By Joe Tennis
Thomas Jefferson did more than draft the Declaration of Independence.
Rowe's previous book.
Jefferson also, as a farmer, hoped that French grapes could be grown in Virginia. So he imported a grape grower from Italy plus 30 assistants to set up a vineyard at Monticello.
That did not work, Rowe writes: “His dream to produce his own claret withered like so many raisins.“
Rowe’s book profiles vineyards in Virginia, stepping inside the minds and vines of wineries in Williamsburg and Barboursville. He also focuses a chapter on migrant farm workers in Virginia – and their importance to maintaining vineyards.
In recent years, Virginia wines have come a long way, Rowe writes, noting: “One longtime Virginia grape grower quips that fifteen years ago, the Virginia Wine of the Month Club was simply a mechanism to distribute bad wine.“
The successful industry of today can be traced to the dreams of Jefferson and the determination of ladies like Elizabeth Furness.
At age 75, Furness founded Piedmont Vineyards at Middlesburg, Va., in 1973, turning her dairy farm into a vinifera grape vineyard.
Furness had grown up in France, and, for inspiration, she relied simply on a memory of what she had seen as a child to organize her vineyard. Later, in 1978, to help make a claim that she was the first in Virginia to sell vinifera grape wine, Furness sold seven bottles to a wine shop in Washington, D.C.
And then? She repurchased all of that wine for her own wine cellar. The buyback did not matter. Rowe writes Furness was still recognized by the governor and the Commissioner of Agriculture – just for that agricultural feat.
JOE TENNIS is a features writer for the Herald Courier. He may be reached at (276) 791-0704 or firstname.lastname@example.org