D.C. knows all about Founding Fathers. From Washington to Madison, Monroe to Hamilton, the area is bursting at the seams with their influence.
But one Founding Father — that fiery redhead, Thomas Jefferson — went a step further in his contributions to the nation by encouraging the growth of French grapes for spectacular wines produced locally.
Barboursville Vineyards, a large-production facility near Charlottesville, Va., has embraced the idea of French grapes in a big way. On land that was once tended by Jefferson, the vineyard has established a wine that may just be worthy of the man himself — Octagon.
Based on Bordeaux varietals like merlot and aged in French oak barrels, Octagon reflects Jefferson’s desire to bring French grapes and wine to America.
“It’s pretty expensive, especially for wine in this area, but I have never had an Octagon that hasn’t been really, really high-end,” says Jessica Strelitz, local wine writer.
Strelitz says Octagon is phenomenally rich — a robust, save-and-drink-later kind of wine.
“I remember the first time I had [it],” she says. “I thought, ‘Wow. This was made here.'”
Virginia has a rich history, and the wine made in-state is no exception. But the Charlottesville area in particular has a history of winemaking, thanks to Jefferson’s efforts.
“He is really credited with bringing wine to the United States,” Strelitz says.
And if it’s good enough for Jefferson, then who’s a governor to turn up their nose at a bottle or two of Charlottesville area wine, especially one as good as Octagon?
“They’re the kind of wine that, when the governor goes overseas, he brings bottles from there,” Strelitz says.
The description of Octagon on the Barboursville Vineyards website says that the winemakers there are dedicated to discovering Octagon and what it represents as a founding principle of the vineyards there:
Octagon became, thereby, the authentic extraction of its time as well as of its place, one of the most rewarding proofs of the vitality of the Bordeaux style in the New World. The privilege of crafting this wine can be sensed each time one of its vintages is tasted, over a long and rewarding shelf life.