Wine and the White House: A History By Frederick J. Ryan, Jr. book cover
Wine and the White House: A History introduces the American Presidents and their relationship to the winemakers and the wines served at inaugural and state celebrations in the White House. The National Park Service founded the White House Historical Association in 1961, with the support of First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, to archive the history of the White House, acquire historic artwork and furnishings for the permanent collection, assist in the preservation of the public spaces of the Executive Mansion, and to share this history with the public. She wanted to enhance the appreciation and enjoyment of the White House where Presidents and First Ladies had lived and served the people of the United States for two centuries.

Published in 2020 by the White House Historical Association, this is the first book of its kind; both the Wine Spectator and Wine Economist reviewed the book from the perspective of a hospitality focus on wine and history bonds in the United States. The author, Frederick J. Ryan, Jr. currently serves as the chair of the Board of Directors of the organization. Some stories from the book are included in our review.

Our third president, Thomas Jefferson was the first serious advocate for grape growing and wine in America. He served as the United States Minister to France from 1785 to 1789 under President George Washington and became a connoisseur of French wines. While serving as president from 1801 to 1809, he predicted, “We could, in the United States, make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe: not exactly of the same kinds, but doubtless as good.”

The first chapter describes the presidents and their wines of choice, followed by a history of American wines made from grapes grown in Virginia vineyards in the nineteenth century to those grown in California in the twenty-first century. The chapter on presidential toasts photographed with the foreign leaders honored is most enjoyable. The dinner menus spanning more than 100 years offer fascinating insights into American cuisine. The final chapter provides the reader with “The Wines Served: A Catalog of Vintages”.

Frederick J. Ryan, Jr. is the publisher and CEO of the Washington Post. He has studied winemaking extensively and has pursued a lifelong passion for the history of American presidents. He served under President Ronald Reagan’s Administration in a staff position and as Reagan’s Chief of Staff when the former president returned to private life in 1989. Ronald Reagan had a close connection to the California wine industry and was the first president to seek advice from experts on the wine selection for White House celebrations and events. He was also the first president to feature California wines prominently on White House menus.

On December 13, 2001, President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush served 1997 Talley Pinot Noir from “Rosemary’s Vineyard” in the Arroyo Grande Valley at a dinner celebrating “The Spirit of the Special Olympics.” You will find the menu on page 366 of the book.

All income from the sale of this book is dedicated to supporting the work and educational mission of the White House Historical Association. The book can be purchased through the White House Historical Association, on Amazon, or at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California.

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