Bush Tours Napa Valley

Apr 21, 2006

President Bush is arriving in Napa Valley today, and this appears to be the first visit to the area by a sitting president. (Our research didn’t turn up any other solid leads.)

The president is scheduled for a sleepover at Meadowood, the resort near St. Helena, which is owned by Bill Harlan, of Harlan Estate and Bond wineries.

Bush doesn’t drink wine (or any alcoholic beverages for that matter), so while he may tour a winery or two, he won’t likely be sampling the indigenous grape juice.

Locals might be more interested in Bush’s views on immigration policy (and border issues, since many Hispanics work in the wine business), the Napa River flood control project (the feds are the lead agency restoring the river to its natural state) or even laws relating to interstate wine shipping or competition from imports.

Imagine, though, if this were a different time, and, say, Thomas Jefferson were president.

Jefferson was the ultimate wine connoisseur and the greatest wine lover to ever be elected president. His passion for great French wines, in particular, led him to stock his and the White House’s cellar with the best and rarest wines money could buy.

If Jefferson were president today, he’d likely be drinking American wine with every meal. In fact, the Western White House might be in St. Helena. Were Jefferson in Napa Valley today, he might be quizzing Harlan on matters related to terroir, how Bordeaux varietals fare in Napa Valley and micro-oxygenation during fermentation, or more importantly, sitting down with Harlan for a vertical of Harlan’s Cabernets.

American wine is routinely served at the White House for most state dinners.

Two of the biggest wine advocates to sit in the Oval Office in our times both came from California. Richard Nixon loved Bordeaux and Riesling. He was known to secretly drink expensive Bordeaux (his favorite being Château Margaux) while his White House dinner guests drank lesser labels. (The sommelier concealed the identify of Tricky Dick’s wine by placing a napkin over the label as it was poured.)

Nixon put Schramsberg on the wine map when he toasted Chinese leaders with Schramsberg Champagne during his first visit to China in 1972.

Another huge fan of California wine was Ronald Reagan. As a two-term governor and then two-term president, his favorite wine was the 1970 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve, which he drank on a regular basis.

For years, in fact, BV Private Reserve was poured at important state dinners, and all the guests drank this special wine – not just the president.

Bill Clinton also routinely hosted American vintners and poured their wines during his eight-year tenure in the White House. He loved coming to the Bay Area to wine and dine, but never made it to Napa Valley, leaving Bush with the distinction of being the first sitting president to set foot in America’s most famous viticultural area.

If you were to advise the president about important wine issues, what would they be?

United States California
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