Those who know me best are familiar with my appreciation of wine. I also appreciate food, too. There’s such magic and mystery to both wine and food; an infinite expression of Dharma in the glass and on the plate. Paired perfectly, Nirvana is revealed at the table. That said, each of us must be careful not to let the seduction of the senses veil Awakening from our being.

So with this disclaimer out of the way, I think Slate’s Mike Steinberger’s article on what Obama might be able to “bring to the table” is “well-done”. There’s “so much on Obama’s plate,” but I think that our president-elect has a chance to get this “bitter taste” out of our mouths… okay, I’ll stop.

Whitehouse sommelier, Daniel Shanks gets ribbed by Steinberger:

because only 55 minutes are allotted for the actual meal, it is essential that the wines served on these august occasions “have presence.” And what did he mean by “presence”? “A perfectly aged cabernet may be great in the glass,” he explained, “but it can’t stand up to the intense atmosphere of a White House state dinner. You have to have something with youth and vigor.” Delicate wines will be overlooked; only strapping, assertive ones have what it takes to be “noticed in the context of the White House experience,” as Shanks put it. In other words, the desired effect is shock and awe, achieved not with cruise missiles but fruit bombs.

On the matter of Big Bad Napa Cabs, he says:

These bruisers could also be sending an unhelpful subliminal message. Diplomacy is a subtle art, and when it is conducted à table, it requires subtle libations. Mellow wines promote conviviality, encourage reflection, and create goodwill—the very things state dinners are presumably meant to foster. A hulking cabernet that assaults the senses and flattens any food that gets in its way hardly lubricates the path to world peace. Indeed, serving such a wine might even be construed as a sign of hostile intent: Tonight we smash your palate; tomorrow your palace.

Perhaps, as Steinberger suggests, going beyond a “kinder, gentler” approach to wine service at the Whitehouse is in order. Maybe a more purposeful approach to consuming the blessing of a wine’s potential subtlety might go far in communicating differently.


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