Years ago, an entrepreneurial friend had the idea of marketing ketchup with a catch, a jaunty political declaration. I say ‘many years ago’, and to give you a sense of just how ancient this ancient history is, contemplate that the ketchup was called ‘W’ and the ‘W’ stood for the personage that the followers of William Jefferson Clinton mean to disparage when they removed that letter from the computer keyboards in White House and other government offices just before the W in question — George W. Bush — took office.
Such ‘dissent’ is patriotic when Dems do it—I get that—but it amounts to criminal mischief if not, indeed, evidence of ‘domestic terrorism’ when Republicans or conservatives do it (note the deployment of the disjunctive ‘or’) — I get that, too. But the salient thing about this story is it took place when Bush fils was still considered a conservative. A few years would have to pass before most of us came to understand William F. Buckley Jr.’s remark that Bush may have been conservative, but he was not a conservative.
A lot could be said by way of unpacking that distinction, but I’ll leave it with the observation that anyone who elevates ‘no child left behind’ (to say nothing of trying to turn Iraq into Sweden) lives, spiritually, in Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average, not the real world.
I was pleased to receive a bottle of that ketchup, and even, at first, displayed prominently on a shelf in my office. I never tasted it, though, and by the time it faded from deep red to dirty brown, I was ready to dispense with a condiment whose messaging had turned, in my mind, from red to noxious blue. I was not so circumspect with the latest entry (the latest I know about, anyway) into the arena of politicized gustatory gimmicks: We the People Wine, ‘American Wine, American Values’. The new label caused a mini-tempest this summer, as much for the nifty video ad they put out as for the wines they produced to go along with it. The liberal establishment was not amused — which is to say, they were amused but not impressed. ‘Want to guzzle Chardonnay while you own the libs?’ ran one headline. ‘This new wine from a GOP firm is for you.’
I confess I was dubious. I am more interested in having the vintners I patronize press grapes than I am in having them press the case for their politics. But it is hard for someone of my disposition not to look kindly on a company that 1) can make such a clever ad, which supports central American values without mentioning the product they are selling (bottles of the wine make but a cameo appearance in the close frame of the video); and 2) announce that ‘Our wine is made for Americans by Americans. American exceptionalism, free markets, free people, free speech and limited government are what we stand for.’
‘We want to reflect what we see as the exceptionally diverse identity of Conservatives across the country — diversity of thought, diversity of experiences and diversity of everything that makes up our society. We are proud of the values that our brand stands for because those values unite people across every walk of life.’
I like it! But here is the $64,000 question: is the wine any good? When I tell you that the question is really worth only about 30 bucks — $29.99 for the Cabernet Sauvignon, $27.99 for the Chardonnay — you’ll rest easier. And at that price point, both wines are competitively priced. The Chardonnay delivers more than it promises. Its nose is oaky in a vanilla-blossom sort of way —remember Marcel Duchamp’s brilliantly titled ‘In Advance of a Broken Arm’ for the snow shovel he exhibited as a work of art? Some wine with these aromas could be titled ‘In advance of a raging headache’. But the Chardonnay redeems itself in the mouth with a mineral-rich profile that cuts through and redeems your first impression.
The company’s PR tells us that their Cabernet Sauvignon ‘boasts a deep ruby and purple hue with flavors of blueberry and cherry. Soft tannins round the full-bodied mouthfeel with a velvet finish.’ Why not? Were I writing their promotional copy, I might nix the cherry and blueberry in favor of some tarter fruit, but they come close enough.
The irreducible minimum is this: the wine is not bad, it’s pretty good in fact, better than a lot of wine produced by pantywaist libs with appalling politics. Is it a bit hokey? Well, yes. But it is serious, too, both the mission statement and the causes they support. Every winery in Alpha Centauri is out there supporting the spotted owl or battling climate change or ‘systemic racism’. It’s nice to discover a business that supports endeavors like the Working Warrior Foundation, a not-for-profit run by veterans and ‘committed to providing transitioning service members and veterans the tools necessary to thrive in a digital economy’. What’s not to like?
Bottom line, I’m glad I discovered We the People Wine. I intend to patronize them, and encourage you to do so.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s October 2021 World edition.