The dinner with China’s President Hu Jintao, which was described as a “quintessentially American” meal, included the 2005 Quilceda Creek Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and 2008 Long Shadows Botrytis Riesling. A Russian River Chardonnay from California was served as well.
For White House events, only wines made in the United States are served, a policy that has been in place since the Carter administration. The dinner was served at the State Dining Room, Blue Room, and Red Room of the White House.
The Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon was served with dry-aged rib eye along with buttermilk crisp onions, double stuffed potatoes, and creamed spinach. The Long Shadows Botrytis Riesling was served for dessert along with apple pie and vanilla ice cream.
Shanks, who previously worked for 18 years as manager at étoile Restaurant at Domaine Chandon Winery in Napa Valley, has worked in the Ushers’ Office since 1995 and is responsible for selecting wines for White House events. “I have great respect for what is happening in Washington State,” Shanks says. In selecting the Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, Shanks, who has traveled to Washington wine country, said, “When I saw the rib eye, I really wanted to complement it with the best wine I could put out there.”
Four cases of Quilceda Creek’s 100-point 2005 Cabernet were ultimately purchased. While Shanks had inquired about procuring either the current or upcoming release from the winery, Quilceda Creek made wine from the heralded 2005 vintage available, with the White House paying the wholesale cost of the wine plus shipping. Though this a standard arrangement for wines purchased for White House events, it was a generous offer from the winery for a highly-rated library vintage.
“It is an incredible honor to have our wine poured at such a prestigious event,” winemaker Paul Golitzin said.
Long Shadows representative Dane Narbaitz says the winery’s distributors in the D.C. area contacted them several weeks ago expressing an interest in the 2008 Botrytis Riesling. The wine, made by resident winemaker Gilles Nicault along with famed German winemaker Armin Diel, had recently received high scores from Wine Enthusiast (94 points in the 12/31 issue) and The Wine Advocate (93 points).
After sending samples to the distributor, the winery subsequently sold three cases to the White House. Shanks, who had visited the Long Shadows’ facility in Walla Walla several years, ago says, “I really like what Long Shadows has done. With their team of international winemakers, what better showcase for melding different cultures?” Long Shadows’ Nicault says of having the wine poured at the event, “We were thrilled!”
Shanks says the wines made an impression on those in attendance. “The response from the people who sat at the dinner was very positive. People were very excited about the wines.” Shanks, who has selected wines from approximately eighteen different states for various events says, “We really do care a lot about what we serve and how it’s perceived.”
A number of Washington State officials attended Wednesday night’s dinner, including Governor Christine Gregoire.
“We’re thrilled that the White House chose to honor this special occasion with two very special Washington wines,” said Governor Gregoire. “I’m not shy about asking our great wines to be served at White House occasions and given our state’s strong economic and cultural ties with China, these were fitting wines to serve. Quilceda Creek Cabernet is one of the highest rated wines in the world and Poet’s Leap Riesling constantly ranks among the top wines. I’ll continue to advocate for our great wines to be served at these important and historic occasions.”
This post was updated 1/22/2011.