Drink American Bubbly, Just Like the Obamas

The Obamas feted British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife with sparkling wines by Iron Horse and Thibaut-Janisson at a star-studded State Dinner.

There’s not much chance that I’ll ever have a wardrobe as cool as Michele Obama’s, or get to take the trips they do or meet the people that want to rub shoulders with POTUS and FLOTUS.

But, I can drink the same wines the Obamas do. That’s the cool thing about wine and food; it’s aspirational and accessible all at once. I think that’s why we’re all curious to know celebrities and other people who can eat and drink anything are enjoying at special events, like the White House State Dinner for British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Since everybody’s living the vida locavore these days, White House Wine Steward Daniel Shanks makes his selections from among domestic wines. The official wine list wasn’t released by the White House, but according to a report by Jon Bonné in the SF Chronicle’s Inside Scoop, two American sparkling wines were featured at the Cameron dinner.

Both are great methodé champenoise sparkling wines that I’ve tasted before. The NV Thibaut-Janisson Monticello Brut (about $29), crafted in Virginia is a crisp, elegant wine would complement dishes like the halibut in a crisp potato crust. The 2007 Iron Horse Vineyards Green Valley Russian Cuvée (about $38) from Sonoma is a subtly fruitier style that was poured with the steamed lemon pudding dessert.

U.S. Sparkling wines by Iron Horse and Thibaut-Janisson were featured at the White House British state dinner.

Both wines have been served at the White House before and would be equally welcome at your house. Incidentally, Iron Horse has gotten a lot of inside -the-beltway exposure lately. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and visiting Chinese VP Xi Jinping toasted with the 2007 Iron Horse Chinese Cuvée during his visit last month.

Here’s a fun video of the White House chefs preparing for the dinner; it’s narrated by Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford.

The Best Bubbly in the Air

Virgin Atlantic debuted a glamorous champagne coupe as part of their new Upper Class meal service that began March 1.

Last time I flew on Virgin Atlantic, I remember catching a glimpse of the champagne bar in Upper Class as I trudged to the back of the plane. Now there’s even more to envy: Virgin Atlantic’s new meal service offers retro luxe champagne coupes to serve their Champagne Lanson Black Label.

“We’re very much about trying to make a unique experience,” says Sarah McIntyre, a Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman. “People associate glamour with Virgin Atlantic and champagne comes hand in hand with glamour.”

They’re not the only airline flying high with champagne service. Each year, Business Traveller Magazine give their Cellars in the Sky awards to the airlines with the best wine lists. The magazine rates the quality and diversity of wines offered in business and first class flights.

When the 2011 awards were announced last month, Qantas Airlines’ wine list took the most awards, including best First Class Sparkling – and why not when they’re pouring 1999 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne?

Wines served by Cathay Pacific like the 2008 Vincent Girardin Puligny Montrachet Vielles Vignes were ranked highly. And Brazilian carrier TAM’s 2012 wine list turned heads with pours like Champagne Drappier La Grande Sendrée in first class and Drappier Carte d’Or in business class. And airline sommelier Arthur Azevedo has trained flight crew in matching wines with foods too. Maybe someday they’ll pour some Brazilian bubbly on flights.

The magazine rated 250 wines that were entered into the competition by 53 international airlines.

Experience the Magic of Pigs & Pinot with Chef Charlie Palmer

Chef Charlie Palmer is hosting a series of events celebrating pinot noir and pork during March at Hotel Healdsburg.

Don’t you love the way some combinations of food and drinks are just perfect together? Milk just begs for cookies, pizza needs beer, and according to celebrity Chef Charlie Palmer, pig likes pinot noir. He should know.

His Pigs & Pinot benefit that started seven years ago as a fun way for Sonoma food lovers and Pinot makers to come together to raise money for charity has become the hottest ticket in Healdsburg. Tickets for the March 23-24 event at Hotel Healdsburg sold out in about five minutes.

But don’t despair. Dry Creek Kitchen is hosting a series of events this month that celebrate the wonderful flavors in both pork and pinot noir. Chef Valette is creating a three-course Sonoma Neighbor Dinner Menu of some of his best por dishes for $36; it’s $51 paired with two wines. Sommelier Drew Munro has added more international pinot noirs to the wine list, and can help pair them with a la carte pork dishes that will be featured during March.

The little benefit became big news when contestants on Top Chef: Las Vegas were challenged to create pinot-loving pork dishes.

“We got about 5,000 email sign-ups on the website and the tickets sold out in 3 minutes,” says Circe Sher. Her family owns the Hotel Healdsburg, where Palmer has his Dry Creek Kitchen restaurant.

On a recent bright and cool Thursday, I drove up to Healdsburg for a Pigs & Pinot preview event. A group of us gathered in the sun room off the main lobby, where we sipped and nibbled on Chef Dustin Valette’s housemade charcuterie and sipped Cuvée Aureole by Iron Horse before a Pigs & Pinot preview tasting.

Winemaker Daryl Groom led us through a competitive blind tasting of 16 of the pinot noirs competing in the Pigs & Pinot judging. Some were elegantly earthy and floral, others were bold and so big they tasted more like syrah.

After choosing a winner, we sat down to a delicious luncheon that starred a roasted porcini velouté (that’s a velvety soup to the rest of us) with crispy coppa ham that sang with the earthy 2008 Soter Mineral Springs Pinot Noir from Oregon. The juicy pork tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto and daubed with violet mustard was well-suited by both the 2009 Rochioli Three Corner Pinot Noir and the jammy 2009 Kosta Browne Kanzler Vineyard Pinot.

To make reservations for your own pork and pinot experience at Dry Creek Kitchen, call 707.431.0330.