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Secret Service and Chilean Wine

Christopher Von Holt
May 10, 2011 | Christopher Von Holt

Secret Service and Chilean Wine

Pam and I inadvertently found ourselves at dinner a few nights ago with a winemaker who was born in Chile. We greatly enjoyed his company, and not just because he had good things to say about Von Holt Wines 09 Suacci Vineyard Pinot Noir! We chatted about Chilean and American wine making philosophy, but eventually the conversation turned away from wine to general stories about the two countries. I told him my favorite story about when I went to Chile as a US Secret Service Agent.

A few days before the President visited Chile many years ago, about 20 of us flew there on what is commonly referred to as a "Car Plane". That's a US Air Force cargo plane that is used to shuttle the armored Caddy limos and Chevy Suburbans to the cities that the President will visit. The President and the accompanying Secret Service Agents always ride in Secret Service vehicles for obvious reasons - armor, bullet resistant glass, audio-countermeasures, and a few other things better left unsaid. The "Car Plane" also shuttles equipment such as magnetometers and USSS personnel - but believe me, its the cars that are the issue. They are treated better than the Agents - perhaps because they cost more!

After work every night, we enjoyed a delicious steak, perfectly cooked pomme frites, and fantastic red wine. Each restaurant was better than the previous night's. After the President's visit was completed without incident, we loaded up the cars, equipment and about 200 cases of incredible and very inexpensive red wine. We landed at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, right outside Washington DC at about 3am, which was a common occurrence due to time changes and flight patterns. A US Customs Agent in full uniform boards the plane before the "Load Sergeant" who actually runs the plane despite with the Captain pilots think, could get the cargo doors open. He passed out the US Customs Forms - just like you get on every commercial flight coming into the US. We all checked the "Nothing to Declare" box - as he stood directly in front of what must have appeared to be a wall at one end of the plane to him, but of course was 200 cases of Chilean wine. I suppose even the normally staunch supporters of truth, justice, and the American Way don't like paying Custom's fees any more than you do! We loaded everybody's personal vehicle with as many cases as it could hold. The married guys with minivans and Suburbans made out the best. I had my 5.0 liter, 5 speed, stick shift Mustang at the time, so I got a smaller share, but I was still one happy Agent driving home. So, when you drink that next bottle of Chilean wine (or Von Holt Wine) toast US Customs!



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