It wouldn't be the choice of wine, would it? Pope Benedict XVI is skipping his scheduled 81st birthday party with President Bush at the White House tomorrow night.
Word of the unexplained change in schedule materialized as principals of Sebastiani Vineyards and Winery in Sonoma County were crowing that their 2005 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay would be poured for the bash in the East Room.
The wine has been described variously as a typical California chardonnay - rich, ripe and oaky. Maybe the pope's palate runs more to white wines lighter and more refreshling, like gruner veltliner, pinot grigio or riesling. Clearly, he isn't a teetotaler, according to a New York Times article early in his papacy. Quoting friends, cardinals, biographers and the like, the article says that while the pope is especially fond of lemonade and orange juice he also savors wines from Italy's Piedmont region and the German beer Franziskaner Weissbier. Quick, alert the White House cellar keeper, maybe this party can be saved, after all.