Monday, February 18, 2008

Famous Drunk Guys: Thomas Jefferson

With today being President's Day, I thought it would be fitting to honor one of the founding fathers of both the country and viticulture in America: Thomas Jefferson (1743-1846). Granted, the founding of the United States went a little better than the whole wine thing due to the sensitivity of the European grape vines (Vitis vinifera) he imported to native vine diseases, but we've got to give the guy credit for trying. Grapes are once again grown at Monticello, Jefferson's home, and the diseases that thwarted his original attempts are now controlled by modern pesticides and grafting and hybridization techniques.

So, let's all raise a glass to Mr. Jefferson for his role in bringing wine production to America!

What's in my glass tonight? I needed something good to get past the fact that lots of people were off from work today, but I wasn't. My husband and I picked up a bottle of the 2005 Las Rocas old vine Garnacha at the recommendation of a wine-loving colleague, who also didn't get the day off today, and it didn't disappoint. It's a very pretty wine for glass-raising, a dark purple-red, and is well-balanced with fruit and a little bit of acidity. It went very well with the pot roasted lamb shanks with cannellini beans from Food & Wine magazine.


Dan said...

I do like the Las Rocas, but sometimes find it a bit sweet. Probably similar to how TJ found Sally...

Cecilia Dominic said...

I wasn't going to go there. ;)

For more on Jefferson and wine, see:

TJ said...

Unfortunately sir, your characterization of Mr. Jefferson is incorrect. While Jefferson was a conniseur of wines, especially French wines, he was unable to grow with any success the vines necessary for American wine production. He did believe that you should drink at least 2 glasses of wine a day, and of course, the best wine you could afford. But, he was never intoxicated a day in his life. Wine was consumed in the "Roman" fashion--mixed with water to a maximum of a 50% mixture. Glasses were also much smaller than they are today.

As far as DAN's comment, his attempt at humor, is somewhat droll. While I will say that the DNA evidence is somewhat against Mr. Jefferson, there is no concrete proof of any relationship between Jefferson and Hemmings. May I suggest he do some real reading on the subject before such commentary is made.

A Jefferson Scholar.

Dan said...

Actually TJ, your yourself validate the Oenophile's characterization of President Jefferson on one front - his attempt yet inability "to grow with any success the vines necessary for American wine production."

Regarding your comment on my comment, I appreciate the characterization of my attempt at humor as being drily amusing (the standard definition of "droll") - that was indeed my intent.

Now, as to whether President Jefferson "was never intoxicated a day in his life" as you claim, I am at a loss as to the basis for your certainty and don't fully understand the Roman fashion as evidence. Surely you're not implying that ancient Romans were never intoxicated?

Two other brief comments, then I'll be off to an awaiting glass of 2001 Rioja:

1) While I very much appreciate your lack of heterosexism in referring to the Oenophile as "sir" despite her reference to her husband in her post, I can vouch for her womanliness.

2) When one signs a post as a purported "Scholar," one should at least utilize spell-checking tools before posting one's comments (they certainly helped me in this reply!).

Jefferson Scholar said...

I was responding primarily to DAN regarding his commentary on Sally Hemmings, not to Ms. Dominic. It is amazing how you find your sexual innuendo to be "amusing", as I take it was probably intended to be. Your commentary in this regard is the very definition of demagoguery. I'll leave you to look up the definition.

Now as to the claim of never having been drunk in his life, perhaps reading his letters, especially his of March 21,1819 would allow you to become enlightened. I quote, "I have lived termperately, eating little animal food and that not as an ailment, so much as a condiment for the vegetables...I double or even treble the Doctor's glass and a half of wine, but halve its effects by water or by drinking weak wines only. Ardent wines I cannot drink, nor do I use ardent spirits. This has allowed me sobriety throughout all my days." The Roman style is a cultural tradition, not a commentary on the moral habits of ancient Romans. Perhaps wile wines are your speciality, cultural history may not be. I can understand that.

As for "spell check", perhaps I have spelt the work connoisseur incorrectly. However poor grammar does not negate my commentary, but only shows a personal weakness. A gentleman would have avoided such petty commentary. I did not attack you, in terms of your speciality, perhaps you should open yourself to some reading about mine.

Now, since you recommend Las Rocas, perhaps I shall try some, although my tastes run toward dryer wines.


TJ said...

Just to change the subject and become less adversarial, and hopefully make up for any insult real or perceived, may I suggest reading "Dinner at Mr. Jefferson's" by Charles A Cerami.

The subtitle may pique your interest:

Three men, Five great wines, and the evening that changed America.

Published by John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

I trust I have made amends..


Cecilia Dominic said...

Thanks, TJ and Dan! It's nice to have a little controversy on the old blog. I feel like a "real blogger" now. :)


Dan said...


Hatchet duly buried. You are correct, and life is too short to nurture petty disputes. Demagoguery does tend to be the currency of the Internet, but that's no reason for me to trade in it.

As for the Las Rocas, I would warn you that (as noted above) I found it a bit sweet, which may not fit your taste profile (sounds as though we have similar predilections in that regard!).

And I'll look into your book recommendation!