Thomas Jefferson: A Great American Wine Connoisseur

Thomas JeffersonBrilliant and cultured, Thomas Jefferson is known for many things: Founding Father, Third American President, visionary and man of letters. But oenophile? You bet! Jefferson had one of the most educated palates of his age, collecting thousands of bottles of French wine in his cellars and introducing viticulture to the United States.

Though the revolutionary-era, Jefferson’s tastes leaned toward sweet wines and ciders, his taste for European wines evolved after meeting Italian winemaker and merchant Philip Mazzei. Recruited by Benjamin Franklin to found America’s first vineyards, Jefferson and Mazzei became friends and were business partners in Mazzei’s Virginia Wine Company. However, disease and rot proved too big a stumbling block to developing a native winemaking industry in colonial times. It would take another forty years for the American wine business to become commercially successful.

Undaunted, Jefferson continued to pursue his passion for wine as America’s Minister to France (1785-1789). He spent several months touring French and Italian wineries in an effort to bring European viticultural practices to the United States. During that time, he also began collecting what ultimately became a collection of thousands of bottles of Bordeaux wine.

As President, his passion for wine was legendary, spending an average of $3,200 on wine during his first term!

Here at Concannon Vineyard, we’re proud of our own contributions to the American winemaking legacy. Founded in 1883 by James Concannon, we’re one of California’s oldest wineries in one of America’s oldest winemaking regions, the Livermore Valley. Concannon developed the first varietally-labeled Petite Sirah, and here’s a fun fact: many of Napa Valley’s prestigious cabernets come from clones of our rootstock.

Like many of the great wine-growing regions of France, we have a mild Mediterranean climate and our estate grapes are grown atop mineral-rich rocky soils. Over the decades, we have carefully tuned our planting, trellising and canopy management to take full advantage of this unique terroir, and we are fully committed to sustainable practices in our vineyards.

Today, 4th Generation Vintner John Concannon works closely with his father, Jim Concannon, to blend rich tradition with modern innovation and to renew the family’s commitment to crafting the finest wines possible.

We think Mr. Jefferson, whose birthday we celebrate on April 13th, would approve, and we’ll be raising a glass in honor of his contributions to America’s unique wine culture…Sláinte!

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