As head of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, California Senator Diane Feinstein commented that the menu they chose for the January inaugural luncheon was intended to reflect the tastes of Abraham Lincoln, who favored root vegetables, wild game, stewed and scalloped oysters, fresh apples and apple cake. It was all part overall inaugural theme, "A New Birth of Freedom," which celebrated the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth.
As the White House chef prepared a sumptuous feast for the 230 dignitaries, the Senator was - naturally - preparing a shortlist of California vintners to have their wines considered for the meal. For Duckhorn Wine Company President Alex Ryan, the happy moment came when the organizers called him and gave the word to ship the selected wines! Of course, he knew the Senator was partial to the wines of Northern California, but he was thrilled when he learned that Duckhorn wines had won the competition in a field that included wines from Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino.
Alex expressed his excitement, "It was a moment of great pride and it came with relatively short notice. We all felt like our wines were not simply being selected for a meal, but that the Duckhorn Winery was being paired with a piece of history. There is no greater high than that!"
The first course of seafood stew was complemented with a lush 2007 Sauvignon Blanc from Duckhorn Vineyards in Napa Valley. It's described on the menu as a wine with a rich, creamy taste with bright acidity and a long, refreshing finish.
The second course, which included pheasant and duck served with sour cherry chutney and molasses sweet potatoes, was served with a 2005 Pinot Noir from Goldeneye (another label within the Duckhorn Wine Company) in Anderson Valley. This medium-weight wine is touted as delicate and understated, with a rich aroma evocative of dark cherries, nutmeg, caramelized apple, cinnamon and clove.
The third and final course - an apple cinnamon sponge cake with sweet cream - was paired with a special inaugural cuvée made by another California company, Korbel Champagne Cellars from the Russian River Valley.
Although Alex had been invited to attend the luncheon, prior business commitments in Napa Valley prevented him from doing so. Still, while the meal was actually happening, Duckhorn staffers were glued to their computer monitors. They had found a Web site that was streaming the events of the luncheon. At one point, they were able to spot a White House server presenting a bottle of 2007 Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc to the new President. He nodded approvingly, took a sip, smiled and the meal - and the Presidency - was well on its way into the history books.
When asked if the "PR glow" of event translated into additional business for the winery, Alex exclaimed "absolutely!" In fact, there was so much interest in the wines that team immediately assembled a "Presidential Pack" that included the two Duckhorn wines enjoyed on Inauguration Day, as well as a collection of recipe cards detailing what was served at the meal.
While the Duckhorn Presidential Pack sold out very quickly, the memory of the meal and the defining moment for a world class Napa Valley vintner will linger for a long time to come.
Current Vintage: 2007 Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc.
Current Vintage: 2005 Goldeneye Pinot Noir.
Wine Trivia Question: Napoleon Bonaparte had nearly 300 gallons of this wine shipped each year to his home in exile on South Atlantic Island of St. Helena. One report says that on his deathbed, Napoleon refused everything offered to him but a glass this wine. What is the name of the wine?
(Submit your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org by August 30, 2009 and become eligible to win a bottle of 2007 Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc. The winner will be announced in the next edition of Liquid Assets). Official Rules. Congratulations to Uday N. Kumar who won the April Liquid Assets Wine Trivia Contest and received a 750ml bottle of 2005 Ramey Cellars Napa Claret.
Silicon Valley Bank's Wine Division publishes Liquid Assets as a quarterly column featuring visionary winemakers and wineries. As the leading provider of financial services to wineries and vineyards in the western United States, we are using our unique perspective to help our readers further understand winemaking and the innovative vintners who create some of the world's premium wines.
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