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Nov 13, 2010 02:59 AM

Thomas Jefferson was a wino?

:)) Not really, but he kept a wonderful and varied choices of wine in his personally designed wine cellar. As a statesman and our country's president, he had many distinguished guests (some stayed for months on end!) and during supper and late night fireside chats, they enjoyed in his taste of fine wines. he designed a special dumb-waiter that brought wine and beer up from his cellar to both sides of the fireplace in the dining room, as well as to various personal spaces in the sleeping quarters on the upper levels of the home in Montecello. Quite interesting actually, and his personally designed and built structures of pulleys and space-saving conveyances for wine bottles, was nothing short of amazing!
the tour of the wine cellar revealed a listing of his favorite wine choices that he kept stocked, as well as his own brand of home-made beers and wines. In the South, we have a wonderful grape called the Scuppernong, that makes for a very nice wine, and well known to home brewers here. Montecello had its own brewery that made and bottled it own recipes for wines made from local fruits harvested from the vast Jefferson estate. Jefferson also liked French wines and apparently he kept quite a stock, as it was well known that Jefferson enjoyed serving the best to his guests. the tour of Montecello's wine cellar lists his favorites: Chateau's Margaux, Latour, Haut-Brion, and Lafite, Champagnes, Bordeaux, and Burgandy, Rousillon, Rivesaltes, Limoux, Ledanon, and Montepulcaino, plus his own brands. That must have been quite a undertaking to keep his wine cellar stocked considering how far European wines had to be shippec, literally, to get to Virginia back in those days, as well as how well the bottles must have been packed to make those ocean voyages!
While the Virginian visit to my sister's was great in itself, the tour of Montecello was a high point (along with the colorful leaves in October), as it made me wonder what wines must grace the tables of our country's president of today; that would make a great story, wouldn't it! When Jefferson died, he left a great debt- he may have been land-rich, but he was very cash- poor! His presidental budget came from his own pockets-Imagine THAT!!!!; which only served to make me think about the amolunt of the White House's budget of today. I shudder to think about that amount, as well as the difference in what a president gets paid today while in office, as well as his dalary when he retires! My, how things have changed!
I hope that many get to try the wines that were the choice of President Thomas Jefferson (if they are still available today) and enjoy the`flavors of the past and the present. I am an old Southern chow-hound, but new to this site, and I look forward to reading and enjoying the many posts, cooking tips, recepies and chow-articles to be had here. Here's hoping that everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving, especially those I plan to suprise with a Thanksgiving Turkey Cake and a bottle of Jefferson's choice of wine!

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  1. He toured wine country in France and Germany to sample the wine and make some purchases. He also picked up some vines to plant in his own vineyard. Jefferson's favorite wine was white Hermitage from vineyards now owned by Jaboulet.

    1. Depends what you mean by wino, but I'd say he deifinietly was. he was a great wine enthusiast, wanted to grow vinifera and spend many years trying to get vines to survive without success. He scoured the winelands of Europe for wines to ship back home and maintained an excellent cellar.

      See John Hailman's book 'Thomas Jefferson on Wine'

      1 Reply
      1. re: Gussie Finknottle

        Thanks Gussie for the book tip. After touring Monticello, I didn't have much, if any, interest in what former or current presidents drank. Although now, I have to say that given the information I gleaned from that one tour, it opened an interesting folder in my mind that needs filling with more research, Not that I am a wino, but I do like a good wine myself!

      2. I forget if it was Malcolm or Steve Forbes, or both.....but I seem to recall they purchased a bottle of Chateau Lafite or Margaux at auction for $275,000.00.........which may or may not have been a record at the time.

        When they opened was swill.

        3 Replies
        1. re: fourunder

          What a rip! I can't see anything that should cost that much money, much less a bottle of wine! Serves them right though...there is an old saying: "a fool and his money are soon parted". I'd say that it is truly applicable here! :))

          1. re: flpinkmink

            Ho Ho!

            They weren't buying ' a bottle of wine', the high price was because it was supposed to be a rare item of historical significance. And no doubt as an investment.

            Same reasons why paintings by Van Gogh fetch high prices: if you want a painting of sunflowers you can get them cheaply but if you want an original Van Gogh then you're bidding against other investors.

          2. re: fourunder

            It wasn't swill. It was a forgery. Plus the dope Steve Forbes put the wine on display under lights, which heated it and made the cork protrude and forced him to open it, even if had not been a forgery.

          3. Jefferson was obviously enchanted with everything french, and it carried over to the architectural elements of the dome and the staircase.
            I find it curious that visitors have such unfettered access to almost all areas of Monticello, except the slave quarters.
            The guides there are great - friendly and knowledgable- and all are unpaid volunteers.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Veggo

              Someone told me he copied the design from the back of the 5 cent coin.


            2. I'm told by the wife of the man who makes almost all the professional wine caves in the US, that the White House often serves Pride Merlot (Napa Valley). Since he made the caves for Pride Mountain Vineyards, I guess it's somewhat reliable.