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White House Wines Shouldn't Be Top Secret

The state dinner wine lists should be a matter of good taste and national pride
Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Mar 20, 2012 3:30pm ET

I like knowing which wines are served at White House dinners to the President and his guests. I'm curious and I consider it a matter of national pride.

Therefore, I found it both odd and out of character for the White House to recently announce that it would no longer disclose which wines were being poured for dignitaries. It's a terrible idea. (And what's to stop dinner guests from reporting the selections afterward, as one person recently did after attending the state dinner held for British Prime Minister David Cameron?)

Some people were apparently upset that some fancy, expensive wines have been uncorked at the White House in this era of fiscal restraint—great American wines such as Opus One, Peter Michael and Quilceda Creek. Those kinds of wines aren't poured at the White House every day, and to chastise the government for showing off the best wines that America has to offer—world-class wines—is nonsense.

Winemakers deserve to have their wines recognized when served at the White House, and we deserve to know who they are, irrespective of price or appellation. It's a matter of local and national pride for those vintners who have accomplished so much with wine in this country in the past 30 years.

It was a big deal in 1972 when the 1969 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs was served at the "Toast to Peace" in Beijing, between President Richard Nixon and Premier Chou En-lai.

Nixon, of course, was a connoisseur of fine wine. He is said to have had himself served first-growths (with the label carefully concealed by a towel) at banquets, while his guests drank much more ordinary wines.

Ronald Reagan was also a big fan of California wine. His favorite: 1970 Beaulieu Vineyard Private Reserve, a classic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

I was disappointed when President Bush last visited Napa Valley and didn't take a moment to visit one of the wineries, to congratulate an industry built on small mom-and-pop startups for a job well done, not to mention all the jobs it has created.

There are plenty of things to keep Top Secret, but which wines are served to the President's guests isn't one of them.

Louis Robichaux
Highland Village, Texas —  March 20, 2012 10:49pm ET
Don't blame the POTUS, blame the media that looks to sensationalize anything and everything. I regret the policy as well, but it was a smart, safe political move. Sad state of affairs.
Tony Lombardi
Sebastopol, CA —  March 21, 2012 12:56am ET
Bummer, because the Kosta Browne 2008 Koplen Vineyard Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley was served at the June rose garden German Chancellor dinner. Great vineyard and wonderful people ... Dennis and Lynn Koplen!
Alex Guarachi
Woodland Hills —  March 25, 2012 6:42pm ET
We should always be proud and showcase the wines we make and drink whether at home or in the White House!
David Price
La Habra Hts., CA —  March 26, 2012 9:41am ET
Totally agree. I recently visited Valdez Family Winery in Cloverdale, CA, and saw the White House announcement about serving Valdez wines when the President of Mexico visited. The White House wanted to showcase an Hispanic family making wines in the U.S. and what a nice way to honor the Mexican president and the Valdez family!
John Lahart
New York NY —  March 26, 2012 11:05am ET
I think Mr Laube is on target.
The problem begins with the decision to NOT release the menus and wines for a state dinner.

This is clearly a political decision and given the White House as well as its occupants are public servants paid for by our tax money, transparency should not be an issue. I do take issue with Laube's final statement, though. Those were our guests.

That said, any decision will be critiqued by those who wish to make some political case. This is a can't win situation--it always has been and always will be. All the more reason to remove politics from the whole process of selecting the wines in the first place beyond a nice opportunity to show that someone has selected good wines to go with the menu.

It is surprising that this decision was made at all. PR 101 says that concealing anything like this results in creating a "what do they have to hide?" and "why are they hiding it?" situation.

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