Let's Have a Ball: Inauguration Night Wines

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By Courtney Cochran

When President-Elect Barack Obama takes office next Tuesday, he'll take the reigns of our nation in the midst of one of the most tenuous economic and political climates we've seen in more than a half-century.  Among other tall orders, he'll be tasked with shepherding an historic financial bailout, reconsidering our position in Iraq and resuscitating our flagging reputation on the international foreign policy scene.  It's a lot to get ready for, and we're happy to hear he's preparing for the challenge the way any serious new president would:  

He's throwing an enormous party.
Happy Inauguration, Mr. President
Come January 20th, our nation's 44th president will fête his inauguration with a nationally televised blowout event called "The Neighborhood Ball: An Inauguration Celebration," open in part to the public and at which luminaries such as Alicia Keys, Beyonce and Mary J. Blige will perform.  The ball - the first of its kind to mark a presidential inauguration - makes the perfect backdrop for toasting the new administration - along with the hope it brings for change  - with a selection of worthy wines.  Should you elect to pop the cork while watching next Tuesday, here's what we recommend:

Splurge-Worthy Sparkler - Schramsberg Vineyards 2000 J. Schram Rosé ($130)
A presidential favorite since Richard Nixon famously poured one of their bubblies at a 1972 Beijing state dinner, Schramsberg's flagship vintage-dated sparkler is crafted from the best fruit found in some 80 vineyards located throughout Northern California.  With its fine bead and proven pedigree, it's a classy bubbly with which to toast the inauguration of a class-act candidate.  

Middle of the Road Red - Wölffer 2004 Cabernet Franc, The Hamptons, Long Island ($35)
Obama attracted myriad voters - including many conservatives - with his moderate stance on a number of key issues.  This recommended red, however, is anything but moderate in its vinous virtues, offering up layers of bright red and blue fruits, violets and toasty oak before a lively, food-friendly finish.  In all, it's a stellar selection from another of the East Coast's brightest new stars.  

Bargain Beauty White - Lynfred Winery 2004 Dry Riesling, Illinois ($16)
It's only fitting that we include a selection from the oldest and most awarded winery in Illinois, given that it's the home state of our soon-to-be inaugurated new chief.  Lynfred's Dry Riesling offers up pretty varietal notes of nectarine, pear and citrus fruit alongside crisp acidity, a combo that - alongside its remarkably fine price - makes this white a savvy pour for the special night.  

Wine Gets Presidential
After Inauguration Night and its many balls wrap up (the Obamas will attend an incredible 10 balls on the 20th, including the banner Neighborhood Ball), it'll be time for our 44th president to put aside the party shoes and settle into his new digs. Naturally, we can't help speculating where the new White House wine agenda - or should we say wine list? - is concerned.   Historically, White House wine policy has skewed decidedly American when it comes to wines' origins and has encompassed wines at a variety of price points from producers across the US.

Given our President-Elect's steady character and unswerving patriotism, it seems likely that the Obamas - widely reported to enjoy premium wines such as Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay - will continue with past presidents' American-centric wine preferences, in no doubt making a variety of domestic wines an important element of their entertaining arsenal.  Here's to seeing how they do just that, and to four more years of occasions on which to toast our newest chief in all things vinous and beyond.

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