Jefferson Vineyards

Jefferson Vineyards
History, Uncorked.

By Hope S. Philbrick

This vineyards’ name plus its prestigious location near Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello may get you thinking that our nation’s third President once grew wine grapes on this land. Not quite. But both history and vines have deep roots here.

In the fall of 1773, a viticulturist named Filippo Mazzei set off from his home in Tuscany, Italy for Virginia. He brought grapevines with him—don’t try to do it today, customs regulations were quite different back then—and had been persuaded to come to the U.S. by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. How these founding fathers met Mazzei is unclear, but the Virginia Legislature had promised him land in Augusta County. On the way to that land, he visited Monticello and Thomas Jefferson persuaded him to stay, gifting him 193 acres—a tract that is still part of the estate. The following year, Mazzei purchased an additional 281-acre plot, built a house and started planting Virginia’s first vineyard. (Read the full history.)

Jefferson Vineyards

Though the original vines were eventually destroyed and the property came under new owners, when the Woodwards owned the land they planted grapevines in 1981 and first made wine in 1984. The Woodward family stuck with the venture and, in 2013, management of the land and wine business transferred to the third generation: Alexa and Attila Woodward.

While the master gardener at Monticello today tells tourists that Jefferson never succeeded in making wine—each year, his grapes were consumed by wildlife before humans could harvest the crop—the wine being produced on his former neighbor’s land is winning awards, including a double gold medal for 2013 Viognier at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.

“Twenty five acres are under vines,” says Attila. Vinifera varietals are grown, including Merlot, Chardonnay, Malbec, Petite Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. “We do strive to produce high quality wines here.”

Jefferson Vineyards“Our wines are in the Bordeaux style,” says Attila. “It’s a style that Thomas Jefferson would have appreciated.” Jefferson’s love of France and French-style is renowned; we can all thank him for introducing French fries to America.

Virginia is now home to more than 250 vineyards, living up to what Mazzei once wrote: “I do not believe that nature is so favorable to growing vines in any country as this.”

“At the end of the day, this is a labor of love,” says Attila. It’s easy to find a bottle to love here: Jefferson Vineyards has a solid reputation and a consistent track record.

“We try to achieve excellence,” says Attila. Tasting a lineup of wines currently in release as well as some special library selections proves that Jefferson Vineyards is well on its way to doing just that.

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@21plusTravel Tip: Look for bottles bearing the 2010 vintage, which Attila describes as “an exceptional year for Virginia wine.” He also admits, “2014 was a wonderful year for grapes; I can’t wait to taste that vintage.”

More Information…

Jefferson VineyardsJefferson VineyardsJefferson Vineyards
1353 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902

Monticello Wine Trail

Visit Charlottesville

Visit Virginia

– Photo Credits: Tasting room and aerial courtesy Jefferson Vineyards; remainder © HSP Media LLC

Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.

HopeP_144Hope S. Philbrick is founder and editor-in-chief of Getaways for Grownups. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications nationwide. She’s written about wines and spirits for more than 12 years. When not writing, she can usually be found on the road or savoring something tasty.

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