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Drink American Bubbly, Just Like the Obamas

March 15, 2012

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.

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

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 Hillary 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.

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 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.