Northeast Vineyard [ View Interactive Version ]
For more than fifty years Jefferson tried to establish grape vines on the Monticello hillside, but he left no record of success. Frustrations ranged from a deadly late frost in 1774 to a shipment of damaged vines in 1810. The earliest record of the planting of grape vines at Monticello dates from 1770, when Jefferson received cuttings from his Williamsburg friend and teacher, George Wythe. Jefferson first recorded the location of the northeast vineyard in a 1778 plat, in which he notes planting 561 vines at intervals of three feet in a 9,000-square-foot area below the garden wall and next to the berry squares.
The gardening records at Monticello show seven distinct, experimental plantings. The most ambitious of these was the 1807 planting of 287 rooted vines and cuttings of twenty varieties of European grapes (Vitis vinifera), many of which had probably never been grown in the New World. These may not have flourished and by 1810, Jefferson shifted emphasis to well-adapted native varieties, introducing both the fox grape (Vitis labrusca) and the Scuppernong variety of southern muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) to the Monticello vineyards. There is no record of how well these plantings did.
In 1985, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation restored Jefferson's 1807 plan for the Northeast vineyard using several Jefferson-related European varieties grafted on hardy, pest-resistant native rootstock. Because of a documentary suggestion that vines were "espaliered," a permanent structure based on an eighteenth-century American grape trellis was constructed.