Did you know that President Thomas Jefferson was a Wine Enthusiast? Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743. This polymath was an American Founding Father, the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence (1776), the third President of the United States (1801–1809), founder of the University of Virginia and the father of American viticulture.
In 1768, he started construction of his Neo-Palladian Monticello mansion on 5,000 acres. Monticello was his mountaintop home in Virginia with a vista of his his former home of Shadwell. When he was the Minister to France from 1784–1789, he had an opportunity to see some classical European buildings and taste alot of French wine. In 1794, following his service as Secretary of State he began rebuilding Monticello based on the ideas he had acquired in Europe.
Monticello is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historic Landmark just outside Charlottesville, Virginia. An image of the west front of Monticello by Felix Schlag has been featured on the reverse side of the nickel minted sine 1938. Monticello also appeared on the reverse of the two-dollar bill from 1928 to 1966, when the bill was discontinued. The gift shop at Monticello hands out current two-dollar bills with Jefferson’s portrait as change.
Thomas Jefferson, described as America’s “first distinguished viticulturist” and “the greatest patron of wine and wine growing that this country has yet had,” established two vineyards at Monticello. Both were situated in the south orchard, below the garden wall.
Jefferson aspired to make wine from Monticello-grown grapes, but successful cultivation of Vitis vinifera, the classic European wine species, was virtually impossible, until modern methods were developed to control black rot and destructive pests called phylloxera, an aphid-like root louse.
Many native grapes were grown more effectively than vinifera, yet the poor quality of the resultant wine hindered the development of an established industry. Although Jefferson probably never made a Monticello wine, the diverse collection of varieties he assembled and his influential advocacy of American viticulture were worthy accomplishments in themselves.
In 1985, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation restored Jefferson’s 1807 plan for the northeast vineyard using several Jefferson-related European varieties grafted on hardy, pest-resistant native rootstock. Three hundred bottles of a blended white wine were produced from the harvest of 1988.
The southwest vineyard was replanted in 1993 entirely with the Sangiovese grape; the principal ingredient of Chianti. Several vintages have been made with harvests from this vineyard and are sold from the Monticello Museum Shops.
Gabriele Rausse, one of the founders of the modern Virginia grape industry, oversees the production of wine as well as the care of the restored vineyards.
Here are some interesting Wine Festivals that honor American History:
Monticello Wine Festival in Charlottesville, Virginina is held in May. Enjoy the Monticello estate and taste Virginia’s best selection of wines. Enjoy the splendor of spring in full bloom as you savor your glass of Virginia wine on the West Lawn just like Jefferson did. Visit the restored vineyards and meet wine-maker Gabriele Rausse. The plantings at Monticello continue to serve as experimental gardens of unusual varieties of vinifera.
Take tours of Jefferson’s home and listen to live music on the West Lawn. Local wine experts are usually available to answer questions about the region’s finest wines and how they compare to the vintages that Jefferson enjoyed.
Thomas Jefferson’s Wine Festival in Bedford in November. Celebrate Jefferson’s passion for wine! The festival will feature Virginia wineries, artisans and local food purveyors and musical entertainment.
Montpelier Wine Festival is help in May and showcases 24 premier Virginia wineries on the historic grounds of President James Madison‘s residence. Live music, cooking and wine tasting classes all add to the experience.
Spring Wine Festival & Sunset Tour at Mount Vernon in Alexandria in May.
Mount Vernon is a Georgian structure that is located near Alexandria Virginia. It was George Washington’s plantation home and is a National Historic Landmark that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The neoclassical structure is located on the banks of the Potomac River.
Mount Vernon has a spring celebration of the history of the Virginia wine industry on the east lawn overlooking the Potomac River. Guests sample wines from award-winning Virginia wineries. You can learn about the successes and failures of our Founding Father’s wine endeavors and enjoy live music. Guests can register for an evening tour of George Washington’s home and are invited to visit the rarely-open basement cellar vaults where he stored his wine.
Fredericksburg Area Wine Festival – Fredericksburg in October. Eight Virginia wineries have samples of their wines, as well as microbrews from Blue and Gray Micro Brewery! Food concessions, local crafters and artisans, live music, and Aubrey Treakle’s Barrel Train for the kids. Free admission to retired and active military with ID.
Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Travel Guides @ www.vino-con-vista.com
- Taste Washington 2012: A Food and Wine Festival in Seattle (vinoconvistablog.me)
- Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (vinoconvistablog.me)
- Top Eight Decisions That Changed the Us (pastparallelpaths.wordpress.com)
- The Mount Vernon Spring Wine Festival 2012 in Virginia (vinoconvistablog.com)
- Jefferson…Meet the Wine Bloggers, Wine Bloggers…Meet Jefferson (fermentation.typepad.com)