Which Wine to Pair with Inauguration Day

Between riots, impeachment, and a national divide, you might be feeling like you need something substantial to get you through the 2021 Inauguration Circus. The right drink pairing for January 20th needs to be strong, bold-flavored, and American.

California Cabernet Sauvignon

When I was first studying wine, my teacher—a sassy General Manager at a 2-Michelin-starred restaurant in Chicago’s River North neighborhood— personified Cabernet as the high school football player. Burly, popular, and often imitated. Nothing like the all-American glass of vino to get you through Wednesday.

Look for classic Napa Valley (or at least) Californian Cabernet. Expect aromas of dark plum and berry fruits wrapped in vanilla and mocha. The California sunshine ripens the grapes to a healthy 14.5% alcohol before most winemakers let it rest for two full years in 100% new oak for that extra kick.

Try: Eden Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, USA, 2014 $39

California Cabernet from the Santa Cruz wine-growing region. Aromas of fresh blackberry, plum, and wild fennel, complemented with toasty oak notes of allspice and cocoa. A juicy, plummy palate yields to a lighter finish with perky acidity and well integrated tannins.

Washington Merlot

Once adored by the public, Merlot got completed destroyed by some bad press in the early 2000’s. People took it to be unstylish and sweet. That’s fake news. Merlot’s velvety texture and alluring blue fruits offer a softer, more diplomatic approach to your palate. While Merlot may have taken a backseat to Cabernet, it’s the secret sauce behind the scenes that brings “Red Blends” to the table.

Merlot, an early-ripening grape, can develop a little too quickly under the California sun’s intensity. For a more balanced and beautiful expression of this French grape, turn towards (the other) Washington. Washington’s primary wine-growing areas in the Yakima Valley and Walla Walla have desert-like dryness, so the Merlot grape has to struggle to develop its lovely fruit aromas. These conditions make for a more balanced, less fruit-bomby wine with more tannin to support the juicy mid-palate.

Try: Kiona Vineyards, Merlot, Red Mountain, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA, 2017 $23

This inauguration pairing comes from the lauded Red Mountain district in Washington State. Aromas of blueberry, lavender, sage & smoke. The texture is plush, fruity, soft and velvety with balanced acid, alcohol, and tannin.

Old-Vine Rosé

With all the scandals, this election season may have had you blushing. Cover up your rosy cheeks with something pink & powerful: Old-Vine, California Rosé. American winemakers often make Rosé wines with Rhône grapes: Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, Mouvèdre. The style, meant to imitate one of the world’s première rosé-producing regions, works nicely in hot, dry areas like Lodi because the grapes are sturdy and survive the flagellations from heavy sun and wind.

The sturdy rootstock also means that they can stay for over a century on the same vine, unlike Cabernet or Pinot Noir.

These wise old vines produce less fruit over time, which means they put their energy into fewer, more concentrated berries. You can expect more flavor concentration and complexity for your rosé…something older, wiser, and more experienced than your average glass of wine.

Try: Ser, “Bechtold Vineyard,” Cinsault Rose, Lodi, California, United States, 2019 $29

This wine has aromas of peach skin, yogurt, and underripe strawberry, with a smooth and fruit palate featuring flavors orchard fruits and creme fraîche. Great by itself but an incredibly food-friendly style. 125-year-old vines—almost as old as our President-Elect!

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