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An Evening at Monticello
by
Kathy Sullivan

Wine Bloggers Conference 2011Okay, so I'll admit I'm a bit of a romantic and throw in some wine and history nothing could be better. More specifically add Virginia wines and Monticello, a historic house on the United Nations' World Heritage List, and one can have an awesome experience.

Monticello, the renowned home of Thomas Jefferson, is located outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. While never having thought that one day I might taste wines and nibble on hors d'oeuvres on the spacious Monticello lawn, I was delighted to be there.

Wine Bloggers Conference 2011Participating in the Wine Bloggers Conference 2011 provided opportunities to taste wines and network with wine industry writers, winemakers and PR firms. On Friday night air conditioned buses conveyed the large group of enthusiastic attendees to Monticello where participants were guided to the grounds behind the mansion. A glass of chilled white wine was provided as we walked to the large event tent.

Virginia wineries lined the edge of the tent and each winery poured one white and one red wine. After the group began tasting wines, several speakers spoke including Todd Haymore, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. The weather was incredibly hot and it was good that all speakers kept their remarks short. A few fans provided a little relief from the heat but many more were needed. Thereafter the wine tastings continued and food was offered in a nearby tent. Iced tea was also available.

Since it was so hot with record-breaking temperatures, I did not taste as many wines as possible. However, I did want to use the time to good advantage so decided to search for the Monticello vineyards. Before reaching the garden area, I detoured to the lower levels of Monticello where it was cooler than the outdoor temperature and provided some relief from the heat. There were several small-dedicated storerooms including a beer cellar, wine cellar, washing and tableware storage, and servants' quarters. Wine bottles, laden with dust offered a glimpse of the past. In the wine cellar, the original dumb waiter is still in view. Jefferson utilized a dumb waiter system to send wine bottles from the cellar to the dining area above.

Wine Bloggers Conference 2011     Wine Bloggers Conference 2011     Wine Bloggers Conference 2011

Wine Bloggers Conference 2011After leaving the cellars it was only a short walk to the front door of the mansion. On the way I greeted a docent dressed as Jefferson. When it was commented that he looked quite young, Jefferson stated, “Wine and Virginia ladies can keep you young.” Walking up the brick steps, there was again a sense of relief from the heat upon entering the building. Guests were permitted to tour the mansion at their leisure. Docents were spread throughout the different rooms ready to delight with the story that has become a part of our history.

Wine Bloggers Conference 2011Although I was happy to visit and tour Monticello, I was eager to discover the vineyards. While Thomas Jefferson sought repeatedly to grow grapes and make wine he was never successful. Monticello has two small vineyards near the prolific vegetable gardens. Eventually quite a distance from the mansion, the small vineyards were discovered near tomatoes ripening and white eggplant hanging heavy with fruit. After viewing and taking photos of the vineyards I headed back to the group where people were still mingling and enjoying wines and food.

Before reaching the venue, I decided to wander among the flower gardens that encircled the lawn. Summer was a perfect time to enjoy the colors and some of the unusual flowers. Eventually I walked back towards the wine tasting tent but stopped short of stopping to taste a wine. I found a chair and sat down to write about the experience. Yes it was hot, exceedingly hot, but I realized as I surveyed the area what a unique and wonderful opportunity it was to be sitting on the Monticello lawn tasting amazing foods and drinking Virginia wines that would have made Thomas Jefferson proud. For me it was an opportunity of a lifetime.

 

 



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