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Vintage Virginia

May 2024
1min read


If Thomas Jefferson were around to— day, he would feel right at home standing in his vineyard on Monticello’s southern slope. He’d be surrounded by an exact recreation of the vines and split-rail trellises he installed there in 1807. The expansive view across the Blue Ridge Mountains from the birthplace of American wine still evokes the landscapes of Bordeaux and Tuscany that inspired him, and although he never quite succeeded in making great wine at Monticello, he would doubtless be pleased to find that a skilled European vintner is now producing the splendid Monticello Sangiovese there.

Like Filippo Mazzei, Jefferson’s own winemaker, the creator of Monticello Sangiovese, Gabriel Rausse, is Italian. Rausse, who is also Monticello’s assistant director of grounds and gardens, began planting in 1995, using grapes and early winemaking techniques, such as crushing and pressing in wood, that Jefferson would instantly recognize.

Noted for its depth, polish, and rich berry flavors, Monticello Sangiovese is one of America’s most exclusive wines. Rausse’s annual production of about 1,000 bottles is snapped up every January by eager buyers like the Californians who send a courier to Charlottesville by jet for a case (the wine is sold only at Monticello) and the Texas aficionados who drive two days to pick up a few bottles. This year, sales began on January 8.

Bottles are available at Monticello’s two museum shops for $39; call 434-984-9840 for information or e-mail The shops are open seven days a week from nine to five. No deliveries.

—Bill Whitman

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