Wine House" list, which pits wines from Barack Obama's and John McCain's home states, respectively (three from Illinois and five from Arizona), against each other in a political showdown of the libationary kind. According to sommelier Andrew Stover, the current bellwether bottle is 2004 Dos Cabezas "DC Red" from Cochise County in southeastern Arizona, whose sales lead the Illinois 2007 Lynfred Winery Seyval Blanc by about a case. "The DC Red is complex with smoky cherry and spice flavors, and it's a little dusty—kind of like McCain," he joked. In third place right now is New York state's 2005 Brooklyn Oenology Chardonnay from the North Fork, leftover from when Sen. Hillary Clinton was still a presidential contender. "We call it our little Hillary wine," he said, "Because it just won't go away."
Posted: Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008
• If last night's election results are any indication, Sen. Barack Obama controls the urban wine-drinker vote, while Sen. Hillary Clinton is strongest among the beer-drinking crowd. But both candidates are known to indulge in the occasional glass of wine as well as a frosty mug of beer. On "Hill Force One" recently, Clinton was photographed sipping a glass of red wine while speaking to reporters about her favorite beer (Blue Moon with a lemon wedge). Obama, on the other hand, has a 1,000-bottle wine cellar in his home on Chicago's South Side. At an Obama campaign rally last year, one of his supporters provided white Zinfandel with an Obama logo on it, and at another fund-raiser in San Francisco, boutique beers were served with Obama's face on the label. If there's no clear swing in the delegate count anytime soon, we've come up with an easy way to settle it: Whoever scores higher on our wine quiz gets the nomination.
Posted: Wednesday, March 05, 2008
• From the department of "Yes he can [cook]!" Presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., famously disparaged baking cookies and hosting tea parties while on the campaign trail for her husband in the early 1990s, but her current Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., seems to have taken the opposite approach: He's lent his name—and his words—to a cookbook aimed specifically at men. Real Men Cook, published in 2006 by Fireside, is a collection of recipes gathered from participants in a multicity charity event of the same name, founded by Karega Kofi Moyo, who also authored the book. Those hoping for some special Obama family recipes might be disappointed, however. Despite the prominence of his name on the front cover, the senator's contribution to the book is limited to a one-page foreword in which he praises the Real Men Cook organization, using phrases like, "There is a unity of purpose and a common joy that touches each one of us." Wait, didn't that come from a Texas or Ohio stump speech?
Posted: Wednesday, Feb 27, 2008
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