This controversy was pretty much dead in the water as soon as it hit the internet, but what I find interesting about President Bush serving a $500 bottle of wine to his G20 guests, 1978-front-replaceis not how expensive the wine is, but how much better he could have done than the Schaefer 2003 Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon. I understand that they have to stick to American wines at the White House (although that wasn’t the rule until the Johnson administration), which drastically limits the opportunities for truly good wine. But if I were the cellar master I think I might choose a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from the 1970s, like the Chateau Montelena from 1978, being sold for a mere $150. 

I’m curious about the White House cellar in general. I found this article which interviews the White House “usher,” a man in charge of the wine cellar named Daniel Shanks, who was hired by the Clintons and has worked there ever since. His view seems to be that state dinners are too short and chaotic to serve an understated aged wine, and instead he prefers something with “youth and vigor” to pack a punch and make an impression. It sounds like the Clintons made a bad choice!

Interestingly, the Clintons were the ones to shift the White House cuisine from French food to American, and hired a man named Walter Schieb to be the chef overseeing this transition.