By W. BLAKE GRAY | Posted Thursday, 13-Feb-2014 |

The White House revives tradition of revealing wines on the menu. More than three years after attempting to make the wines served at the White House a state secret, President Barack Obama has resumed the longstanding practice of publishing state dinner wine lists. At Tuesday’s Feb. 11 dinner with French president François Hollande, the White House served three U.S. wines made by French winemakers.
Obama and Hollande toast with a white Bordeaux-style blend from Sonoma

© AFP | Obama and Hollande toast with a white Bordeaux-style blend from Sonoma

The wines were:
NV Thibaut-Janisson Monticello “Blanc de Chardonnay a sparkling wine from Virginia;
2011 Morlet Family Vineyards “La Proportion Dorée a Bordeaux-style white blend from Sonoma County;
2009 Long Shadows Chester-Kidder, a Columbia Valley cabernet sauvignon-syrah blend.

The White House has become price-sensitive since being slammed by Republicans in 2011 for serving 2005 Quilceda Creek Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon to then-Chinese president Hu Jintao at a state dinner.  Many right-wing commenters complained that the Quilceda Creek, which was awarded 100 points by Robert Parker and cost $115 on release, was being sold by some retailers for as much as $399.  The average Wine-Searcher price today is $322 excluding sales tax.

But politically, Obama felt vulnerable and stopped the long-standing practice of releasing the wine pairings for state dinner menus.  This was a disappointment to many wineries because those that are chosen usually frame and proudly display the menu from the occasion.  Without much fanfare, the White House resumed announcing its wines this week; perhaps the mainstream media was distracted by its interest in Hollande’s love life.

CNN reported that « none retail for more than $50 a bottle » although it is difficult to buy the mailing-list-only Morlet white blend for less than $50 on the secondary market — the average price is currently $64 excluding sale tax on Wine-Searcher.
It could be speculated that the lower price of the wines served to Hollande compared with the Chinese state dinner may be a comment on the relative importance of France to the U.S.

However, Gilles Nicault (below), a native of southern France who has made wine in Washington for 20 years, was thrilled when his red wine was chosen to accompany the Presidents’ dry-aged rib eye.

A glass of Champagne is in order for Frenchman Gilles Nicault: his Washington red was served at the White House this week

© Long Shadows | A glass of Champagne is in order for Frenchman Gilles Nicault: his Washington red was served at the White House this week

« That’s a big honor, » said Nicault, the head winemaker for the Long Shadows wines as well as the Chester-Kidder range.
« I will celebrate with a bottle of Champagne. »

The wine received 92 points from Wine Advocate and Nicault told Wine-Searcher: « The cabernet sauvignon gives the structure of the wine, the backbone, while the syrah gives it spicy notes. There’s a lot of intensity and layers of flavor with this wine. »

Meanwhile, Claude Thibault says his Virginia sparkling wine has been served at the White House before, but not always at state dinners. « They don’t necessarily tell me where they’re going to serve the wine. » At this week’s dinner, his wine was served with American Osetra caviar with fingerling potato velouté.

« The sparkling wine I make has much lower acid than Champagne, » he says, because of Virginia’s hot, humid summer nights. «  When it’s very young, you definitely get more of the chardonnay character with the Virginia sparkling (than with Champagne). »

Thibault, a native of Champagne, also made sparkling wine in California and Australia before moving to Virginia in 2003 to make wine at Kluge, which is now Trump Winery. « I didn’t think that Virginia is the best place to make sparkling wine but after I made three vintages I decided to stay here, » he says.

« The location of a vineyard is not everything. In Virginia the weather is very challenging, but I have the advantage to pick early. I only saw one difficult year out of 10, which is not that bad. That’s why we don’t make a vintage every year. »

Morlet’s « La Proportion Dorée » is both the most expensive and most highly rated of the three wines, with 95 points from Robert Parker.  A blend of 65% sémillon, with 33% sauvigon blanc and 2% muscadelle; the name means « the golden ratio, » and is based on Château Haut-Brion’s white blend.

It was served with a salad of mixed radishes, baby carrots and lettuce – with a red wine vinaigrette (the wine in the vinaigrette remains classified.) Winemaker Luc Morlet, originally from Champagne, moved to California in 1996 to marry his wife Jodie. He worked at Newton, Peter Michael and Staglin before starting his own winery in 2006.