Virginia is often heralded as the birthplace of American wine. From colonial times through efforts made by Thomas Jefferson, those attempts were seen as a failure. The archetypical image of wine country—arid, rocky places—is not what one thinks of when conjuring images of wet, humid, Virginia summers. 

Pioneering grape growers and winemakers have made huge strides over the past few decades, giving wine enthusiasts a taste for Virginia terroir. 

Reporter Wilson Sayre explores the history and evolution of wine from the Old Dominion.

Gabriele Rausse in front of vines planted at Monticello. Rausse is replanting 24 of the varieties that Thomas Jefferson planted in the former president’s quest to make an American wine.

Acknowledgments

We thank Danyell Irby for editing. We also appreciate Joy Ting with the Virginia Winemakers Research Exchange, and Priscilla and Will Curley of the Wine Guild of Charlottesville. 

Music in this episode is by Blue Dot Sessions.

All images by Wilson Sayre.

Additional Resources

Interested in reading more about the history of wine in Virginia Wine? Check out Todd Kliman’s Book Wild Vine.

Virginia offers a guide for travelers who might want to plan a trip to visit state wineries. Click here to browse your options.

SFA has collected and archived a series of oral history interviews about Wine in the South.