Who was George Washington’s Sommelier?

Here’s an excuse to drink wine for President’s Day

Marcia Gage

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Cherry blossoms with Monticello in the background
Photo by Ashton Bingham on Unsplash

You may ask why we need to know who Washington chose as his Sommelier. Well, this mystery person understood climate and soil better than just about anyone in the 18th century. He used his expertise as a farmer to learn all he could about wine. He proclaimed that the United States would compete with Europe in the world of high-quality wine long before the Judgement of Paris took place in California in the 1970s.

So, maybe you’re not impressed with this mystery man’s knowledge of farming and wine. But, how about if you knew that he was also Washington’s Secretary of State at the same time he conducted his Sommelier duties? By now, you probably figured out that this man also became the third president of the United States. Yes, Thomas Jefferson also served as Washington’s Sommelier as he performed his Secretary of State duties.

Jefferson may get the credit for enhancing Washington’s life with his knowledge and attention to good wine. But even before the American Revolution started, England was eyeing the New World for its potentially high-producing vineyards, and British Empire required the colony farmers to plant grapevines.

Jefferson and Monticello:

We now recognize Monticello as a national monument, but it served as a home, farm, and vineyard during Jefferson’s life. Jefferson started building the house in 1769, but due to various circumstances didn’t complete it until 1809. Jefferson’s success with grapes mainly stemmed (excuse the pun) from local varieties. It seems he was a bit too involved with the American Revolution and diplomatic travels as Secretary of State to get the European variety to take hold. Today the area’s wineries host tastings and tours.

Jefferson and European travels:

When Jefferson’s wife died in 1782, he immersed himself in public service and diplomacy to deal with the grief. He also continued to study European culture and wine. He traveled to Paris with some pretty famous colleagues by the names of John Adams and Benjamin Franklin to improve international relations after the United States gained independence. During the Paris trip, Jefferson also took the…

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Marcia Gage

I love that freelance writing provides me the opportunity to learn, teach, and share experiences about travel, wine, health, relationships, and more.