Wines to Drink While Watching the Election Returns

Billions of dollars later, the process to elect the 44th President of the United States is about to come to a close. Many of you will watch the election returns on television at home Tuesday evening either by yourself or with friends and neighbors. After the wearisome, two-year-long process, it’s a chance to kick back and relax, watch the returns come in, perhaps grouse about the process if your candidates don’t do well and, well, just watch democracy in action. In many cases, these parties will be festive occasions with lively conversation, some comfort food and drinks, including wine.

If wine is served, what wines would be appropriate? There are plenty of articles on the subject of pairing wines with food and no end of pundits willing to offer advice on what food and wine flavors interact harmoniously or collide terribly. However, rather than pairing the wines with food that might be appropriate, pair wines with the platforms and personalities of the candidates.  This discerning article on what wines would pair well with the individual candidates for the nation’s highest political office should be of interest to those trying to decide what wines to serve on election night.

First, Senator Obama. Senator Obama is a cool deliberator and smooth communicator who has segued from a wonkish lawyer to an eloquent politician. He is low-key, wears skinny ties and is virtually unflappable. Deliberative and not prone to making decisions quickly, he sifts through reams of data and opinions and then, almost reluctantly it appears, stakes out a position and eloquently makes his opinion known.

Wine Pairing: in a world increasingly filled with overly-aggressive, robust, in-your-face wines that almost shout high-alcohol, Obama would ratchet it down a notch and opt for softer, less structured wines consistent with his “why don’t we just sit down and talk things through” approach. His choice of wines would focus on those with classic structure, supple texture and a liberal and diverse range of flavors. Abhoring artifice, he would most likely not favor red wines aged in small oak barrels (called barriques) because they introduce artificial flavors and effects into the wines. However, focus groups indicated that the campaign slogan "Barack yes! Barriques no!" never got traction with voters.

While appreciative of what foreign wines bring to the table, he would probably opt for domestic wines like Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, preferably from swing states like California, Oregon or Virginia. Probably nothing too expensive. His choice of wines would be a change we can believe in.

Specific wine recommendations for the Barack Obama camp would include:

Geyser Peak, Sauvignon Blanc “River Ranches” 2007 (about $17).
Unexpected and affable.

Barboursville, Pinot Grigio 2007 (about $15)
Articulate but low-key. Has “refreshing” written all over it.

Cristom, Pinot Noir “Jefferson” 2006 (about $28)
Highly articulate flavors with an over-the-top delivery. Distinctive.

Next, Senator McCain. By contrast, Senator McCain’s decision-making process appears to be less deliberative, more instinctive and  perhaps even impulsive at times. He has a long and distinguished career as a soldier and statesman.  Although conservative by nature, he can be difficult to pigeonhole on any given issue and will sometimes support “liberal” causes when the issues resonate with him.

Wine Pairing: Though the situations may vary, Senator McCain always brings the psyche of a warrior to problems or issues he confronts. No wimpy wines likely grace his table. His choice of wines runs to big, red wines with effusive flavors that demand your attention and leave no doubt as to where your loyalties stand. These wines will likely have good tannic structure so they will improve with age and gain gravitas. These wines tend to be expensive – another reason he believes a tax cut would be in order.

Specific wine recommendations for the John McCain camp would include:

Shafer, ”Relentless Syrah” 2004 (about $56)
Classic structure with a strong, come-from-behind finish.

Seghesio, Zinfandel “Old Vine” 2005 (about $29)
Full-bodied with a load of intense flavors. A warrior’s wine.

Ramey, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (about $80)
Opulent, rich flavors that even a hockey mom would love. Pairs well with grilled moose.

© Richard Marcis
November 3, 2008

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