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Monday Manifestos
Drink Like A President

By Charles Olken

Tomorrow is Presidents’ Day, and I am determined to drink like a President. Throughout history, many of our Presidents have been winelovers, and, while I don’t know much about the drinking habits of our first two Presidents, it is pretty well recorded history that Thomas Jefferson not only had a big stash of Bordeaux bottlings but that he also grew grapes at Monticello.

In our recent history, perhaps no one did more with wine than Richard Nixon. His service of Schramsberg bubbles to the Chinese communists on the occasion of his successful ping-pong diplomacy pretty much propelled that winery to fame early in its existence. But Nixon was not called “Tricky Dick” for nothing. At fancy dinners in the White House, his wine was always kept separate from that served to the other guests. And as the story goes, while his guests where enjoying a nice, comfortable claret, Tricky Dick was drinking Chateau Margaux. Now, there are those who hate Nixon for Watergate. Not me. I am upset at the man for bogarting the Margaux.

Of course, California wine was not always a regular at the White House, although I am proud to say that the White House commissary has had a subscription to Connoisseurs’ Guide for decades. It really took until Ronald Reagan arrived on the scene for that to change. He brought in his own wine steward, a wine retailer from Sacramento (where Reagan had been Governor) named David Berkeley. It was Mr. Berkeley who gave California wines an even break.

If one can find someone at Beaulieu with a long memory, the old timers having all fled or been sent packing under corporate management, it will not be long before the name Leigh Knowles comes up. Mr. Knowles used to mention quietly but often that ten different President’s has enjoyed Beaulieu Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet. Not that I don’t like Margaux, but my first choice for dinner tonight is going to be from Beaulieu. If the wine is good enough for ten Presidents, it is good enough for me. The most recent vintage, 2007, rated two stars/93 points. That is also good enough for me.

I have a couple of other thoughts for you. Boeger Zinfandel is reportedly (reported by the Boeger winery) to be the first Zinfandel served at the White House. It is certainly less expensive than the Beaulieu. And if you cannot find Boeger Zin, do remember that for years, Zinfandel was called “California’s grape” because we could not trace its European roots or its passage to California.

There is a winery in Napa, in the Oak Knoll District, called Corley. The Corley winery is designed to look like Monticello and the winery has a label called Monticello Vineyards complete with a Jefferson Cuvée Cabernet Sauvignon.

And if the Jefferson name appeals, then consider Jefferson Reserve bourbon, a well-aged, rich and smooth potion that is among our favorite “Kentucky Merlots”—if I may borrow the nomenclature used by the Louisville Juice blog.

Happy President’s Day, everyone. I hope you don’t have to work, but I am guessing that most people do except for the Post Office.

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