All wines served at the executive mansion are purchased wholesale legitimately through the wine producers themselves or obtained from neighborhood distributors. No donations of wine are acknowledged any more and- – especially in a post 9-11 period – bottles that show up unannounced are summarily destroyed, the snapshot of sad reality reported in a snapshot sent to the would-be gift or with a simple note of “thanks but- – .”
Accepting a ratified invitation to a White House affair promises both the flash and substance of effortless hospitality and paramount cuisine. But, the activity of ensuring that reality is left to a group of three of officials- – of which Shanks is part- – who are leaders of the executive mansion’s lasting household staff, a 100-plus part framework that does not normally depart with the old administration, regularly staying on as continuity in dealing with the internal workings of the executive mansion. Shanks and his peers (alongside a couple outside consultants) select wines to be served at each conciliatory event. Their definitive test is to impress without causing a political faux pas in the process.
Shanks balances wine expertise and nourishment pairing skills with discretionary discretion, so a wine’s provenance is paired with guests’ social sensitivities (for instance by pouring a particular American wine because the winemaker was raised in the visitor’s nation, or because the varietal started there.) Sometimes the White House matches wine to guests first, menu second, with a definitive objective of neither offending the dignitaries nor the cuisine. Shanks believes it’s just the reality of politics. Serving kings alongside sultans and ambassadors keep everybody on their toes as they consider customs, traditions, and sensitivities.