Kosher Wine At The White House | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Kosher Wine At The White House

Kosher Wine At The White House

Hagafen Cellars. Via hagafen.com

What the White House sommelier likes, plus some suggestions

Facebook icon
Twitter icon
Digg icon
e-mail icon

Most of our Presidents have been “healthy” drinkers, and many have had a fondness for fine wine—with the exception of a few lightweights and teetotalers.

Though George Washington was a big whisky producer, he actually loved Madeira much more, and typically ordered it by the pipe (126 gallons). Thomas Jefferson remains the best known Presidential oenophile. He amassed a vast cellar which nearly bankrupted him, acquired extensive knowledge of wine, and also developed a critical palate. Jefferson also attempted time and again to establish Virginia as a quality wine producing state.

James Polk’s dinners featured as many as six different wines, including Champagne, Port and Sauternes. Lincoln was personally fairly “dry”, but his wife Mary was one of the first to include domestic wines at White House functions. JFK loved French wines as did Nixon; Tricky Dick reportedly instructed his staff to serve mediocre quality red wine to guests while he drank bottles of Chateau Margaux (guests were served from bottles with towels wrapped around the label to disguise the distinction).

LBJ, who was unsurprisingly mostly a Scotch whisky man, established the general custom that official White House functions serve domestic wines, paving the way eventually for Reagan, who mostly drank California wines, to serve the first Zinfandel at a state affair.

Interestingly, when kosher wines are wanted at the White House, more often than not they have come from Hagafen Cellars of Napa Valley, CA (established in 1979). As big fans of Hagafen, we are loath to suggest alternatives … That said, however, if a more in-your-face, powerful style of domestic kosher wine is desired, we would recommend to the White House sommelier the Shirah Wines White Hawk Syrah 2012 ($55).

Made of 98 percent Syrah and 2 percent Viognier sourced from Santa Barbara’s vaunted White Hawk Vineyard, a 60-acre vineyard planted on sand dunes on the south facing slope of Cat Canyon of the Los Alamos Valley about 20 miles west of the Pacific, and farmed using sustainable and primarily organic methods, with typically minuscule yields. This brilliant, absorbing, meaty wine is intense with nice acidity and booming notes of blackberries, blueberries, and mild black pepper with perhaps a touch of cassia or nutmeg, some leafy tobacco, distinct notes of oak, with a long, hearty, drying tannic finish.

Join The Discussion