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Pop Culture

Drink American Bubbly, Just Like the Obamas

March 15, 2012

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.

Celebrities & Champagne

I’m Deep, I’m Sparkling, I’ve Got Issues: I Am the Ocean Reserve by Iron Horse

March 16, 2011
Four dollars from every bottle of Iron Horse Vineyards' Ocean Reserve goes to the National Geographic Ocean Fund.

Four dollars from every bottle of Iron Horse Vineyards' Ocean Reserve goes to the National Geographic Ocean Fund.

It’s nearly St. Patrick’s Day and while as a native Chicagoan perhaps I should be longing for green beer, I’m not. With all the environmental tragedies and woes on all of our minds this week, I’m thinking about environmentally green choices that help Mother Earth.

The deep blue sea always seems bedeviled by the worst of it, what with being the final resting place for so much pollution and overfishing of so many species like blue fin tuna, which wrecks the whole eco-system.

A few weeks ago, I enjoyed my first clean and crisp taste of Iron Horse Vineyards’ I Am the Ocean, a sparkling wine that is being offered in partnership with National Geographic’s Mission Blue. I love the labels with haunting images of fish or a sea turtle and the label copy, a tongue in cheek reference to the “I am Thankful or “I am Thriving” dish names from Cafe Gratitude.

But the message is real; the ocean does gives life to all of us on earth, and it is a limited resource. Things are only going to get worse if all of us don’t start to change our habits, from choosing unbleached toilet paper to really separating the recycling from the garbage to stopping eating fish like Chilean seabass and farmed Asian tilapia which are restricted on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch List.
(Want to find environmentally-sound seafood away from home? There’s an iPhone sustainable seafood app for that.)

Another way of helping restore the ocean is with your purchase of I Am the Ocean Reserve, a blanc de blancs made from chardonnay grapes from the 2005 harvest. Four dollars of every bottle’s $40 price supports efforts to establish marine protected areas and ending over-fishing. Apparently the Obamas – fans of great American wines – will be drinking a toast to the ocean soon as Daniel Shanks, the White House director of food and beverage, recently ordered five cases of Iron Horse’s Ocean Reserve. It’s also on the list at notable restaurants like Le Bernardin in NYC and Providence in LA.

You could sip Ocean Reserve with some corned beef and cabbage, but I’ll probably pair this clean tasting wine with hints of toastiness from the longer aging with seafood.

Over the holidays, National Geographic posted recipes for a sustainable seafood feast created by Barton Seaver, a chef and activist. His menu included Wahoo Tartare with Nutmeg, Mint and Lemon and Grilled Clams with Lime Oregano Butter.

If you’re interested in doing more, consider visiting Green Valley and Iron Horse for the Eat Drink & Be Green Earth Day celebration on April 17 this year. Ted Turner will be there, along with lots of great food, art and wine. You’ll find the Sonoma County AVA known as Green Valley is one of the most beautiful places anywhere. I love travelling the winding roads, around the green curving hills and past the majestic barren oak trees spreading their branches toward the blue sky.

It makes me want to make sure it stays that way.

Sparkling Wine

Bubbly Girl Drink of the Week: Bagrationi 1882- From Russia with Love

January 15, 2010

While the first bubbly we think of may be champagne from France or California brut, actually bubbly is made all over the world.

The other day I was telling a PR friend named Debbie about tasting a great sparkling wine from Virginia called Thibaut-Janisson. I met winemaker and owner Claude Thibaut at Le Grand Champagne in Washington DC. A few weeks later, Thibaut Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay was featured at the Obama’s first state dinner honoring India’s prime minister, as this Washington Post story “Drinking Local at the White House” details.

“Well, I have a sparkling wine from Georgia,” Debbie said. Georgia — why not? — I thought. Wine is now made in all 50 states. But when the bottle of Bagratioini 1882 arrived, I realized my mistake. This wine was from the Georgia back in the former USSR.

Bagrationi 1882 Reserve tastes just like champagne crafted from chardonnay - but it's from Georgia.

According to the company’s web site, Ivane Bagrationi –Mukhraneli is descended from an ancient royal family that started making sparkling wine in Georgia back in the mid 1800s. In 1882, the wine won an international Grand Prix held in St. Petersburg. The winery was formally established in 1937.

Bagrationi 1882 Reserve was the first wine I tried. I took a sip and was rewarded with a crisp nicely balanced, methode-champenoise wine with fresh citrus and light peachy flavors and creamy bubbles. Ah yes, I could taste the juicy chardonnay. I looked at the label and discovered I was wrong again. The Bagrationi 1882 is made with native Chinuri, Tsitska and Mtsvane grapes grown near the Black Sea. I also liked the 1882 Classic, a lighter style of wine, made with the tank fermentation method.

I decided I could get used to drinking sparkling wine from Georgia. The only challenge is getting my hands on more; a review of Wine Searcher.com only turned up a handful of shops including All Corked Up in Santa Clarita, Georgian Wine House in Maryland and Schneider’s Capitol Hill in Washington DC that carry the Bagrationi 1882 wines, which can range in price from $12 to $24 a bottle. Of course, if you ever find yourself in Tblisis, they are happy to arrange tours and tastings.

Pop Culture, Sparkling Wine

Bubbly for the Obamas – Iron Horse Russian Cuvée

July 28, 2009
Barack and Michele Obama at the White House Ambassador's Reception on July 27. (Photo via AP)

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.

The Russian Cuvee was originally created to be served at the end of the historic Reagan-Gorbachev Summit. (Photo Courtesy of Iron Horse)

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.