Rausse can neither confirm nor deny Adlum's gift. Perhaps the record of it lay somewhere in Jefferson's journals. But he can give me the history of Monticello's vineyard--and some hope for our project.
Part of the original vineyard was restored in 1985 by the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, which runs the operations and scholarship activities at Monticello--much as the vineyard at Swan Harbor Farm is beginning the process of restoration under the sure guidance of Michael Fiore, who has been granted a ten-year contract by the County Council.
Mr. Rausse suggests that a successful grape for the Swan Harbor vineyard could be Alexander--a grape that was found growing wild in William Penn's yard. (That's William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, whose statue sits atop Philadelphia's City Hall.) Alexander is a cross between American and European grapes.
With Rausse's permission, I trudge down the side of the green hill where the vines and orchard bring lush order to the tangle of bushes that rule the land before the woods take over. The view is magnificent from anywhere on the hill atop which Monticello sits.
The August sun beats down on this hottest day of the year 2000. Over 100 degrees, someone said along the way. The grapes hang in warm, bright clusters, nestled in wide, green leaves. I'm tempted to pluck a bunch for refreshment.
But I bask instead in the knowledge that, whether or not Thomas Jefferson ever successfully transplanted John Adlum's grapes, Swan Harbor Farm and Monticello will share a new bond of friendship and cooperation. But this time it will be fully documented for historians 200 years from now. No more mysteries!
Credits and Resources
Monticello's Underground Areas
Jefferson's vegetable garden, orchard, and vineyard. A restoration after original plans. Could Adlum's grapes have grown here once?
The vineyard--a closer view.
Alexander grapes--one of 18 varieties grown today at Monticello.