Grateful American® Foundation

August 2015: Inside the Vines — Drink Up the Details on America’s First Wine Connoisseur, Thomas Jefferson

jeffersonwineThomas Jefferson is well-known for his love of wine. In fact, this Founding Father was not only a master gardener, but he is also considered America’s first wine connoisseur.

However, Jefferson’s taste for fine wines wasn’t well developed before he was sent to Paris by Congress to join Americans Benjamin Franklin and John Adams (August 1784 to September 1789) as diplomats there. Back then, Jefferson mostly drank sweet wines, such as port and sherry.

“But his taste began to change during the Revolutionary War,” according to Gabriele Rausse, Monticello’s director of gardens and grounds. “Once Jefferson discovered French wines, he became enchanted.”

Rausse refers to a famous quote thought to have been said or written by Jefferson to pioneering American viticulturalist John Adlum, who corresponded extensively with Jefferson. Speaking of the Catawba grape, Jefferson is believed to have said: “In bringing this grape into public notice, I have rendered my country a greater service, than I would have done, had I paid the national debt.”

So don’t miss our interview below with Rausse, who gives us a history lesson and tour of the vineyard at Jefferson’s magnificent Monticello.

As we celebrate the 231st anniversary of Jefferson’s departure for France — we lift our glasses to discoveries yet to be made. Cheers! — David Bruce Smith, founder, and Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer, Grateful American™ Foundation