Appetizers
February 13, 2007
Jeffersonian Wines

corkscrew.JPGA corkscrew owned by Jefferson

With the long Presidents' Day weekend coming up, let's ask John Hailman what wine he'd bring along if were to join Thomas Jefferson for dinner.

"Probably more than one," says Hailman, who probably knows Jefferson's taste in wine more than anyone. Hailman, a federal prosecutor in Mississippi, was on the phone to chat about his newly published book, "Thomas Jefferson on Wine," the subject of the Dunne on Wine column to be in the Taste section of Wednesday's Sacramento Bee.

In interview and book, Hailman lists all sorts of wines Jefferson liked and probably still would like, given that so many of them continue to be made today, though stylistically they may be somewhat different. At any rate, if you're looking for a fittingly presidential wine to enjoy this weekend, consider:

- A red from Domaine Parent of Pommard, still run by descendants of Etienne Parent, Jefferson's guide through the vineyards and cellars of Burgundy when the future President was the U.S. minister to Paris in the 1780s.

- A Sauterne, perhaps Jefferson's favorite dessert wine. Several estates that Jefferson appreciated still exist, including Chateau Coutet, Chateau Suduiraut, Chateau Filhot and Chateau d'Yquem.

- A Bellet from Nice, which Jefferson in his retirement years called "the finest everyday wine in the world." It's a medium-bodied red with good aroma, says Hailman, who also noted that that's pretty much how Jefferson found it in his time.

- A Champagne, but still, not sparkling, Jefferson's preference. Such versions still are being made and are called Coteaux Champenois. They're kind of like a white burgundy - dry, flinty and flavorful. Hailman's favorites are Moet's Chateau de Saran and Ruinart.

- A Bordeaux, probably from Chateau Rauzan-Segla or Chateau Rauzan-Gassies, descendants of a single estate Jefferson recorded as Chateau Rozan.

- A carmenere, a red wine rising in prominence in Chile. The grape no longer is cultivated extensively in France, though it was during Jefferson's days, says Hailman. "I suspect a really good carmenere would taste more like (the Bordeaux) Jefferson had," Hailman says. As a red wine today, carmenere tends to be soft, fresh and drinkable young. What's more, they tend to be inexpensive.

- A Blanquette de Limoux, a lightly sweet and softly bubbling wine of French origin, one version of which is imported by Toad Hollow Vineyards in Sonoma County and sold under the proprietary name Risque.

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