Jefferson worked hard trying to grow grapes, although the native European varieties may have difficult to cultivate in America. Grapes he had--or could get. But while Jefferson had a sure touch for fomenting revolution, he had no luck fermenting the grape juice to make decent wine.
So he hired an Italian friend, Phillip Mazzei, to be Monticello's winemaker. The Italian had great success making good wines.
Although Mazzei and Jefferson were good friends, Jefferson complained in his journals that Mrs. Mazzei--a loud, bossy type--gave him a "quotidian headache"--that is, a daily headache. Small price to pay, perhaps, for the hundreds of bottles of homemade wine that Mazzei was able to stock in the perfectly chilled basement rooms at Monticello.
Now, more than 200 years after Phillip Mazzei turned Monticello's wine production around, another Italian, Gabriele Rausse, tends Monticello's grapes--no fewer than 18 varieties.
I press the vinedresser for an answer to the mystery that drove me over 300 miles. Do any of Adlum's grapes still survive, growing on Monticello's sunny hillside?
Next page: A New Hope
Grapes of every color and stage of growth hang in bright clusters in Monticello's vineyard.
The vines stretch into the distance in the hot afternoon sun.
Gabriele Rausse, Assistant Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello, stands in front of some of the flowers and plants he tends.