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james laube's wine flights

Presidential Advice: Hail to the Grape

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Jul 16, 2008 12:50pm ET

President Bush is scheduled to visit Napa Valley on Thursday to tour California and assess damages caused by this summer’s wildfires.

Here’s a piece of friendly, non-partisan advice: Embrace California wine. For that matter, embrace all American wine and include all the states.

The success of California wine, and that of Washington and Oregon, is something Americans should be proud of, and who better than the President to pay tribute to these industries.

There are so many feel-good stories about wine that it would seem like an easy way for the President to praise the farmers, winemakers and vintners—the men, women, old and young—who are the backbone of U.S. wine. If ever there has been an American success story, wine is it.

Wine has been an amazing growth industry, creating jobs in many segments, from hospitality to service industries to distribution. Wine is also the cornerstone of dining and an increasingly important consideration in our diets. Or how about a nod to wine and what it adds to the U.S. coffers?

Internationally, this country has created many enemies, and there is plenty of hostility directed toward Americans. Those who travel outside our borders often experience this sense of curiosity about "what’s up" with Americans. Thankfully, California wine is one of the bright spots. It has become one of the most positive symbols of American industry and creativity, and it serves as a positive ambassador for what’s going right in this country.

I wish the President would take a few moments while in Napa the next few days to say so, this being his second visit in the past two years. As the first sitting president to ever visit this wine region, he could acknowledge Robert Mondavi’s accomplishments. He could talk about the rise of Hispanics and blacks, their American dreams and their contributions to our society and wine culture. He could talk about Alice Waters and her Edible Schoolyards or efforts to promote healthier eating habits among our youth. Heck, he could even have a fish taco and a malt at Taylor's Refresher in St. Helena and hang out with the tourists. There's a reason so many millions visit wine country.

The more I think about it, the fact that American wine is seldom ever mentioned, much less praised, by national politicians bothers me. Is there something wrong with wine? Is there something wrong with our wine culture or the contributions that wine is making to our society that I’m missing?

Steven Glazer
Orinda —  July 16, 2008 5:01pm ET
Bravo! Well said. Someone should find out where the White House advance crew is staying and send them a nice bottle of wine along with Jim's Blog.
Harvey Posert
napa valley —  July 16, 2008 6:12pm ET
jim --what an insightful column! and you left out that bush's brother-in-law is wine institute's president! but we're probably lucky Bush never thought of us!harvey
Richard Horvath
July 16, 2008 7:08pm ET
It's the wine culture -- too many segments of the culture have (and encourage) an elitist image. In American politics, appearing elitist is almost as bad as calling for a major overhaul of social security.
Michael Wesson
TX —  July 17, 2008 10:23am ET
I would wholeheartedly agree that it would be nice of him to mention at some point, but you might cut him a little slack when he doesn't given that he doesn't really drink anymore (for various reasons).
Katherine Brown
North Carolina —  July 18, 2008 6:39pm ET
I agree with Michael. A temperance President really can't praise an industry that produces alcohol and not get a considerable amount of flak (although he is probably used to that by now).
Jason Zeledon
Berkeley, CA —  August 1, 2008 4:34pm ET
I concur that today¿s politicians should more readily embrace the grand American wine industry, especially because there are many precedents.

President Reagan was a well-known oenophile. Pictures of him giving a toast grace the walls of Napa wineries Caymus and Paoletti. During his administration (as well as in Clinton¿s and the current Bush¿s), many Napa wines were served at official functions.

Even more famously, Thomas Jefferson passionately loved French wine and oversaw the construction of a wine cellar at his home, Monticello. He died heavily in debt, forcing his family to sell many of their possessions and land, in part because of his insatiable thirst for great (and expensive) French wine!

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