2018-02-01 / Wine Notes

Presidential Wines

Robert D. Richards, CSW

February is the month in which we honor presidents (Feb. 19, to be exact), but before raising a glass to the nation’s chief executives, let’s find out what they liked to put in it.

Hands down, the country’s oenophile-in-chief was its third president, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson had a lifelong passion for wine, cultivating his palate when he served as American Minister in Paris. While in France, his tastes developed for the wines of Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne, but his vinous interests did not stop at that country’s borders. Jefferson also enjoyed Italian and Spanish wines.

Back in the states, Jefferson worked mightily to convince his fellow founding fathers of the benefits of enjoying fine wines. His wine adventures are colorfully chronicled — he liked both red and white wine — in John Hailman’s book, Thomas Jefferson on Wine. Today, visitors to Jefferson’s Virginia home, Monticello, can take a peek at his wine cellars.

Then, in the early 20th century, “last call” came. President Herbert Hoover called Prohibition “The Noble Experiment.” Hoover had amassed quite a wine collection, but his wife dumped it down the drain when the 18th Amendment came along, according to Mark Will-Weber, author of Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking.

Some of the more modern presidents also enjoyed wine. John F. Kennedy liked Champagne. Richard Nixon favored Bordeaux. Ronald Reagan had a taste for French wine as well, but also developed a liking for California wines. Good thing, since he once served that state as governor.

President Donald Trump does not drink, but that doesn’t stop him from having an eponymous winery in Charlottesville, Virginia. The 1,300-acre tract of land housing the Trump Winery sits just a few miles from Jefferson’s Monticello.

American wines often are showcased at state dinners at the White House. Here’s a sampling of wineries that have made it on that prodigious menu and some of their current offerings available locally. •SCM

Freemark Abbey Chardonnay Napa Valley 2015
(#49082, $26.99)
Hints of vanilla, oak, citrus and pear characterize this unique Napa Valley Chardonnay.
Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc
(#9104, $16.99)
From the other part of the Mondavi family clan comes this vibrant, crisp wine with grapefruit and other citrus notes marked by its always consistent structure.
Duckhorn Merlot 2013
(#74174, $52.99)
After spending 15 months in French oak barrels, this signature wine is a favorite of Duckhorn fans. The aroma hints of plum, blackberry and tobacco while the taste shows excellent tannic structure and a full-bodied flavor.

Return to top