1700s: A Century of Continued Failures but Progress

After over a century of failures in trying to grow European vines and produce wine in Virginia, the Virginia General Assembly was not ready to give up. They continued to grant money for attempts to produce wine from Virginia-grown vines and offer incentives for those who were successful. Thomas Jefferson was one of these advocates for Virginia wine production during the eighteenth century. Despite being called ʺthe first father of American wineʺ by many, Jefferson never did successfully produce a bottle of wine. Outside of Jefferson’s fruitless attempts, evidence has revealed there may have been a successful attempt at local vine growth and wine production in Virginia during the eighteenth century.


1755

George Washington planted grape vines on his estate. In 1755, he planted 55 cuts of “Madeira.” Discover more about this history of grape growth and wine production attempts in Peter J. Hatch’s book, The Fruits and Fruit Trees of Monticello.

1760

The Virginia General Assembly passed an Act granting the first person in Virginia who could successfully produce ten hogsheads (a unit of measure approximately 300 Liters) of wine five hundred pounds.

1762

"Gold Medal Awarded to Charles Carter" - Image from the Philip Carter Winery website: http://www.pcwinery.com/history.html

“Gold Medal Awarded to Charles Carter” – Image from the Philip Carter Winery website: http://www.pcwinery.com/history.html

Charles Carter bottled wine successfully using locally grown grapes in Virginia. It was believed at this time he was successfully growing 1,800 vines on his Virginia property. The London Society awarded Carter with a gold medal in recognition for being the first to accomplish their hopes for wine production in America. Read more about Charles Carter and his discover the Philip Carter Winery of Virginia website.

1763

The Royal Governor Francis Fauquier signed a document certifying Charles Carter successfully grew European vinifera grapes on his property in Virginia and bottled wine from these grapes.

1768

Virginia exported approximately thirteen tons of wine to Britain. More information on this can be found in the Colonial Williamsburg Journal article “Romancing the Vine in Virginia.”

1769

The Virginia General Assembly passed an act granting André Estave the equipment, land, and labor needed to grow and produce wine.

1771

Thomas Jefferson planted his first grape vines on his estate in Virginia, Monticello, with high hopes for Virginia’s potential wine industry. Read more about the vineyard plans at Monticello on the Monticello website.

Jefferson became known as the “Father of American Wine” to many, despite the belief that Jefferson never did successfully produced a bottle of wine. Later, in 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Thomas Appleton in a letter that became famous for it’s quote that “wines a necessary of life with me.” Read more of this letter from “The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence, 1651-1827” through the Library of Congress.

"Letter where Jefferson states 'wines is a necessary of life with me'" - The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827

“Letter where Jefferson states ‘wines is a necessary of life with me'” – The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651-1827

 1773

Virginia General Assembly passed an act granting Robert Bolling, Jr. (Thomas Jefferson’s brother-in-law) fifty pounds sterling to plant the European vinifera vines at his estate in Virginia, Chellowe.

Thomas Jefferson gave 2,000 acres of land to Philip Mazzei to start a vineyard in Virginia near his estate to aid in the production of local wine. He was supported by the Virginia Wine Company, which consisted of an estimated 27 people, including George Washington, George Mason, and Thomas Jefferson.

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