Barack and Michelle Obama at the White House Ambassador's Reception on July 27, which featured string quartets, great food and bubbly. (Photo via AP)
Barack and Michelle Obama hosted a glittering reception this week for ambassadors to the U.S. from such far-flung places as Libya, Singapore, Chile and Japan. And what kind of bubbly did they serve to this international set? Turns out it was the Russian Cuvée from Iron Horse Vineyards in Sonoma County.
Besides being a fine example of sparkling wine crafted right here in the US of A, the Russian Cuvée has a history in diplomatic circles. It was the wine served at the historic Reagan-Grobachev Summits that helped end the Cold War in the late 1980s. The wine is similar to Iron Horse’s crisp Classic Brut, but the Russian Cuvée has a slightly richer and sweeter finish.
Iron Horse's Russian Cuvée was originally created to be served at the end of the historic Reagan-Gorbachev Summits in the late 1980s. (Photo Courtesy of Iron Horse)
I heartily endorse serving Russian Cuvée – or any great bubbly – with potato chips; it’s a simple and magical combination. But at the White House party they went all out, serving a menu that included Tequila Smoked Salmon on Crisps, Petit Filet Mignon Sandwiches and Leek Tartlets as well as Fruit Cocktails with Whipped Cream and Marshmallows and Blueberry Vanilla Tartlets for dessert, according to a menu posted on the blog Obama Foodarama.
Trying to decide what kind of bubbly to drink with my personal celebration of Barack H. Obama’s inauguration, I was immediately drawn to two American sparkling wines.
Though there’s lots of fizz made in the U.S., there are only two that were founded by cosmopolitan Americans who believed in the potential to create world class sparkling wine in California: Schramsberg and Iron Horse. Both are are family-owned, both wineries are in Northern California and both make fine methode champenoise sparkling wine from chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes. And both have been poured by American presidents on important state occasions.
Iron Horse Vineyards is in Sebastopol in Sonoma County, surrounded by forests and beautiful meadows. Founded by Barry and Audrey Sterling in 1976, it’s headed by their vivavious daughter Joy. The sparkling wines have a very lean and crisp quality reflecting the cool Green Valley climate. Their wines including the Wedding Cuvee and Russian Cuvee have been served by four consecutive presidents since the 80s including at the Reagan-Gorbachev Summit that led to the end of the Cold War.
Schramsberg Vineyards is in Calistoga headquartered in a Victorian home on the top of a wooded hill. Founded in 1965 by Jack and Jamie Davies, the winery makes a range of sparkling wines. Their wines — especially the J. Schram tete de cuvee — offer fruitiness balanced by nutty and toasty flavors often found in vintage champagne. G.W. Bush served Schramsberg Cremant Demi Sec for Mexican President Vicente Fox and Reagan poured their Blanc de Blancs for British PM Margaret Thatcher.
I think Barack Obama strikes me as more of Schramsberg drinker; while the fashionable and adventurous Michele Obama might prefer Iron Horse. We’ll have to wait and see which they’ll choose for upcoming state dinners.