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Bush Tours Napa Valley

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Apr 21, 2006 1:54pm ET

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?

Tim Fleming
corona,ca. —  April 21, 2006 7:35pm ET
Mr. President If you are ever successful with limiting/reducing the ever escalating oil prices; please apply those principles to the Ca. wine industry.
Gerald Ansel
Fullerton, CA —  April 21, 2006 7:54pm ET
"If you were to advise the president about important wine issues, what would they be?"Without a doubt, I would advise President Bush to support Sen. Carole Migden's (D-San Francisco) proposed legislation designating Zinfandel as the official California State wine. Passing this bill should be a no-brainer. Italian Primativo notwithstanding, nowhere else on earth is Zinfandel more robust or flavorful. It is our state's only indigenous grape, and what a magnificent grape it is. It should be honored accordingly.
David Nerland
Scottsdale —  April 22, 2006 12:01am ET
I was having lunch yesterday at Tra Vigne yesterday when the two guys sitting next to me (both moaning about they probably will not be able to pick until December)started talking about Bush staying at Meadowood. My answer-Laura wanted to go wine tasting (Laura drinks)! So, if I was to advise Pres. Bush about important wine issues my first advice would be to help the states change their laws to allow interstate commerce between all states.
Sao Anash
Santa Barbara —  April 22, 2006 12:33am ET
Please make all states in our union reciprocal shipping states. It's the only way that small to mid-sized wineries can maintain a foothold in an increasingly competitive marketplace where distributors, consolidators and corporate entities monopolize the market. Give our winemakers a chance to sell their wines to each state in the union. Free the grapes!!!!!!!
David Niederauer
April 22, 2006 11:52am ET

A group in a limo going from one winery to another tasting... isn't that exactly what the wineries are shunning by increasing the price of a tastings? Do you suppose they will charge Laura?

I would ask the President to please counsel our Governator to void the law that virtually outlaws foie gras in California.

D Fredman
Malibu, CA —  April 22, 2006 2:24pm ET
Sticking to topics dealt with at the Federal level, the issues pertinent to the wine industry that I'd discuss with the President would start with immigration reform with regard to agricultural workers, interstate shipping regulations pertaining to small wineries, and putting in place tax-based incentives to encourage wineries to take a more green, energy-efficient and sustainable farming approach to their production efforts. The other idea about Thomas Jefferson being President right now is attractive to me for number of reasons, but I don't think that he'd be particularly electable these days. Jefferson had too many opinions and original thoughts (ie: too much personality) to garner him the broad-based public appeal needed to be elected to a national position in 2008. Besides, he's already served two terms.... :)DF
Evan Meltzer
Rhinebeck, NY —  April 23, 2006 3:15pm ET
Please pray that the Bush/Fema team never gets involved with any Napa Valley Flooding-We'll all be drinking Budweiser.EM
William Delaney
Arlington VA —  April 27, 2006 5:21pm ET
Here's a toast to the President: Quagmire Accomplished, Sir!

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