On November 17, history lovers and wine enthusiasts will grab a glass and revel in the beauty of Poplar Forest at the Thomas Jefferson Wine Festival. The Thomas Jefferson Wine Festival is a beloved tradition of locals and visitors alike, and is an incredible chance to see history first-hand, all while trying some delicious Virginia wine.
What’s so special about Virginia wine?
The roots of America’s wine industry are in Virginia. Just a few years after Jamestown was founded, Britain made grape-growing mandatory for all male settlers—a law that effectively kickstarted the American wine industry. Today, the number of wineries in Virginia totals almost 300.
But it’s not just because the early settlers claimed Virginia as a wine destination that so many wineries have set-up shop here. In fact, certain grape varietals thrive in Virginia’s soil and climate that can’t anywhere else in the country. Of course, the classics such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio and Riesling grow well, but so do less common grapes such as Albarino, Barbera, Nebbiolo (an Italian varietal that will make some of the most scrumptious reds), Tannat, Touriga and Petit Verdot.
Why Poplar Forest is the right backdrop
It’s no secret that Thomas Jefferson loved wine. Described as America’s “first distinguished viticulturist” and “the greatest patron of wine and wine growing that this country has yet had,” Jefferson established his vineyards early on at his presidential home in Monticello.
In fact, Jefferson cultivated his love for wine even before his presidential stint. As America’s Minister to France, he spent three months touring Southern France and Northern Italy in 1785. While there, his eyes were opened to the finer side of wine—sampling from wines in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone and Piedmont. From there, his affection only grew. It grew so much in fact that he became one of the first to import good wine to other states and, once the trend caught on, insisted that import taxes on wine be kept low.
He believed, “No nation is drunken where wine is cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes arden spirits as the common beverage.”
So it’s only appropriate that Jefferson’s beloved retreat home, Poplar Forest—the place where he grew, fermented and enjoyed wine—be the location for this annual festival.
How to enjoy the Thomas Jefferson Wine Festival
The Thomas Jefferson Wine Festival will take place on November 17 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on the lawn of Poplar Forest. Tastings of over a dozen Virginia wineries will be made available, as well as crafts and goods from local makers and artisans. Funds raised by the festival will go to the ongoing restoration and preservation of Poplar Forest.
Tickets start at just $10.00 for non-tasting tickets, and advance tasting tickets are just $25.00. For VIP passes, which include access to a private tent, heavy hors d’oeuvres, a private audience with Mr. Jefferson and a special tasting, cost starts at $125.00.
Visit the Festival website to purchase tickets.