Have you ever driven the equivalent of a six-to-eight-day horse ride, only to hear something like this at the end of your journey:

"Monticello closes at 5 PM and it's already 3:30. I'm sorry, but if I were you, I'd come back tomorrow. Maybe you can go see James Monroe's house. It's only two miles down the road and they're open till six."

Leave it to Virginia to have another president in the wings for late-in-the-day tourists.

I decide not to wait another day to ask the question that brought me here. So I brave the park attendant's pretty smile.

Next page: More than grapes get crushed
grape's eye view from monticello's vineyard
A grape's eye view from the vineyard at Monticello.

Do these vines hold the secret to the mystery that took me from an obscure farm in Havre de Grace, Maryland, to the most famous home in Charlottesville, Virginia?

Click through the next few pages to find out.