The Viticultural Legacy

Philip Mazzei was known as a passionate grape-grower, liberal thinker, and citizen of the world.

While in London working as a merchant, Mazzei met several important traders and figureheads from Virginia, including Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Adams. Adams believed the soil in Virginia to be fertile and encouraged Mazzei to draw up agricultural plans for the cultivation of Mediterranean fruits and types of plants. This encouragement, coupled with Mazzei’s own passion for viticulture and horticulture, inspired him to create a visionary viticulture program for the colony. Mazzei’s intention was to bring the culture and tradition of Tuscan wine-making to Virginia. By 1771 Mazzei had developed a plan for Adams and other Virginians, including Thomas Jefferson. This plan indicated that Mazzei was to import 10,000 grape vines from Champagne, Burgundy, Languedoc, Nice, Tuscany, Naples and Sicily, as well as Spain and Portugal.

In September of 1773 after securing funding, and with the permission from the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Mazzei set sail for Virginia with his vines, olive trees, ten vignerons, and other materials. When Mazzei arrived at Monticello, Jefferson persuaded him to stay and gave him 193 acres of land on the south side of Monticello. Mazzei purchased about 700 more acres by 1778 and named his farm Colle. Philip planted the first European vines at Colle, the property Mazzei had purchased for himself near JeffersonÂ’s estate of Monticello.

In a letter to George Washington, Mazzei wrote that Virginia's soil and climate was "better calculated" than any other for wine production. He then proceeded to bring over addition Tuscan vignerons and formed a company for the purpose of raising and making wine, oil, and silk. It was the first “Wine Company” in America.

Today Philip Mazzei’s legacy lives on and will be celebrated with the planting of native, exclusive vines from the Marchesi Mazzei estate of Fonterutoli in the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany.