The birthplace of American Wine
Tomorrow is President’s Day. Did you know that several Presidents were instrumental in shaping the course of wine in our country? Several of our founding fathers were not only involved in efforts to ensure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but were real bon vivants with deep appreciation of fine wines.
Let’s start at the beginning. George Washington drank 3 glasses of wine after dinner. While this wine was a Portuguese Madeira (a very “in” wine at the time), he was also quite interested in French wine with dinner. Washington’s wine cellar included many chateaux still famous today, such as Mouton-Rothschild and Yquem. Way to go, George!
Thomas Jefferson had a profound influence on the American wine industry. Out of all the Presidents, Jefferson was certainly the most passionate about wine. As the Ambassador to France, Jefferson toured many of the country’s most illustrious chateaux---his favorites were Burgundy and Bordeaux. I was recently at Chateau Haut-Brion in Bordeaux and in the entry way of the chateau was an oil painting of Jefferson. According to records, Jefferson sent home thousands of bottles from the area for him and his friends, one of whom was George Washington.
Jefferson, however, was much more than a consumer of French wine. A definite wine geek, he took copious notes on the different French terroirs (soil types, drainage etc.). Moreover, he was the first American to attempt wine-making. Jefferson brought home cuttings from France and began growing grapes for his own wine-making at Monticello. He was certainly a dude with whom I would want to hang-out.
Fast forward >150 years to the Presidency of Richard Nixon. While Nixon’s ethics and politics don’t leave one with a warm and fuzzy feeling, he was undeniably a wine aficionado. At a time when jug wine and cocktails were the norm, Nixon drank the real-deal Champagne and Bordeaux. Fine wines apparently put a big dent in his entertainment budget. Considering it was tax payer dollars funding this, however, this may be another nail in his coffin.
Ronald Reagan loved wine. Prior to Reagan, mostly French wines were served at White House special dinners. But Reagan, who was especially crazy about wines from his home state of California, changed all of that. At a time when the California wine industry was beginning to shine, Reagan helped further promote it on a more global scale by serving it to some of the world’s most prominent leaders. BV Private Reserve was served to Prince Charles, while a Jordan Cabernet was on the menu at another dinner honoring Queen Elizabeth. Nancy Reagan, on the other hand, was wild about Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay and it frequently was served at White House events.
Have a Presidential Day.