Thomas Jefferson’s passion for gardening and vision for American wine were prophetically in sync with the more recent locavore movement. Jefferson’s observations on European wine culture and viticulture led him to believe that viticulture could provide farmers with a living even on a small amount of land, and had unshaken faith in the potential of America for producing fine wines. Though Jefferson’s early attempts at Monticello wine production were not successful, the norton grape enabled successful Virginia viticulture by the late 19th century. By that time viticulture had spread to Ohio, New York and Missouri, then to California and the Northwest. Research at universities in the U.S. has resulted in hybrid grape varieties that can survive our challenging climates to produce regional-specific quality grapes from New England to Minnesota to the Gulf Coast. Even those who are not oenophiles are aware of the evolution of the Virginia wine industry; Virginia wine now has a reputation as some of the best in America. Join wine consultant and author Richard Leahy as he takes us from Jefferson’s early experiences as ambassador to France to the present day, where there are wineries in all 50 states!
Richard Leahy, who received his Masters degree from UVA in 1991, is a wine writer and consultant who has been reporting and writing on the wines of Virginia and Eastern North America since 1986.
He became well-known in the Eastern wine industry as East Coast Editor for Vineyard & Winery Management, and was the Mid-Atlantic and Southern Editor for the ground-breaking Oxford Companion to the Wines of North America (2000). Richard was the Executive Director of the Virginia Wine Experience in London. Held in May 2007, the event was timed to coordinate with the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement and was a huge success, establishing Virginia as a quality wine region in the minds of leading opinion shapers in the U.K. Richard has been a regional editor for Kevin Zraly’s American Wine Guide and coordinates the conference program for the Eastern Winery Exposition, a major trade show that takes place in March in Lancaster, PA and is a board member of Drink Local Wine. Mr. Leahy is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers, a professional organization of leading wine journalists based in the U.K.