Next day we pull into the Monticello parking lot, buy our tickets, take the mini-bus up the hill to the fabulous old home. There it stands: the home the great mind designed himself--and never stopped improving. 

We take the children's tour, which allows our kids to show off some of their learning from the Harford County Mighty Marylander and Patriot Programs. 

Even now, with my question about the grapes seemingly answered, wine keeps creeping into the landscape. 

Jefferson had an ingenious way of keeping and serving his wines. He built a basement system of rooms that stretched out from under the house to extend the cool subterranean temperature to many storerooms and workrooms, such as the kitchens. The rooms also served as the foundation for a walkway and sitting area on top to view the gardens and surrounding hills. 

He kept the wines in one or more of the storerooms and rigged up a dumb waiter that carried the selected bottles from the basement directly to the dining room so that the wine would hold its chill as long as possible. It would then be decanted straight for adults or mixed with some water for the children and grandchildren. 

Among these bottles must have been wine made from juice pressed from John Adlum's grapes. Again, I grow frustrated that my search has ended badly. 

We walk the grounds. We see the garden and gift shop. And then, everything changes when someone sneezes.

Walking just in front of my son and me, heading away from the house and past a bunker of bright summer flowers, a man with a white shirt and tie sneezes. Instinctively, I say, "Bless you." He thanks me, and then, just as instinctively, I ask if he works at Monticello. He does. I go into my Swan Harbor story--same story I told the girl yesterday.

Turns out the man is the assistant curator at Monticello, Jay Williams. There is little he doesn't know about Monticello, Jefferson, and the vineyard--including the man who tends the grapes. Between the two men, I get the real story. 

Next page: The Real Story


storeroom
A Monticello basement storeroom holds just a few  of the many hundreds of wine bottles that Jefferson needed for his family and guests.

underground passageway
This passageway connects the system of underground storerooms and workrooms.

-aboveground walkway
Above ground, Jefferson built a walkway on the foundation of subterranean rooms. The walkway stretches out from the home on both sides and takes in views of the gardens and surrounding hills.