We have a new President, one who does not drink alcohol. Never has. That makes him unusual among U.S. Commanders-in-Chief.
Here’s a brief look at the wine habits and preferences of some of his predecessors…
- It’s fairly well known that Thomas Jefferson planted grapevines — European varieties — at his Monticello home. What’s not so well known is that he did not live to see them produce wine-worthy grapes. A trip to France in 1784 had changed Jefferson’s drinking habits. Like most people, his experience with wine up to that point had been limited to Madeira, in large part because it traveled well (thanks to being fortified). But once he had experienced the wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy, there was no turning back for his palate.
I’m guessing Jefferson would have loved the 2015 Lavender Row Pinot Noir, a beautiful wine that shows off the terroir and winemaking techniques of France with its enticing aromas and flavors of red flowers, toasted oak, rhubarb, strawberry and crushed stones.
- Most early Presidents were Madeira drinkers. Records show that during one six-month stretch — from September 1775 to March 1776 — George Washington spent more than $6,000 on adult beverages, mostly Madeira wine. Back then, $6,000 could buy A LOT of Madeira.
- On January 24, 1980, Jimmy Carter hosted a dinner at which Prime Minister Francesco Cossiga of Italy was served a meal that included Robert Mondavi Johannisberg Riesling, Simi Cabernet Sauvignon and Hans Kornell Extra Dry sparkling wine. The dinner was followed by a concert featuring country music star Tom T. Hall, who concluded his set with the song, “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine.” That must have been quite a night.
- From the perspective of making the information public, Lyndon Johnson was the first President to place an emphasis on American wines at White House functions. He understood that wine is not only a drink but also a business, and American wine creates jobs, generates tax revenue… and tastes good.
- Demonstrating that he was quite different from Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon preferred French wines. Chateau Margaux reportedly was his favorite.
- Ronald Reagan was an equal-opportunity wine drinker. At various stages of his life, he loved both American (primarily Californian) and French wines.