Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Don't be ashamed of good wine, President Obama

Because of criticism over the cost of a wine served at a state dinner to the president of China, President Obama has apparently decided to try to keep secret the wines served at the White House.

This is a terrible idea.

First, it's not going to work. State dinners are not top secret. Now that the right-wing media realizes Obama is sensitive about the issue, the Grudge Report and any other news site with even a modicum of journalistic chops will have the identities of each wine served before the dessert plates are cleared.

Second, and more importantly -- since the wines are going to be outed anyway -- President Obama should not be ashamed of serving some of this country's best wines at state dinners.

It's a boon to our wine industry, for one thing. Wineries all over the West Coast -- and some good ones elsewhere -- proudly display replicas of menus proving their wines were served at the White House to world leaders.

Despite being from California, President Reagan regularly served French wines at the White House: what kind of message did that send? President Clinton adjusted the message to the right one: this country's best wines are second to none.

The right-wing hate machine mocked the fact that our President served the president of China a Quilceda Creek Cabernet, which had a $115 release price, which is about what the White House paid for it. They trumpeted the fact that some resellers were charging $399.

Typical exaggeration: it took me 5 seconds to find it online for $140. But the point is, the White House paid the release price.

Is $115 a bottle too much for a wine that the President of the United States pours for the President of China?

Only in the insular world lived in by people who have never been abroad and have no understanding of other cultures.

This is China we're talking about. Brands matter. Perceptions matter. Quilceda Creek Cab got -- this is a direct quote from Bloomberg -- "a rare 100-point rating from wine critic Robert Parker." Stop laughing about the "rare" thing.

The point is, Quilceda Creek Cab is the PERFECT wine to serve to the president of China at a state dinner. I don't care if it tastes good or not. It's an established luxury brand with a track record of excellence from America's most respected independent critic. It's hard but not impossible to get. It's the right image to project.

You don't serve a nice little second-label Cab to the president of China at a state dinner. At best, it makes the Chinese think we're going broke and maybe they should start calling in our debt. At worst, it's a minor international incident, a snub that takes off in the Chinese press, that might be written about throughout the rest of Obama's presidency.

Moreover, as Bloomberg reports, the selection of Quilceda Creek at this dinner has already been noticed by China's high-end wine market, where US wineries are trying to establish a presence against Bordeaux.

President Obama, you should be proud of this country's best wines. As with so many things, people who are going to criticize you on this issue aren't voting for you anyway.

So share those wine lists. You're the President of the most powerful country in the world. One of the perks is sharing our best wines at formal state dinners. Don't apologize for it.

Follow me on Twitter: @wblakegray and like The Gray Report on Facebook.


Kent Benson said...

Blake, totally agree with your point. Just wondering, though: would you ever refer to any criticism by the left as eminating from a left-wing hate machine?

W. Blake Gray said...

Kent: I fear comment drift here, but I'm going to answer anyway. Maybe I'll regret this.

I spend more time locally mocking the left than the right; it's a function of where I live. But this blog is global/national, so that doesn't often come into play here.

But generally, no, the rigid left's flaws don't include the kind of hate that the rigid right thrives on. Paranoia, sure. But you rarely see left-wing media campaigns against groups of people the way the right goes off on unwed mothers, sexually active teens, immigrants, gay couples, etc.

Also, the rigid left media is 1) far smaller than the rigid right, and 2) has the flaw of the rigid left, unending internal bickering over minor points. Both of these make the word "machine" an overstatement for the left.

The Sediment Blog said...

Not sure how high our Prime Minister's expectations will be on the wine front; with apologies for suggesting a post of our own, here's what happens when you're invited for drinks at 10 Downing Street:

AndrewR said...

Uh, Lafite?

Charlie Olken said...

What happens at the Elysee Palace? Do we think that Sarkozy is serving his guests Cotes Du Rhone Villages?

But, Blake, I think you missed the point of the $399comment. President Obama was supposed to resell the wine at a profit and reduce the deficit. Then go out and buy three cases of Castle Rock.

jo6pac said...

I'm the left and I'm not a fan of 0 but I want the finest wines this country makes to be served at the WH for all dinners. How sad they rolled over on this.

Thanks for the laugh CO

Kent Benson said...

Blake, regarding your response to my comment: since we are friends, I'll simply respond by saying, wow!

W. Blake Gray said...

Charlie: You're right, the White House isn't serving as enough of a profit center. President Romney will fix that.

A little bonus fact for people who read the comments: the White House wine cellar is tiny. There's no room there for keeping wines even throughout one administration, much less for the next President. For each state dinner the White House staff has to buy all the wines needed.

Dapz said...

Does the White House have a permanent chef that organizes the menu in all state dinners as well as a sommelier who chooses the wines or do they vary? I would imagine there would be no bigger honor for a renowned chef or somm than to work in such an occasion.

W. Blake Gray said...

Sure enough, the wines served to British prime minister David Cameron didn't stay secret for 12 hours:

W. Blake Gray said...

Dapz: Yes and yes. If I'm not mistaken -- and I might be -- the Obamas kept, at least at first, the White House chef who had taken the job under the Bushes when her predecessor left. I haven't been following the situation since.

David_T said...

I agree there would be no harm-no foul in posting the list publicly. That being said, here it is:

NV Thibaut-Janisson Virginia Sparkling Wine
2009 Peter Michael Chardonnay Ma Belle-Fille
2008 Leonetti Cab Sauv
2007 Iron Horse Russian River Sparkling Cuvée

Courtesy of Mr Eric Levine of Cellartracker, who was there. His notes from the evening are here: