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A recent article about wine in the White House reminded me of a comedy classic, “My Fellow Americans.” 

In the movie, Jack Lemmon and James Garner play two former POTUS (Presidents of the United States), one a Democrat and the other a Republican, on the lam because some bad people are trying to kill them and they’re trying expose some corruption. 

In one scene, they reminisce (not very fondly) about a ditty they heard constantly, Hail To The Chief.  During their terms in office, they both got so tired of hearing it that they put words to it.

Lemmon’s verses, “Hail to the Chief.  He is the Chief and he needs hailing.  He is the Chief so everybody hail like crazy.”

Garner’s lyrics, “Hail to the Chief.  If you don’t I’ll have to kill you.  I am the Chief so you better watch your step, you [bad word].”

No Stephen Sondheims here, obviously.

What’s the wine connection?  Well, it seems that both Obama and Trump have at least one thing in common.  They both like California sparkling wine and don’t mind irritating the French.

In 2012, at the luncheon commemorating his second Inauguration, Barak poured Korbel Natural, Special Inaugural Cuvee Champagne, California.  Then, just earlier this year, in an apparent endorsement of his predecessor (or at least of his choice of wine), The Donald served Korbel Natural “Special Inaugural Cuvée” California Champagne.

The significance of this is that of all of the numerous sparkling wines from California (prestigious ones like Domaine Carneros, Schramsberg, Gloria Ferrer, or Iron Horse), they both selected the California sparkling wine that presumes to call itself “Champagne”.

Not sure why they decided to do this.  Korbel is okay but nothing great.  In a ranking by Wine Spectator of California sparkling wines for the past three years, more than 70 wines from over ten different wineries ranked higher than anything from Korbel.

So, if, on this day, when you are being honored as the most powerful person in the world, you decide to pour a middling wine, wouldn’t you at least try to not tick off one of USA’s most important allies?  Apparently to Obama and Trump, it was of no matter to them.  Who cares if the French are upset?

You see, for the French (and several other countries), names are important.  They carry immense weight and prominence.  They are justifiably proud of the wine regions that, over the centuries, have come to mean high quality.  And, understandably, they don’t want some upstart from outside France confusing people.

That’s why the French fight to have Champagne refer only to sparkling wine coming from that particular area of northeastern France.  And why the Portuguese insist that fortified sweet wine made in a certain way can only be called Port if it comes from Portugal.  The same with Spain and Sherry. 

Realizing this, why unnecessarily poke the French, who lodged protests for both events?  I don’t know.  But maybe we can hope that, like in “My Fellow Americans,” we’ll see the Republican President and the Democratic President working together.  Frankly, I doubt it.  I don’t see Trump being “on the lam.”

© Carl Kanowsky