On August 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon announced his resignation. While it wasn’t the high point in his career, at least Nixon had something to look forward to-- he could once again drink French wine whenever he wanted.
Nixon had a former presidential colleague to thank for his abstinence from the First Growths. President Lyndon B. Johnson, who assumed our country’s highest office before Nixon, instituted a policy of serving American wine exclusively at public events in the White House, a practice that has been maintained to this day. For this reason, Nixon, a Bordeaux lover, was barred from quaffing his favorite grand vin at state affairs. It’s rumored, however, that “Tricky Dick” may have had French wines surreptitiously slipped into his glass as his guests sipped American.
Despite his predilection for Bordeaux, Nixon, a California native, catapulted Napa’s Schramsberg Vineyards into the international spotlight in 1972 when he served their Blanc de Blancs at the “Toast to Peace” dinner with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. Every presidential administration since has served Schramsberg’s sparkling wines. And the wines of other famous American wineries such as Pride, Duckhorn, and Iron Horse grace the State dinner table frequently.
That’s not to say all presidential administrations have been lauded for their wine picks. President George W. Bush, a teetotaler, was panned in November 2008 after he served a $250+ bottle of 2003 Shafer Hillside Select, a great wine but perhaps not the most politically correct choice for an emergency summit on the economic crisis. Like every aspect of a president’s life, wine choices can be read as nuanced political statements.