Monday, January 21, 2013

The Wines and the Food at President Obama’s Inauguration Luncheon, January 21, 2013, USA

Picture: The Capitol, Washington DC

Barack Obama was inaugurated today as 44th President of the United States. There were many events, but one of the main events and oldest inaugural traditions was the Inaugural Luncheon held at the National Statuary Hall in the Capitol Building following President Obama's Swearing-In.

Picture: Swearing-In Ceremony at the Capitol, January 21, 2013

Strong German Presence

Indirectly, my home country Germany had a very strong presence at the luncheon. First, the food was prepared and the event organized by the German-borne Horst Klein with his Design Cuisine Company. Second, one of the 2 (still) wines was a dry Riesling, co-produced by the German-borne Johannes Reinhardt of Anthony Road in the Finger Lakes Region. Finally, the sparkler served for dessert was produced by Korbel Champagne Cellars from California, which has its roots in Bohemia, where the first German speaking university was founded (Prague).

Strong New York State Presence

Also, the State of New York was very present at the luncheon. Both (still) wines came from New York State. Germany-based Riesling Guru Stuart Pigott:” On the wine front this is as significant a change as the introduction of serious gun control would be for law and order in the US.” So how did New York wine earn such a prominent spot at the Inaugural table? New York's own Sen. Chuck Schumer is chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, and he was not shy about cheering for the home team during the wine-selection tastings.

The Luncheon

About 200 guests, including President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, their families as well as cabinet members, leaders of Congress and Supreme Court justices, diplomats and others, attended the luncheon.  The guest were entertained by the Rochester’s Eastman String Quartet that performed songs like “America the Beautiful” and Mozart’s Quartet in C Major, surrounded by orange themes floral arrangements by Jesse Bailey of Alexandria, Va.’s Jack Lucky Floral.

Sen. Chuck Schumer: “This Inaugural luncheon menu incorporates foods that the first Americans enjoyed, but with a modern, forward looking approach.”

Steamed Lobster
with New England Clam Chowder Sauce

Served on Sauteed Spinach
with Sweet Potato Hay

Wine: Tierce 2009 Finger Lakes Dry Riesling (NY)

Hickory Grilled Bison
with Wild Huckleberry Reduction

Strawberry Preserve and Red Cabbage

Red Potato Horseradish Cake

Baby Golden Beets and Green Beans

Butternut Squash Purée 

Wine: Bedell Cellars 2009 Merlot (Long Island, NY)

Hudson Valley Apple Pie with Sour Cream Ice Cream
with Maple Caramel Sauce

Aged Cheeses and Honeycomb
Toma Celena and Jersey Girl Colby
Cooperstown Cheese Company (Milford, NY)

Wine: Korbel Natural, Special Inaugural Cuvée Champagne (California)

American Champagne

There was quite a bit of fuzz, when the menu was released. The initial menu's dessert pairing read "Korbel Natural, Special Inauguration Cuvée Champagne, California."

Picture: President Obama with a Glass of the Korbel Russian River Valley Champagne in his Hand at the Inauguration Luncheon (Source: CNN)

Most countries around the world, including the US, have agreed to ban the use of the word Champagne for any sparkling wine which was not produced in the viticultural area of Champagne. In the US, however, while sparkling wine labels submitted for approval after 2006 cannot make reference to Champagne anymore, some wineries were exempt as their label had been approved before. But in this case they have to add the place of origin before the word Champagne. Indeed, Korbel’s label states “Russian River Valley Champagne”. But the initial official press release omitted “Russian River Valley” and just said “Champagne”.

Overall, most US premium sparkling wine producers have by now dropped the word Champagne from their label and marketing, but Korbel is clinging on to the word even in its official name - Korbel Champagne Cellars.

Koerbel Champagne Cellars – A Leading Sparkling Wine Producer with Roots in Bohemia

Sparkling wine production in California dates to the late 1800s, when two groups -- Almaden Vineyards and the Korbel brothers -- offered their first bottles of sparklers (“Champagne”) for sale. Korbel Champagne Cellars was founded by 3 brothers -- Francis, Anton, and Joseph-- from Bohemia, which has historically been home to both Czechs and Germans and now is part of the Czech Republic. The first German University was founded in Bohemia. When the Korbel brothers were born, they were born in the Kingdom of Bohemia, which was, along with 39 other sovereign states, part of the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund).

Picture: Francis, Anton and Joseph Korbel, founders of the Korbel Champagne Cellars in California (Source: Korbel)

It was the timber that first attracted the Korbel brothers to the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County in 1872. When the building boom subsided, they began to grow alfalfa, beets, corn, prunes, and wheat, and also began to plant vineyards on their Russian River property. In 1884, they brought a Prague winemaker named Frank Hasek to California. Hasek used the methode champenoise approach to making sparkling wine. By 1894, the Korbel brothers began to sell their sparklers and by the end of the 1800s, Korbel was an award-winning, internationally recognized label.

In the early 1950s, the Koerbel family sold the business to Adolf L. Heck, a third generation winemaker whose family had roots in the Alsace Loraine straddling France and Germany. Adolph Heck ran Korbel until his death in 1984. His son, Gary, took over as chairman of the board and Robert Stashak became Korbel's sparkling wine master.

For more, see:
German Wine Makers in the World: The Korbel Brothers from Bohemia Introduced "Champagne" to the US

Wines from New York State

Stuart Pigott: “There is no question that this selection reflects how far New York’s wine industry has come during recent years. The image of the state as a producer of foxy Concord wine and “odd” wines from French-American hybrid vines has been fading fast as the premium quality wines from Vitis vinifera varieties (the European wine grape in its many forms) have steadily improved in quality, and even more rapidly gained ground in the market. The choice of varieties, a Merlot red and a Riesling white reflects (both dry wines) the twin strengths of New York State.”

Picture: New York State and the Finger Lakes and Long Island Wine Regions

Tierce Dry Riesling 2010 from the Finger Lakes

Tierce is a collaborative effort between three of the Finger Lakes' top winemakers, Peter Bell of Fox Run, Johannes Reinhardt of Anthony Road and David Whiting of Red Newt Cellars. Several years ago the three winemakers wondered if they could make a better wine together than any of them individually. In other words, could the whole be greater than the sum of its parts? So each year they make their own batches of dry Riesling and, when the three wines are ready, they get together on one day to taste dozens of different blends of the three wines until they arrive at the best. That wine is the Tierce of that year. "Tierce" means three, and the wine's back label reads, "Three vineyards, three winemakers, one wine." Tierce is a limited production wine, with only about 300 cases made in a given year, and is sold exclusively through the three wineries.

Picture: The Finger Lakes

The Anthony Road Wine Company caught international attention recently with their 2006 Finger Lakes Riesling Trockenbeeren, when it was awarded one of the 7 Trophies of Excellence of the Riesling Du Monde Competition 2010 in France. Ann and John Martini opened the winery in 1990. It is on the west shore of Seneca Lake in the town of Torrey, about 10 miles south of Geneva.

The winemaker, Johannes Reinhardt, is a German native, born in a little village of Franconia, 80 miles east of Frankfurt. Johannes grew up in a family that has been in the wine business since 1438. He has been in the vineyards and wine cellars all his life. He joined Anthony Road in 2000. Recently, he reportedly had a Visa issue, as the US Immigration office refused to provide him with a permanent work visa. This, luckily, has been solved.

For more, see: 
Celebrating the Rieslings of the Finger Lakes Region, New York State, US East Coast

The Finger Lakes AVA in upstate New York encompasses seven glacial lakes, although the majority of plantings are around Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, and Cayuga Lakes. Most vineyards are planted on hillsides overlooking the lakes. These deep lakes help to moderate the climate, as stored heat is released from the lakes during the winter, keeping the weather mild during summer extends the growing season. This cool-climate region is often compared to the wine-growing region of Germany, and like Germany, has had special success with Riesling.

The Finger Lakes include 4,452 hectares of vineyards, making it New York State's largest wine growing region. New York State is with Washington State the second largest wine producer in the US, with a bit more than 10.000 hectares. Of this, 400 hectares are accounted for by Riesling.

There are over 100 wineries, mostly family owned and operated small producers, bottling over 100,000 cases per year. While the region does an excellent job with other grapes like Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and even Pinot Noir, Riesling is the star, with each producer making an average of two to three different styles from dry to sweet each vintage.

2009 Merlot, Bedell, Long Island

About 35 years ago, there was no meaningful wine industry on Long Island. In little over a quarter of a century, however, the Long Island wine industry has grown from one small vineyard to 3,000 acres of vines and over thirty wineries producing world-class wines. Located in New York State, on the East Coast of the United States, Long Island extends some 120 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. The wineries are all located at the East End, on the North and South Forks. The heart of Island’s wine country is the town of Southold, where more than 20 of the 30plus wineries are located.

Picture: The Wineries of Long Island

The leading grape variety is Merlot. In 1990, the first merlot vines were planted in the Hamptons at Channing Daughters and soon thereafter at Woelffer Estate Vineyards. More new growers coming into the region saw and heard of the success of merlot in more established vineyards and committed to further plantings. Today Merlot acreage on Long Island is approximately 700 acres, making up 30% of the overall vineyard acreage on Long Island.

For more, see:
Wine region: Upcoming Long Island, New York State

Horst Klein, Design Cuisine and the Food

The food was prepared – and the luncheon organized – by Design Cuisine, which is co-owned by the German-borne Horst Klein, along with his partners William A. Homan and Steve Veletsis. Horst Klein, as culinary director, guides both the kitchen staff and the sales team in their menu design and production efforts. During the Inauguration week, Design Cuisine serves up to 10,000 guests each day.

Picture: Horst Klein (Photo: Antje Passenheim, dpa)

I meet Horst Klein regularly at the German Embassy at the German National Day when Design Cuisine organizes the event at the Embassy. He told me that he is now semi-retired in Florida, but comes up for key events, like the Inauguration Luncheon.

Horst Klein has lived and worked in the US since the 1970s. He was borne in Cologne and speaks German with a strong Cologne accent. He is one of those who made it in the US from busboy to millionaire.

After an apprenticeship as a Chef in the Dom Hotel in Cologne, he worked for a number of hotels around the world, until he settled in the US. Together with two partners, he opened a restaurant with a small catering operation (Design Cuisine) on Capitol Hill in Washington DC in 1978.  Over the years, Design Cuisine has grown from a small boutique caterer to a leader in the Washington marketplace.

Design Cuisine now organizes up to 100 events per week, with up to 600 people working for Design Cuisine. The company now also includes its own tailor shop and laundry as well as a rental for party supplies. The culinary team comprises a staff of over 60 professional chefs, cooks, and assistants.

schiller-wine: Related Postings

The Wines Served at President Obama's State Dinner for Mexican President Calderon

California Pinot Noir Pioneer Walter Schug: From the Rheingau in Germany to Carneros in California

German Wine Makers in the World: The Korbel Brothers from Bohemia Introduced "Champagne" to the US

President Obama Serves a “German” Riesling at State Dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao

German Winemakers in the World: Hermann J. Wiemer, 1900/2000, Finger Lakes, US

German Wine Makers in the World: Dr. Konstantin Frank (USA)

German Winemakers in the World: Christian Woelffer and Roman Roth

Celebrating the Rieslings of the Finger Lakes Region, New York State, US East Coast

State Dinner at the White House: Chancellor Merkel Dined and Wined with President Obama - The Wines they Drank and the Wines they did not Drink

Wine region: Upcoming Long Island, New York State 


  1. Living in Northern California, I have drank lots of wines. However the majority of wines I've tried have been California wines.

    My New Year's resolution? Drink more wines from states other than California. Your posting will be a big help in selection wines from New York. If it's good enough for the President, it must be good enough for the rest of us!

  2. by chance I met your blog during my surfing through international wine blogs. I red your articles with pleasure, especially the dine & wine of President Obama with Chancelor Merkel. FYI, I am from Germany.
    I'll visit your blog now frequently.