Wine, Virginia and presidents are all beautifully intertwined. Grape growing began in 1619 with the Twelfth Act, a mandate by the House of Burgesses which required land owners to plant and maintain ten vines. Some of America’s earliest vineyards were once located on the same soil as modern day vineyards like The Williamsburg Winery in Williamsburg and Philip Carter Winery in Hume. It is Thomas Jefferson, however, whom history most remembers for trying and failing to successfully grow the grapes to create the wines of Europe.
Jefferson Vineyards in Charlottesville is the site of the original vineyards of Philip Mazzei, an Italian viticulturist whom received from Thomas Jefferson 193 acres adjacent to Monticello. According to Jefferson Vineyards, Mazzei was able to produce wine from six varieties of native grapes, but the vineyard was destroyed in 1778. The vineyard was replanted in 1981 by Virginia wine pioneer Gabriele Rausse and wine was available by 1984.
— WINE IN THE WHITE HOUSE —
Virginia wine has made it onto the table at The White House. Several times, actually. Just prior to Valentine’s Day in 2014, President Barack Obama hosted a State Dinner and served a Virginia wine, NV Thibaut-Jannison Blanc de Chardonnay, to French President François Hollande. It wasn’t the first time President Obama has chosen the Blanc de Chardonnay. He and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh enjoyed a glass during the President’s first State Dinner in 2009. The Thibaut-Jannison wines are not available in a tasting room, but you may find a retailer to purchase a bottle.
Additional Wines Served in The White House:
- Naked Mountain (President George H. W. Bush, President William J. Clinton)
- Horton Vineyards (President William J. Clinton)
- Barboursville Vineyards (President-Elect Barack Obama’s Inaugural Gala)
- Wisdom Oak Winery (President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Gala)
— PRESIDENTIAL & PATRIOTIC —
Barboursville Vineyards in Barboursville crafts specially bottled wines for Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello: Monticello Claret, Monticello Octagon, Monticello Vin Blanc, Monticello Chardonnay and Monticello Malvasia.
DuCard Vineyards in Etlan has created limited edition James and Dolley Madison wines. James Madison’s Constitutional is a red wine while Dolley Madison’s High Society is a white. Purchase together as a boxed set and a portion of the proceeds goes directly to The Montpelier Foundation.
Little Washington Winery in Washington has a signature red, a Meritage, called “George” after the one and only George Washington. It was named Best Wine in Show at Virginia Wine Showcase and tied with Barboursville Octagon for the number one red wine in Virginia by Virginia Wine Lovers Magazine.
A visit to Democracy Vineyards in Lovingston will deliver wine names pointing to freedom. For example, Declaration is the signature white, Dawn’s Light is a rosé, Constitution is a Viognier and Petit Manseng blend, and Emancipation is a blend of Pinotage and Merlot. Cheers to the red, white and blue!
— WINE FESTIVALS AT PRESIDENTS’ HOMES —
- Montpelier Wine Festival is held annually in May at James Madison’s Montpelier in Montpelier Station, Virginia.
- Thomas Jefferson Wine Festival is held at Jefferson’s Poplar Forest retreat in Forest, Virginia each November.
- George Washington’s Mount Vernon is the site of two festivals: Spring Wine Festival & Sunset Tour and Fall Wine Festival & Sunset Tour, held in May and October, respectively.
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