Gabriele Rausse, dubbed “The Father of the Modern Virginia Wine Industry,” has been involved in the startup of numerous wineries, including his own, since he first came to Virginia from his native Valdagno, Italy.
Today he is Monticello’s Director of Gardens and Grounds, and joined Monticello as assistant director of gardens and grounds in 1995. During his time at Monticello, he has worked to restore Thomas Jefferson’s vineyard, located just below the vegetable garden.
The Northeast vineyard was replanted using several Jefferson-related European varieties, grated on hardy, pest-resistant native rootstock. The Southwest Vineyard was replanted entirely with the Sangiovese grape, a variety documented by Jefferson in 1807 and the principal ingredient of Chianti. Rausse oversees the production of wine as well as the care of the restored vineyards, which continue to serve as experimental gardens of unusual varieties of vinifera.
In this interview with David Bruce Smith and Hope Katz Gibbs, Rausse answers these questions:
1. Jefferson is known as an agricultural experimenter. What crops did he try to grow on the surrounding plantation?
2. What plants did he experiment with growing in his Kitchen Garden? What were some of his favorites and how did he like to eat them?
3. Jefferson, a wine lover, also experimented with growing grapes. What varieties did he try to grow?
4. How did all of Jefferson’s agricultural experimentation fit into his vision for America and its place in the world?
5. How do we know so much about what Jefferson grew?
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