Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Jefferson's Excellent French B&B Adventure and Wine Tour

Thomas Jefferson served as the U. S. Minister to France from 1784 to 1789, succeeding Benjamin Franklin.  In 1787, he set out on a 3 month journey through France and northern Italy.  Traveling as a private citizen, he tried to meet the people of each region and sample their way of life.  To his friend Lafayette, he wrote about his travels "you must ferret the people out of their hovels as I have done, look into their kettles, eat their bread, loll on their beds under pretence of resting yourself, but in fact to find if they are soft.  You will feel a sublime pleasure in the course of this investigation..."

Jefferson's trip also took him to France's leading wine producing regions.  In May 1787 he visited Bordeaux, where he toured Chateau Haut-Brion and sampled wines from Chateaus Margaux and Lafite.  Before returning to Paris, he ordered 252 bottles of 1784 Haut-Brion from a wine merchant.  When the wine arrived, Jefferson discovered that the merchant had filled the order with bottles of 1784 Chateau Margaux.  Oh well!  No doubt Jefferson and his frequent guests in Paris happily drank the wine anyway.  In May 1788, Jefferson doubled down on 1784 Haut-Brion and ordered another 125 bottles, to be shipped to Monticello.  These never arrived, much to Jefferson's dismay.

Jefferson's travels through France, his interest in wine, and the provenance of a 1787 bottle from Chateau Lafite that fetched $156,000 at a Christie's London auction in 1985 are the subjects of a fascinating book, "The Billionaire's Vinegar" by Benjamin Wallace.  It reads like a detective novel and is the basis for an upcoming movie, produced by Will Smith and supposedly starring Brad Pitt.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Our Neighborhood: Willow Lake

This is Willow Lake, a beautiful pond on land adjoining the Inn.  It's about 4-5 acres, and is spring-fed. Until about 40 years ago, the owners of the property used the lake as a watering hole for cattle and livestock.  Now our dog Mikey and his owners think it's a very enjoyable place for walking and taking in the scenery and wildlife.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Heritage Theatre Festival at UVA

From the 2012 Production of "1776"
Since 1974, the University of Virginia has hosted the Heritage Theatre Festival, a collaboration of professional directors, designers, technicians and actors producing summer repertory musicals and plays.  Here is the line-up of shows this season: Irving Berlin's "Annie Get Your Gun" at the Culbreth Theatre, June 27 - July 6; "Red" by John Logan, at the Ruth Caplin Theatre, July 3 - July 13; "Tuna Does Vegas" by Ed Howard, Jaston Williams and Joe Sears, at the Helms Theatre, July 18 - August 3; "The Marvelous Wonderettes, by Roger Bean, at the Caplin Theatre, July 23 - August 3; and "Next to Normal", with music by Tom Kitt, and book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, at the Culbreth Theatre, July 25 - August 3.  These productions are fun, well-done, and a great way to spend a summer evening in Charlottesville.  If you plan to stay over after the show, call us about accommodations.  
 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ed Roseberry's UVA and Charlottesville Photographs

Alas, the Biff Burger Restaurant, with its $0.15 burgers, is no more!
You'll enjoy viewing the pictures and a videotaped interview of Ed Roseberry, a 1949 graduate of the University, who thankfully developed an interest in photography during his days as a student.  Now 88 years old, Ed captured a variety of subjects in his black and white images, from Hollywood film stars in town to shoot the movie "Giant", to concerts and big weekends here at UVA.  Many of the buildings and landmarks shown in the photos are still around, and it's interesting to compare the "then" with the "now."  Unfortunately the Biff Burger Restaurant and Carroll's Tea Room were long gone by the time I, Bob, came to Charlottesville.  However, I have fond memories of shopping at Eljo's on the Corner, driving up and down Main Street before it became a pedestrian mall, and eating dinner once at the Gaslight Restaurant.  Thanks to UVA, the Alumni Association, and Messrs. Roseberry and Barefoot for sharing these materials.      

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Filippo Mazzei, the "Unknown American Patriot" from Tuscany

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation recently announced that it has acquired the papers of  Filippo (Phillip) Mazzei.

So who was Filippo Mazzei?  He trained as a physician in Tuscany, but he is best known in Virginia as the man who in 1774, with the support and encouragement of Thomas Jefferson, first tried to establish a commercial vineyard in the American Colonies.  He planted vines on land that is now the site of Jefferson Vineyards, and he built a house, known as Colle, which still stands. Unfortunately, his timing was bad, as his venture was disrupted by the American Revolution.  He returned to Italy, his home country, in 1779, and began working as an arms dealer for the American cause.

But Mazzei became much more than a winemaker and a merchant.  He and Jefferson shared not only a passion for wine, but also an interest in politics.  In fact, some historians and even President John Kennedy have credited Mazzei with introducing the concept "all men are created equal" to Jefferson.

After the American Revolution, Mazzei stayed in Europe and became a political writer and roving diplomat.  He represented the Polish crown in France during the French Revolution, where he again met up with Thomas Jefferson.  He died in 1816, at the age of 85.  In 1980, in honor of his contributions to the founding of this country, the United States published a commemorative stamp with his name and the title "Patriot Remembered."

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Taste Wines at Montpelier and Monticello!

Monticello's Wine Festival is held on the West Lawn
of Thomas Jefferson's home.
May brings us two of Central Virginia's most prominent wine festivals -- the Montpelier Wine Festival at James Madison's estate in Orange County on Saturday, May 4th, and the Monticello Wine Festival at Thomas Jefferson's home on Saturday, May 11th.   These festivals will feature wines from some of the area's best vineyards, including Barboursville Vineyards, Trump Vineyards and Virginia Wine Works (all of whom received gold medals in the recent Virginia Governor's Cup wine competition).  These are
great opportunities to sample some superb wines, learn about Virginia's leading vineyards and winemakers, and experience the homes of some of our country's founders.      

Sunday, April 28, 2013

UVA Reunions Weekend

In June, UVA will host Reunions Weekend, and Bob's Class of 1973 will be celebrating the 40th year since its members walked the Lawn and took their degrees.  The UVA Class of '73 will hold its reunion dinner on the porticos next to the Rotunda.  Interestingly, in November, 1824, another 40th (+) reunion took place at the University, when the Marquis de Lafayette returned to America, and was honored at a dinner at the Rotunda attended by former presidents Jefferson and Madison, and by the president at the time, James Monroe.  It had been just over 40 years since Lafayette had helped America win the Revolution.