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Book uncorks the history of wine and the White House

Frederick J. Ryan’s work takes you on a historical adventure, all through the lens of wine and its role on presidents’ tables

"Wine and the White House."
"Wine and the White House."HANDOUT

Thomas Jefferson was America’s first wine connoisseur and purchased more than 20,000 bottles when he was president. During Prohibition, it was forbidden to transport alcohol. Still, Woodrow Wilson was able to move his wine collection to his post-presidential Washington, D.C., home. Influenced by James Bond films, JFK always choose Dom Perignon. Richard Nixon secretly drank Bordeaux while waiters poured guests less prestigious wines. A new book, “Wine and the White House: A History” by Frederick J. Ryan Jr., published by The White House Historical Association, is filled with anecdotes about America’s 45 presidents and takes you on a historical adventure, all through the lens of wine and its role on presidents’ tables. It’s laden with illustrations (some satirical) and historical photos: Angry protesters carrying “We Want Beer” signs when Herbert Hoover threw out the first pitch at the 1931 World Series; Gerald Ford sharing a toast with Queen Elizabeth II, and Barack Obama with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a 2015 White House dinner. Included are menus from state dinners going back to 1877, photos of the bottles served, and the beautiful decanters, glassware, and serving pieces. Reflections from various White House social secretaries add to the entertaining read. Ryan is chair of the board of directors of the White House Historical Association and is the publisher and CEO of the Washington Post. His lifelong interest in wine has led him to study its history and even winemaking. He’s had first-hand experience in the White House, for he held a senior staff position during the Reagan administration. The book is a page-turner, not only for an oenophile or a history buff. Proceeds of the sales go toward the White House Historical Association’s work ($55). Available at shop.whitehousehistory.org; amazon.com, and other booksellers.

ANN TRIEGER KURLAND

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Ann Trieger Kurland can be reached at anntrieger@gmail.com.