At White House state dinners, only American wines are served. It’s a tradition that goes back many decades and spans numerous administrations. Wineries are honored when their products are chosen for these events, but the benefits go far beyond the particular evening—inclusion on the menu for a White House state dinner generally stimulates a spike in sales.
Recently, the Obama Administration has stopped announcing their wine choices for state dinners, thereby robbing wineries of both bragging rights and a commercial bump. When the White House hosted Chinese President Hu Jintao, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, the food portion of the menu was released to the public but the wines were not. The wines served at the recent dinner for British Prime Minister David Cameron also have not been revealed.
Washington is the worst place in the world to keep a secret, particularly when dozens of reporters attend these events. As a result, we know some of the wines that were served. At the dinner for Hu Jintao, one of the stars was the 2005 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State. Quiceda Creek’s production is tiny, and the wines are greatly in demand—the average retail price around the country at the time of the dinner was $294 per bottle. Another White House favorite in recent years has been Dumol Chardonnay. Dumol is a boutique Claifornia winery commanding an average price of $57 for its entry-level Chardonnay, with its single-vineyard offerings approaching $100.
At this point, we begin to get an inkling of the reasons for the secrecy. With gasoline topping $4 per gallon and unemployment still high, many Americans are feeling the economic pinch. While some are scraping together their pennies to buy a $7 bottle of Columbia Crest Chardonnay, others are sipping Dumol on our dime.
It’s comforting to know that at the White House, at least, the recession is over.