Home > History of Wine > The Secret History of Wine: CIA Director Allen W. Dulles and Boordy Vineyards

The Secret History of Wine: CIA Director Allen W. Dulles and Boordy Vineyards


Philip and Jocelyn Wagner were fed up with Prohibition when they planted their grapevine nursery in Maryland during the early 1930s.  This was quickly followed by the publication of the informative book ”American Wines and How to Make Them.”  By 1945 the Wagners had established Maryland’s first commercial winery Boordy Vineyards. These wines spread in attraction, for example, throughout the 1950s they were available for purchase in Washington, DC at the Fred Burka shop on Wisconsin Ave at Macomb Street.  One advertisement featured the “fine dry white” at $1.35 in December 1951.[1]  Philip Wagner was not just a farmer and winemaker, he was also an editorial writer at The Baltimore Sun.  It is through this position that the wines of Boordy Vineyards came to the attention of Allen W. Dulles the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

LETTER TO MR. ALLEN W. DULLES FROM PHILIP M. WAGNER. [4]

LETTER TO MR. ALLEN W. DULLES FROM PHILIP M. WAGNER. [4]

The Baltimore Sun was in the eyes of the Central Intelligence Agency as early as 1955 when Stanley J. Grogan, Assistant to the Director, suggested Mark Watson of The Baltimore Sun, amongst others, be invited to a conference with the Allen W. Dulles.[2]  By March 22, 1960, Philip Wagner and Allen W. Dulles had met.  Philip Wagner had sent “wines of Boordy Vineyard” to Allen W. Dulles who thanked him and remarked, “I am anticipating with great pleasure the first taste of wine”.[3]  On June 30, 1960, Philip Wagner wrote to Allen W. Dulles that their “last conversation…was so very helpful” and that he wanted to “slip over” for another meeting. He continued that “A secondary reason for wishing to call of you is that we have bottled our 1959 Red wine, and it is the closest thing to a Beaujolais, I think, that has so far been produced in this country.  I want you to try it.”  We do not yet know what Allen W. Dulles thought of the wines but it does appear clear that these two men shared a common interest in wine.

Allen Welsh Dulles, 1893-1969. ca. 1920? National Photo Co.  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Allen Welsh Dulles, 1893-1969. ca. 1920? National Photo Co. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.


[1] The Washington Post (1923-1954) [Washington, D.C] 06 Dec 1951: C13.
[2] MEMO FOR THE DIRECTOR FROM STANLEY J. GROGAN. Doc No/ESDN: CIA-RDP86B00269R000100130094-3. URL: http://www.foia.cia.gov/sites/default/files/document_conversions/5829/CIA-RDP86B00269R000100130094-3.pdf
[3] LETTER TO MR. PHILLIP N. WAGNER FROM ALLEN W. DULLES. Doc No/ESDN: CIA-RDP80B01676R003700110111-9. URL: http://www.foia.cia.gov/sites/default/files/document_conversions/5829/CIA-RDP80B01676R003700110111-9.pdf
[4] LETTER TO MR. ALLEN W. DULLES FROM PHILIP M. WAGNER. Doc No/ESDN: CIA-RDP80B01676R003700110077-8. URL: http://www.foia.cia.gov/sites/default/files/document_conversions/5829/CIA-RDP80B01676R003700110077-8.pdf

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