Perusing the wine labels, you might notice The Bohemian Club popping up as a place where many bottles seemed to have been consumed. (And what an astute transcriber you are.) But unless your last name ranks in a list with the likes of Bush, Eastwood or Hearst, there’s a good chance that this members-only club has been flying under your radar.
The Bohemian Club was founded in 1872 by a group of journalists who wanted to share their love of the arts, grew to become the private sanctuary for some of the richest and most powerful men in America (as a rule, the Bohemian Club did not put out the welcome mat for women). The list of members includes former presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr. and Jr; mayors of major cities; former FBI and CIA directors; and corporate CEOs. The Club operates two locations: a city clubhouse San Francisco and a retreat north of the city called Bohemian Grove, where members go for two weeks each summer. (It was Bohemian Grove where the Manhattan Project was conceived, leading ultimately to the creation of the atom bomb.) When Rudyard Kipling visited San Francisco in 1889, he attended a dinner party at the already-famous Bohemian Club, and described the evening as consisting of a “most unrepublican luxury.”
Maynard A. Amerine was a long-standing member of the Bohemian Club and many of the labels did indeed come from wines consumed there. (He visited the Grove the same summer as Eisenhower). In fact, Amerine seems to have taken his role as wine ambassador quite seriously and he frequently negotiated with wine merchants on behalf of the Club. If you’re lucky enough to imbibe at Bohemian Club, you’ll find the wine program is still based on the system instituted by Amerine in the 1940s.