November 14th, 2008
10:53 PM ET
10 years ago

World leaders dine in style as they discuss financial crisis

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Shafer Cabernet “Hillside Select” 2003 can go for as much as $500 a bottle."]

(CNN) - The global economy may be undergoing a significant downturn, but the White House's dinner budget still appears flush with cash.

After all, world leaders who are in town to discuss the economic crisis are set to dine in style Friday night while sipping wine listed at nearly $500 a bottle.

According to the White House, tonight's dinner to kick off the G-20 summit includes such dishes as "Fruitwood-smoked Quail," "Thyme-roasted Rack of Lamb," and "Tomato, Fennel and Eggplant Fondue Chanterelle Jus."

To wash it all down, world leaders will be served Shafer Cabernet “Hillside Select” 2003, a wine that sells at $499 on

The exceedingly pricey wine may seem a bit peculiar given leaders are in Washington to discuss a possible world financial meltdown, but Sally McDonough, a spokeswoman for Laura Bush, said it "was the most appropriate wine that we had in the White House wine cellar for such a gathering.

McDonough also said the White House purchased the wine at a "significantly lower price" than what it is listed at.

"Of course the White House gets its wine at wholesale prices," she said. "Given the intimate size of the group, it was an appropriate time for The White House to use this stock."

The leaders of the U.K., France, Russia, China, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey and 11 developing economies have all come to Washington at the behest of President Bush in an effort to express confidence in the fundamental underpinnings of the world's economy.

- CNN's Becky Brittain contributed to this report

Filed under: White House
soundoff (541 Responses)
  1. skip

    So while I buy my clothes from Target (and from Kohl's if I want to splurge), the Republican National Committee is spending $150,000 to outfit Sarah Palin and her family.

    While my wife and I scrimp to take our family out for a nice dinner at Denny's, our world leaders are eating (and drinking) like kings at the White House.

    What's next? Are we going to learn that while I was paying more than four bucks a gallon this summer to drive to and from work, the Bush administration's buddies at the oil companies were making more in salary than some Third World Countries' annual GDP?

    November 15, 2008 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  2. Tom

    Not surprising for a Bush event.
    Hopefully Obama will show common sense restraint and drink $50 per bottle wine

    November 15, 2008 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  3. Gorgegirl, White Salmon, Wa

    Maybe we are just being a little overly sensitive when faced with foreclosure on our homes to watch as our President serves $500 bottles of wine to his dinner guests. I mean, couldn't he have found something a little less expensive – I mean, I don't expect him to serve the wine I can afford ($8.99), but I would appreciate them being a little more sensitive to what the taxpayers are going through right now. ...especially since they have gathered to discuss the bad world economy.

    November 15, 2008 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  4. Michael G Ventura,CA

    Adding insult to injury---No wonder we're in the shape we're in. George W Nero fiddles and dines while Rome (USA) burns.
    Disgraceful at best-

    November 15, 2008 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  5. Carol

    No to Judas!

    Obama would be lucky to have Hillary as SOS.

    November 15, 2008 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  6. Tex Ann ~~~~~~~

    To the people who defended this obscene stupidy– you just don't get it, do you? Just like George Bush doesn't get it, or the GOP doesn't get it. People are scrimping & doing without just to pay their mortgage payment & put basic food on the table & enough gas in the car to get to work. They don't want to hear about somebody drinking $500 bottles of wine at the taxpayers expense. My family is in the top 5% of taxpayers in this country (at least according to the IRS) but I still find such lavish spending (particularly at an economic meeting) to be disgusting and an affront to the people of this country. I can afford to spend that $500 for a bottle of wine, but I would NEVER do it because it is pure & simple stupidity.

    November 15, 2008 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  7. vancity matt

    Poor reporting for sensationalism & page views.

    Wine can be had for $200 per bottle or less, and since its from their cellar, it was probably bought for less. Hardly outrageous!!!

    If anything, the reporting should be about why they picked a poor vintage. Everyone knows that 2003 in Napa was poor.

    November 15, 2008 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  8. Chicago GOP

    Sadly enough, it is the people living off government money that are complaining about this. The wealthiest in the world deserve to drink well. And as previous posts have mentioned, please note that this was taken from the White House wine cellar. From a cellar with probably 1k+ bottles of wine, these bottles were probably purchased at $50 many years ago. Any intelligent person would know that wine prices increase exponentially with age. A wine can be $50 when you buy it, and cost over $300 within 5 years.

    Becky- You are the type of journalist that deteriorates the reputation of a powerful media source such as CNN. You should be ashamed by your reporting. Also, out of curiosity, how much did you expense for wine the last time you went out to a business dinner? For me, a medium waged 25yr old, I spent $250 a bottle. I'm sure your bloated salary (because you've obviously proved you're not worth your salary) affords higher priced wines than my salary.

    November 15, 2008 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  9. Suzie McKay in Las Vegas

    The wine didn't cost anywhere near that much when it was purchased at wholesale prices and may have even been released prematurely by the vintner giving the current owner. It has been cellared all this time, most likely at the White House, and obviously has matured into a very nice wine.

    May I congratulate the White House sommelier on such a clever purchase?

    This story is of interest only to those of us who are interested in wine and food pairings. It is not a demonstration of overspending on the part of the current First Lady (the hostess, after all), our current President OR his administration.

    Do you think serving world leaders Big Macs would really improve our international image?

    November 15, 2008 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  10. Tired of the whining

    Are you whiners also upset that the owner of your company lives in a bigger house, drives a better car, and eats far better than many of the employees? And I'm talking regular companies, not the AIG execs type. Never mind that they, like oh, let's see...the President of the United States... meet with far more important people than the average consumer (who is still important but cannot make global decisions). Even when thousands more were in much worse financial situations during the Depression, FDR still served nice meals, with nice drink, drove nice cars, and wore nice clothes than the average citizen. I am not yet won-over by President-elect Obama; I have a wait and give him a chance attitude. But even he will host very pricey functions that are important to the job he was elected to do. I'm a non-drinker and even I don't have a problem with the price of the wine. Totally a non-issue!

    November 15, 2008 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  11. Reality

    I drink $500 a bottle wine. Its the White House, and we are the most powerful nation on the planet. They should have something nicer.

    Obamabots, this is not a socialist state – get it through your heads.

    November 15, 2008 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  12. Haley

    Sounds like a real Happy Meal to me.... hope all the guests get toy with their Happy Meal.

    P.S. I take left overs...just call me and I will come right over :-}

    November 15, 2008 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  13. Omaha Prime

    $500 a bottle! Are you kidding. This wine is available all over the place for $200 a bottle. That's a decent price for an outstanding wine to represent the US to the rest of the world. I suppose some people would prefer that we serve hot dogs or hamburgers to our guests with a boxed wine because we have some moral responsibility to under prividleged group(s) who unfortunately will always be with us.

    November 15, 2008 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
  14. Dennis Shelton, California

    Good grief. Is this all you can find to WHINE about!!!!!!!!

    November 15, 2008 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  15. Nathan

    ROGER I have my facts straight. I understand far more than you may think about California wine and vintages. Also, I never said this wine was awful, I said the vintage was awful. 2003 was one of the worst vintages in CA in a decade, that is a fact.

    You may be the kind of person who would buy a wine like this for 250 dollars but that would only mean you don't look for the best price. Shafer Hillside is currently in its 2005 vintage so the far inferior 2003 would be priced accordingly.

    But, please keep hitting me with the hard facts and I will leave out the fact that I work for the largest fine wine company in the world.


    November 15, 2008 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  16. Joe Murphy

    So what us new...This IDIOT had been drunk most of his life...THANK GOD he will be gone in 65 days..

    November 15, 2008 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  17. Nathan


    You are looking at "RETAIL" pricing which is, obviously, marked up from distributor pricing.

    Try again.

    November 15, 2008 01:52 am at 1:52 am |
  18. Nija

    Why not. This is the president of the free world.

    November 15, 2008 01:57 am at 1:57 am |
  19. SMacNeil

    Canada has one of the most stable financial systems in the world right now and we are grouped under "developing economies"??

    November 15, 2008 02:01 am at 2:01 am |
  20. Joe Murphy

    This walking, talking, moron, fool, will be gone in 65 more days..As a going away gift for him I suggest everybody in the country send him a big bag of PRETZELS..With any luck at all he will choke to death on another one. This fool cant walk and chew gum..

    November 15, 2008 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  21. Alejandro Bernal-Herrera

    It is a disgrace that our government cannot understand the basic principle of leading by example. These are tough economic times we are facing: unemployment is rising, millions of Americans have lost a significant portion of the value of their 401-k retirement accounts, and the sense of uncertainty about the immediate economic future is impacting the entire nation. While it is understandable that the White House has a responsibility to represent the nation to the world, it is unwise to present such a disconnect with the realty of mainstream America. While the taxpayers are facing basic bread and butter issues: affording health insurance, worrying about their job, and wondering how to pay the bills in response to rising prices, the government serves $500 bottles of wine to dinner guests. This reminds of someone who once said let them eat cake. Truly unwise.

    November 15, 2008 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
  22. Logan

    I guess when the president has a 24% approval rating, he doesn't care what we think. I mean c'mon, afterall this is America

    November 15, 2008 02:16 am at 2:16 am |
  23. will ny

    tomorrow its shake and bake cutlets and string bean caserole for me....

    really these people need to know how the americans really eat.

    November 15, 2008 02:29 am at 2:29 am |
  24. Disbelief

    How did this poor reporter get tasked with the most stupid subject matter on the planet? I, as a taxpayer, expect my government to represent itself in the most sophisticated and professional manner possible when bringing world leaders into our country. To do anything less would be insulting to them, and insulting to us. I am sick and tired of seeing these whiny people complain about the behaviors of what they call "the rich" (which is anyone who makes more than they do apparently)......funny how that goes until suddenly they find themselves considered "rich" because they worked hard and worked smart. Then they get to see someone else complain about their "excesses". Stop whining about everyone elses expenditures and get yourself a career. If you can't find one, start a new business. It's the American Way.

    November 15, 2008 02:29 am at 2:29 am |
  25. James Carville

    these are signs of socialism... expect more of this in obama regime.
    "if you have a limosine, I should have a right to have rollce royce"

    November 15, 2008 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
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