Despite the 2010 offshore oil drilling disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, despite the U.S. suddenly becoming the top oil producer in the world and despite decades of opposition, President Barack Obama is moving to open up the offshore Atlantic to oil and gas drilling.
Among the first to arrive at Bedell Cellars, whose 2009 merlot was served in D.C., was East Marion resident Sarah Malone. As an African-American who remembers the racial strife of the civil rights movement, the day was an especially poignant reminder of the history made four years ago.
“It’s for real now,” Ms. Malone said, “The first election was special, but this one is even better.”
She said the president gave a “fabulous” inaugural address. “He made reference to everything, that he knows he is being sworn in there because of Martin Luther King Jr’s foot soldiers,” she said. “I’ve been sitting at home watching this all unfold, even the election. But this, to be out with people, makes me feel like I’m there.”
Ms. Malone was one of the many at Bedell Cellars watching the inaugural celebration on the tasting room’s television, sipping wine while members of the United States Supreme Court and Congress also enjoyed a North Fork wine at the inaugural luncheon.
Bedell’s winemaker, Richard Olsen-Harbich, thanked Senator Charles Schumer for adding their wine to the menu. He also acknowledged those who also had their hand in the wine’s creation.
“Kelly Urbanik, Kip Bedell and Seferino Cotzojay started this wine and made the initial decisions about how it was going to be fermented and some of the blending requirements,” Mr. Olsen-Harbich said. “When I came here in 2010, the first thing I did was bottle the 2008 wines, so this wine was in barrels at the time. Drew Sepielli, one of our interns and cellar master in 2011, worked with me from summer of 2010 till last year and also spent a lot of time taking care of this wine, so it was truly a team effort.”
He said the choice of Bedell’s wine at the luncheon speaks well for the entire region.
“This achievement gives our region a seat at the table with the best in the country and I think we deserve it,” he said. “I’ve been doing this a long time and seeing this happen after so long is just incredible.”
The presidential inaugural luncheon is a tradition that dates back to 1867, but this year’s bipartisan breaking of bread between the United States Congress and Supreme Court will feature something entirely new – Long Island wine.
Bedell Cellars’ 2009 merlot, a lauded local wine, will be served with bison at the Jan. 21 luncheon, which will celebrate the new year and the beginning of President Barack Obama’s second term.
Bedell’s road from its Southold vineyard to the president’s palate began at New York Farm Day, according to winery CEO Trent Preszler.
“[It's] an annual event held in Washington D.C. featuring New York agricultural products,” Mr. Preszler said. “It’s all thanks to New York senior senator Charles Schumer (D – N.Y.) and Jim Trezise, president of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation. We’ve been working on this for several months now and are proud to finally be able to share the news with the world.”
The CEO, who holds a doctorate in viticulture, said merlots are historically important to Bedell, but that 2009’s vintage is ideal for the traditional toast as a wine that’s “truly expressive of the New York winemaker.”
Founding winemaker Kip Bedell said the vintage is a “classic Long Island merlot” with “ripe tannins and a beautiful balance between fruit and acidity.” The quality of the wine, he said, speaks not only to the crop, but to a successful winemaking style.
“It’s got beautiful fruit characteristics, though 2009 wasn’t as hot as the following year,” he said. “In almost any given year, we can make pretty nice wine. Once the grapes get up to the winemaker, it’s about directing those grapes into the best wine you can make with them. If there’s not a great year with tons of color and tremendous acidity in the fruit, there are ways to make the wine balanced and drinkable, without, say, aging it in oak for a long time so it comes out tasting like a toothpick.”
Mr. Bedell said the 2009 merlot, which has netted Bedell Cellars numerous awards since its release, is a fine choice for the celebration and should make for a “delicious” pairing with the bison.
“Serving Long island’s own Bedell Cellars merlot at the Inaugural luncheon shines a spotlight on one of New York’s world-class wine industry,” Senator Schumer noted in a press release this week. “President Obama, Vice President Biden, members of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Cabinet will all get a taste of Long Island’s finest with the addition of Bedell Cellars. I’m pleased to be able to showcase a fantastic New York company, one of many wineries that strengthen our New York’s economy.”