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Summit Wines for Xi and Obama

Plus, an American at Cambridge takes the Bordeaux Cup, and Burgundy's François Lamarche dies at 68

Posted: June 20, 2013

• The government may be watching you more closely than ever, but have no fear, dear reader—Unfiltered is watching the watchmen right back. At least, we're keeping an eye on what they're drinking, despite their best efforts to keep Pres. Barack Obama's most-favored wine pairings a state secret. Our Commander in Chief recently hosted a summit with Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and Unfiltered's wine spies have reported back with all the juice details. At the June 7 dinner prepared by chef Bobby Flay in honor of Xi, Iron Horse 2004 Year of the Snake Chinese Cuvée was served with the first course, New Mexico lobster tamales with roasted corn sauce and green chiles. A porterhouse steak with new potatoes and Napa goat cheese followed, paired with Ridge Geyserville Sonoma County, a Zinfandel-based blend. Dessert was a California cherry pie with Kentucky Bourbon, vanilla and mint ice cream. This was not the first time Xi was treated to the Year of the Snake cuvée (Xi, who turned 60 this past Saturday, was born in a wood snake year on the Chinese calendar); Iron Horse was also served at a Valentine's Day White House lunch for Xi hosted by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice Pres. Joe Biden. Also on hand during the two-day summit was Moone-Tsai Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2008. "As a winery proprietor and an American of Chinese descent, we are especially proud to have our wines enjoyed during the historic occasion of the presidential summit," said Larry Tsai in a press release.

• In two short years, the Left Bank Bordeaux Cup has gone from the equivalent of a JV scrimmage to the NCAA championship of wine competitions. The Commanderie du Bontemps de Médoc, des Graves, de Sauternes et de Barsac opened the showdown to schools outside the U.K. and France in 2011, and this year brought 43 teams of college and grad-school wine aces to preliminary rounds in New York (Unfiltered was on it), Hong Kong, Shanghai, London and Paris. This past Friday, the top eight faced off in the heart of the beast, the cellar of Château Lafite itself, where they answered a set of quiz questions and dueled over palate prowess. Some might think that a competition in which you'd be asked to name which property—Château de Pez, Ormes de Pez or Haut-Marbuzet—was owned by the Gasqueton family in 1855 (Ormes de Pez, of course), or to blindly identify a glass of Château Belgrave 2004, might take a bit of the carefree bliss out of wine, but rest assured that the contest was just a capstone on four days of drinking and dining at Latour, Lafite, Montrose, Smith-Haut-Lafitte, Phélan Ségur, Yquem, Guiraud and others. Unfiltered asked David Beall, of the victorious Cambridge University team, for some highlights. "The competition at Château Lafite is really something special," Beall said. "It's so jovial there. There's such an atmosphere of celebration, the Dionysian aspect of enjoying wine. All the teams have to sing a song [at the dinner following the match], there's cheering, it's a really vivacious event." But he added that picking a single highlight was made admirably difficult by the Bordelais. "I've been telling people that the last four or five days have been some of the most amazing of my life." Despite his university allegiance, Beall still makes America proud, in more ways than one: He's a major in the U.S. Army, with two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan under his belt (he studied International Relations at Cambridge). "I'll be the first Master Sommelier on active duty maybe someday, a paratrooper Master Sommelier," Beall joked. Repping the U.S. schools, Wharton, in their third appearance at the finals, placed second, with Yale Law coming in fifth.

Burgundy winemaker François Lamarche, who elevated the reputation of his family’s 200-year-old eponymous estate in Vosne-Romanée, died June 18. He was 68 years old. Of the 28 acres of vines owned by Domaine François Lamarche, the jewel of the estate is La Grand Rue, a 4-acre property situated directly between the famed vineyards of Romanée-Conti and La Tâche. Despite the prestige of its neighboring terroirs, Lamarche’s father, Henri, declined to apply for grand cru status upon the introduction of the AOC system in the 1930s. The domaine’s wines fell into critical disfavor during Henri’s latter years at the helm. It was François, assuming leadership of the domaine following his father’s death in 1985, who restored the estate’s reputation: By reducing yields and redoubling his vineyard management efforts, Lamarche greatly improved the quality of his wines, and he successfully applied for grand cru status in 1992. In 2008, Lamarche entrusted his daughter Nicole with winemaking responsibilities for the estate and his niece Nathalie with the domaine’s administration. “François was a very reserved man with a big sense of humor,” recalled his friend and broker Jeanne Marie de Champs, president of Domaines et Saveurs Collection. “He was not a huge communication guy, but he was very dedicated to his domaine, working in the spirit of his father, Henri.” Lamarche suffered a heart attack while mowing the grass on his property in Bresse. He is survived by his wife, Marie-Blanche, his daughter, Nicole, and his grandsons Gabriel and Christian.

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