Wine For Election Day: “Dueling Pistols” from The Federalist


As I finish writing to publish this on election day 2016, I can’t escape the duel for commander-in-chief of the United States, and indeed, dueling visions over the direction our country should take. I for one am ready for this duel to be over, but I dread the results. What will die? What will live? One friend said it is like getting a root canal which basically kills the tooth to stop the pain, and I agree: I just want it to be over and I pray that the pain will go away for good.

So what wine would you pair with this election? How about “Dueling Pistols” from The Federalist?


do you notice the red, white and blue color scheme? how about the pistols on the label?

Alexander Hamilton knew a thing or two about overcoming challenges and dueling: as you may remember from the Broadway hit or from middle school social studies, after rising to greatness and influence, Hamilton was mortally wounded in a duel with Aaron Burr.

Hamilton author Lin-Manuel Miranda explains in an interview in Vanity Fair that

“The audience needs to understand what dueling was like back then. This was not drive-bys. This was not heated people taking their guns out outside of bars. This is not what happens today with our fakakta gun-control issues. This wasn’t beef in the same way beef is today. It was super codified; there was a ritual about it. It was like legal arbitration . . . with guns. So, I came up with the idea of doing 10 duel commandments because “Ten Crack Commandments” is a how­-to guide for illegal activity in the 90s. And this is a how­-to guide for illegal activities in the 1790s.”


With the current duel going on for the White House, it was natural for Miranda to adapt this song about dueling (as well as others) to address the conflict.


There should be no need for a duel, 10 Commandments on dueling or not because, as Hamilton explains in “The Federalist Papers,” the Constitution makes it so “that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications” and that the Electoral College preserves “the sense of the people” AND “by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.”

We hope. It has been a confusing and confounding election season.


Locally in Ventura County, we have dueling Measures about farming: Measure C extends SOAR which has served to keep our agricultural lands and heritage and Measure F which professes to be for farmers and farming but FAILS to protect it because it is full of loopholes that allow massive developments including the one by the developers who are largely funding the measure. Even more confusing, most cities in our county also have their own measures on the ballot.


Meet Adam Tolmach and Helen Hardenbergh. Adam and Helen grow wine grapes in the Ojai Valley on land that has been in Adam’s family since 1933. After studying at UC Davis, Adam opened the The Ojai Vineyard and has been in business for over 30 years. Thanks for supporting SOAR and #YesOnC!

In the past, wine grapes were an important part of Ventura County’s agriculture, but with disease and prohibition, they became ghost wineries. There’s a wonderful resurgence of wineries using grapes from elsewhere, including pioneers Adam and Helen Tolmach of the Ojai Vineyard who started with grapes from Ojai, but we also have a nascent wine grape growing agriculture; we even have one winery, Clos Des Amis, which only uses Ventura County fruit. I’ve written often about The Ojai Vineyards wines including this post that focuses on Roll Ranch; read more about Clos des Amis Nov 12 in my Wine Pairing Weekend post.



And now on to the wine!

The Federalist asks if the two opponents, Hamilton and Burr, could have just enjoyed a glass of wine together would they have resolved their differences? While they can’t, unless Dr Who shows up in the Tardis at the right time and place, we can–and we don’t even need a Tardis.

So what more appropriate wine this election season than The Federalist Dueling Pistols 2014?



The Federalist – Dueling Pistols – Dry Creek Valley – Zinfandel and Syrah Blend – 14.5% alcohol -SRP $17.76. 

With a cute and catchy label accented with a handwritten font that pays homage to “perhaps the most famous quarrel in American history” which “was resolved when original Federalist Alexander Hamilton was mortally wounded in a duel by his political nemesis Aaron Burr” the Federalist Dueling Pistols is a duo of 50% Zinfandel and 50% Syrah offering bright red and blue big bold jammy fruits aroma and flavors enhanced with spice and enough balance to keep it from being a fruit bomb. Blue fruit and red fruit on the nose, but mostly blue fruit, plum and blueberry, some mocha, not a lot of spice on the nose. This is also not a super jammy wine because it is balanced by the tannins. It is both a masculine powerful wine that offers feminine notes of spice and everything nice.

Yes I did say it has both red AND blue fruit.

Or would that be red VERSUS blue fruit?

As well as jam AND tannins.

Or would that be jam VERSUS tannins?

Masculine versus feminine?

It’s unfortunate that both Syrah and Zinfandel have gotten a bad rap throughout the years; like Hamilton and Burr, they aren’t always recognized for the important roles they play (although admittedly there is a lot of crappy Zin and Syrah being produced out there… as well as crappy politicians). However,

Dry Creek Valley is an awesome place for zinfandels.

This wine is big and bold. There  is a lot of oak treatment on the forefront of this wine. Drink it with a piece of smoked cheese like a Jarlsberg and it tames the oak prominence in the wine. It likes spicy foods; it likes fat. We were thinking that this would be a great BBQ wine like spicy BBQ ribs, or brisket because this is not a delicate flower, nor is it really all that complex.

Going to smoke a turkey for Thanksgiving day or another holiday? Make a renegade turkey to go with this renegade wine. This would also go great with a smoked ham or anything with bacon in it!

When taking my first sip of this wine, it was without food and I felt too much presence of oak on the palate, however once paired  with smokey spicy foods, this wine was then very enjoyable to drink.

This wine would go well with pizza, even buffalo wings. It is fun, great wine for a get together yell at each other mood of a party. This wine will not call attention to itself, yet will fit in to any dueling event.

It is handsome in the glass, and it has a nice color to it; overall a handsome wine. There is a bit of minerality and earth there, but again it is not a very complex wine, nor is this wine about all of that: it’s more playful than serious. We feared it would lose its structure after being open, but it hung in there for a couple days just fine.


We have found that the Federalist label has been a solid wine for the price, and in this post read about two other Federalist wines as well as more about who the Federalists were. If you are looking for a reasonably priced wine that you can count on being something not to be embarrassed to take to a gathering, I would recommend any of the Federalist label wines as a safe bet and I look forward to writing about more of them.

The story of this wine is very fun, and it made us reflect on getting together for competitive events whether they be Election Day, World Series, Super Bowl… or a family feud, er gathering. So if you need a fun wine for a duel whether it be sports, family or an election, this wine is right on target.

In sum, a great dueling wine: you may not agree on the results, but you can all come together over the wine.


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