Happy Birthday, Mr. Washington!
The Father of our Country was a huge fan of the grape — his favorites were Madeira and Claret. Washington’s friend (and Secretary of State), Thomas Jefferson, was his wine buyer. Jefferson ordered oceans of wine for Washington. In 1790, Jefferson ordered 100 dozen bottles of wine (40 dozen Champagne, 30 dozen Sauterne, 20 dozen Bordeaux de Segur, and 10 dozen Frontignan) for President Washington. I guess you do a lot of entertaining when you’re the President. But you’d also need a decent sized space to store 1,200 bottles of wine, so I’m guessing those bottles lived in Mount Vernon’s wine cellar, since Washington never lived in the White House.
This week’s words come from John Hailman’s book, Thomas Jefferson on Wine. It’s a meticulously researched Jefferson history told through the lens of wine. And an absolute treasure of wine words for me!
During the Revolutionary War (almost a decade before Washington was ordering 1,200 bottles of wine at a time), a French officer named Marquis de Chastellux, served as a liaison between French General Rochambeau and General George Washington. Chastellux would later become a close personal friend of Washington. The two exchanged letters in July of 1781, three months before the Battle of Yorktown (which would put a fork in the Revolutionary War).
Washington had a rule against accepting gifts, but rules are meant to be broken, especially when you are running dangerously low on your favorite Claret. Chastellux realized how serious this deficit was, and offered Washington some of his own wine, specifically “ten barrils of Claret.” Chastellux (through a brilliant dose of wit) told Washington that if he were not to accept his gift, he would have no choice but to assume he was an “enemy to French produce.” And then (get this), he accused Washington of consorting with the enemy — “you have a little of the tory in your composition”. (And to think, Chastellux wrote this without benefit of winky-face emojis).
Egad. Did he just question George Washington’s patriotism?!?
Here is Washington’s response (sorry for the word curve, I was trying to hold the book open with one hand, and photograph with the other):
Who knew the Father of our Country had such a subtle wit?? I think I have a crush.
Well, that settles it. Washington has no choice but to accept the Claret! Clearly, he feels a little guilty about taking so much of Chastellux’s wine, but as long as Chastellux promises to come and hang out at Mount Vernon, and partake of Claret’s hilarity, then we’re all good.
I don’t know about you, but I’d love to share a glass of hilarity with Mr. Washington!
P.S. Mars Update: I am the Fish Wisperer!! I am pleased to report that Mars (my daughter’s sick betta fish) has been released from his hospital tank and is now resting comfortably at home. He’s looking and acting like himself (phew!!) I anticipate a full recovery. Apparently, I should have been a marine biologist.