News

Fine wines will wash down lunch at inauguration

Guests at the inaugural luncheon after Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States will be treated to seafood stew, duck and pheasant, sponge cake and some of California's finest wines.

And they will toast the new president with a Korbel Natural “Special Inauguration Cuvee” California Champagne.

“This is our seventh inauguration ... and it's always a prestigious honor,” said Gary Heck, the president of Korbel, which has been making wines for 125 years, after learning that his wine will accompany dessert at the meal.

About 230 guests have been invited to the luncheon, organized by Design Cuisine, a Washington catering company, in the Capitol's Statuary Hall.

A bipartisan committee, chaired by California Senator Diane Feinstein, selected the food and the wines after tastings held for senators and representatives, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, according to Kathy Valentine, the head of the company preparing the feast.

The first course, a seafood stew filled with lobster, scallops, shrimp and cod, will be served with Duckhorn Vineyards' 2007 Sauvignon Blanc.

“The wine was released April 3, 2008. It's the only white wine we make as a company. It's a little richer, there's some barrel fermentation and I think it has benefited from being in the bottle a little longer,” Duckhorn's chief winemaker Bill Nancarrow said of the harvest that yielded 30,000 cases.

“They've had Duckhorn wines at the White House before, so they know us. But still this is quite something,” he added.

The main course, a brace of duck and pheasant served with sour cherry chutney and molasses sweet potatoes, will be accompanied by Goldeneye, 2005 Pinot Noir, from California's Anderson Valley.

“I have to say that among the many honors and awards in the world of wine, this is one of the most gratifying,” Zach Rasmuson, Goldeneye's 35-year-old chief winemaker, said.

“I didn't know anything really about the selection until we found out last week. They didn't ask us to submit anything,” he added.

“But I think, especially when I heard it was going to be served with duck and the sour cherry sauce, that our wine will go great with that dish. One of the descriptors of Pinot Noir is sour cherry.”

Korbel's Heck, who has been in the wine business for 43 years, said he had sent about 18 magnum cases to Washington to be served with the dessert course — an apple cinnamon sponge cake with sweet cream glace.

“It's the same wine as in our Korbel Natural. These are just special bottles,” he said.

When asked about the quantity of wine Valentine dismissed any notion that it might be a bit too much for an afternoon luncheon.

“It's really just a quick meal. They come in to warm up after being out there in the cold for the swearing-in and they've still got to go out and watch the parade.”

TOP