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Niagara Wine for President Obama

The St. Catharines Standard – Monique Beech –

Staff at a Niagara-on-the-Lake winery are thrilled their red wine tickled the presidential palate of the most popular politician on the planet.

During a visit to Ottawa Thursday, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper sipped glasses of Stratus Vineyards Red 2002 paired with a deluxe main course of Applewood Smoked Plains Bison.

The gournet Canadiana-inspired business lunch also featured a 2007 Chenin Blanc from Quail’s Gate Winery in British Columbia and a 2005 La Face Cachee de la Pomme Neige, a sparkling cider from Quebec.

“We were absolutely honoured” said Suzanne Janke, Director of Hospitality and Retail for Stratus Vineyards.  “We thought it was a tremendous tribute to the winery and to Canada, really, to have him being served Canadian wines, especially on such a short tertiary visit to have that served with fine cuisine was a real kudos to Stratus and the industry at large.”

Obama is known to enjoy good wine.  His $1.6 million Chigaco mansion has a wine cellar that reportedly holds up to 1,000 bottles.  The president’s taste buds have clout.

California’s Duckhorn Vineyards and Goldeneye Winery saw sales spike after Duckhorn’s 2007 Sauvignon Blanc and Goldeneye’s Pinot Noir were served at the official inauguration lunch in Washington.  Janke said she isn’t expecting Stratus sales to skyrocket.

“It just reminds Canadians to be very proud of what we’re growing and producing here in our agricultural business and our wine industry,” Janke said.  “Sometimes, as you know, people tend to be shy or a little critical of our own domestic industry.  I think  knowing that President Obama has been served these wines allows people to be very proud and confident that what we’re doing with those wines is really top notch.”

Obama isn’t the first high-profile palate to try the 2002 Stratus Red, an assemblage of seven differnet grape varieties made by winemaker J.L. Groux.  The smooth red wine has kissed the lips of His Royal Highness Prince Edward in 2008 and Jean-Daniel Lafond, the husband to Governor General Michaelie Jean, in 2006.  “The wine has been shared in pretty good company.”

Jennifer Chiu, a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, said the wines for the lunch were handpicked from the department’s cellars.  The cellar contains some of the best quality.  100 per cent Canadian wines from across the country, she said.  “The (department’s) policy is to serve only Canadian wine to visiting dignitaries at official state visits,” said Chiu.  ‘In doing so we are promoting the Canadian wine industry and raising international awareness of our industry.”  it remains a mystery what Obama thought of his brush with Canadian wines, Janke said she’s hoping to talk to staff at Parliament Hill to find out the president’s review.  The 2002 is sold out.  The 2005 vintage is available.

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