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Day 1 – Thomas Jefferson, A Primer
Day 2 – The First Wine of Record, Claret
Day 3 – Jefferson and Madeira
Day 4 – Jefferson’s Favorite Wines Available Today
Day 5 – Monticello Pictorial
Day 6 – Monticello Vineyards
Day 7 – The Monticello Cellar
Day 8 – Thomas Jefferson—orchardist and cidermaker (Part 1)
Day 9 – Quotable Jefferson
Day 10 – The Curious Philip Mazzei
Day 11 – Jefferson Vineyards
Day 12 – What Would Jefferson Think?
Day 13 – Thomas Jefferson—Cidermaker and Scientist-Farmer
Day 14 – Jefferson in Paris – A Pictorial of his Travels
Day 15 – Jefferson in Paris – Pictorial
Day 16 – Jefferson’s Wine Travels Through France and Italy

Day 17 – Jefferson’s Memorandum Notes on Journey Through France and Italy

“I am now about setting out on a journey to the South of France, one object of which is to try the mineral waters there for the restoration of my hand, but another is to visit all the seaports where we have trade, and to hunt up all the inconveniencies under which it labours, in order to get them rectified. I shall visit and carefully examine too the Canal of Languedoc.” ~ Jefferson to James Monroe, December 18, 1786

When Jefferson embarked on his ‘grand tour’ of southern France and northern Italy in February 1787, he did so allegedly for his health.  Ailing from a broken wrist, Jefferson thought the restorative mineral waters of Aix-en-Provence would help him mend.  Of course, during the trip, one cannot pass through parts of France without stopping at vineyards and Chateaux.

During his four-month, 1,200 mile, healing-his-wrist and drinking wine journey, Jefferson paid his own way and traveled as a private citizen from Virginia, rather than as a diplomat. (sounds like the life and times of wine blogger)

“I was alone thro the whole, and think one travels more usefully when they travel alone, because they reflect more.”

Below are itinerary and summary of notes made by Jefferson in his ‘Memorandums taken on a journey from Paris into the Southern parts of France and Northern of Italy, in the year 1787.’  Before exploring the regions Jefferson visited in detail, I thought it would be interesting to provide a summary of his notes on the places he stopped.

I took the excerpts and summary notes below directly from the Th:Jefferson Encyclopedia (on wiki.monticello.org), or from The Writings of Jefferson, or from John Hailman’s epic book, ‘Thomas Jefferson on Wine.’


28 February—2 March (1787): Fontainebleau: Jefferson left Paris and traveled as far as Fontainebleau, where he was delayed for two days because of problems with the wheels of his carriage.

2 March: Sens: At Sens he noted paying to see its cathedral and climbed to the top of the cathedral’s tower to see the town’s buildings. Moret, Faussard, Villeneuve, Pont sur Yonne, Sens

3 March: Champagne. Sens to Vermanton. In his Notes, Jefferson recorded: “The plains of Yonne are of the same [mulatto] colour.  The plains are in corn, the hills in vineyard, but the wine not good.  Few chateaux.  No farm houses, all the people being gathered in villages.  Are they thus collected by the dogma of their religion which made them believe that, to keep the Creator in good humor with his own works, they must mumble a mass every day?  The people are illy clothed. Perhaps they have put on their worst clothes at this moment as it is raining.  But I observe women and children carrying heavy burthens, and labouring with the hough.  I see few beggars.  Probably this is the effect of a police.”

4 March: Burgundy: Lucy le bois, Cussy les forges, Rouvray, Maison-neuve, Vitteaux, La Charleure, Pont de Panis, Dijon (Hotel de Condé). “The soil a good red loam…All in corn. Some forest wood here…Now and then a flock of sheep…The people are well clothed, but it is Sunday.” “Dijon…The best round potatoes here I ever saw.”

7-8 March: La Baraque to Chagny. Dijon, La Baraque, Nuits, Beaune, Pommard, Volnay, Meursault. Aussy, Chagny, Chalon-sur-Saone, Sennecey, Tournus. “The plains are in corn, the Cote in vines.”

9 March: Chalons, Sennecy, Tournus, St. Albin, Macon. “The vineyards are inclosed with dry stone walls…The cattle are few and indifferent..some good oxen…Few sheep…A good deal of wood lands.” Beaujolais: Maison blanche. St. George. Chateau de Laye-Epinaye. ”This is the richest country I ever beheld…Here, as in Burgundy, the cattle are all white…The wild gooseberry is in leaf, the wild pear and sweet briar in bud.”

11 March: Ville franche, Les Echelles, Puits d’or, Lyons (Hôtel du Palais royal). Lyon: “The Almond is in bloom.”

15-18 March: Dauphine: St. Fond to Mornas. St. Symphorin, Vienne. “The Rhone makes extensive plains…the high lands are often very level. The soil…is generally tinged, more or less, with red….In the neighborhood of Lyons there is more corn, almonds, and oaks; the hills are in vines.”

18 March: Principality of Orange. “No forest. Here begins the country of olives…Thyme growing wild here on the hills. Asses very small…The high hills in Dauphiné are covered with snow.”

19-23 March: Languedoc. Pont St. Esprit. Bagnols. Connault. Valignieres. Remoulins. St. Gervasy. Nismes. Pont Bagnols, Connault, Valliguières, Remoulins, St. Gervasy, Nismes, Pont d’Arles. “The hills are rocky…The culture is corn, clover, St. foin, olives, vines, mulberries, willow, and some almonds.” At Nîmes his enthusiasm for seeing, for the first time, the Maison Carrée, the building design he chose for the Virginia state capitol in Richmond, is seen in a letter he wrote to Madame de Tessé: “Here I am, madam, gazing whole hours at the Maison quarrée, like a lover at his mistress…From Lyons to Nismes I have been nourished with the remains of Roman grandeur.” At Remoulins, Jefferson “stopped…long enough to see the Pont du Gard.”

24 March: Nismes to Arles: “The plains extending from Nismes to the Rhone in the direction of Arles is broken in one place by a skirt of low hills…” “The high hills of Languedoc are covered with snow. At an antient church in the suburbs of Arles are perhaps some hundreds of antient stone coffins along the road side.…But the principal monument here is an Amphitheatre, the external portico of which is tolerably compleat…” Terrasson: St. Remis.

25 March: Orgon. Pontroyal. St. Cannat: “From Orgon to Pontroyal, after quitting the plains of the Rhone, the country seems still to be a plain cut into compartments, by chains of mountains of massive rock running thro it in various directions.”

25–28 March: Aix (Hotel St. Jaques). “The country is waving, in vines, pasture of green swerd and clover, much inclosed with stone, and abounding with sheep.”

29 March: Marseilles. Jefferson spent a week at the Hôtel des Princes in Marseilles. In his journal he wrote: “The country is hilly, intersected by chains of hills and mountains of massive rock.The soil is reddish, stony and indifferent where best. Whenever there is any soil it is covered with olives…There are 6. or 8. months at a time here without rain. The most delicate figs known in Europe are those growing about this place, called figues Marcelloises, or les veritables Marcelloises, to distinguish them from others of inferior quality growing here.”

6 April: Marseilles to Aubagne. Hieres. “This is a plain of two or three miles diameter, bounded by the sea on one side and mountains of rock on the other.” Toulon: “From Olioules to Toulon the figs are in the open fields. Some of them have stems of 15.I. diameter. They generally fork near the ground, but sometimes have a single stem of 5.f. long. They are as large as Apricot trees. The Olive trees of this day’s journey are about the size of large apple trees.”

8 April: Toulon, Hyères, Cuers, Pignans, le Luc (Hotel St. Anne).

9 April: Vidauban, le My, Fréjus, Lestrelles, Napoule, Antibes. “There is snow on the high mountains. The first frogs I have heard are of this day (the 9th). At Antibes are oranges in the open ground, but in small inclosures: palm trees also. From thence to the Var are the largest fig trees and olive trees I have seen.”

10 April: Nice: (Hotel de York).

11 April: Nice. “The pine bur I used here for kindling fires.”

13 April: Scarena, Sospello. “There are no orange trees after we leave the environs of Nice.”

14 April: Ciandola. Tende.

15 April: Limone. Coni

16 April: Centale. Savigliano. Racconigi. Poerino. Turin. “The alps, as far as they are in view from North to South, shew the gradation of climate by the line which terminates the snows lying on them.”

19 April: Settimo. Chivasco. Ciliano. S. Germano. Vercelli. “ The country continues plain and rich, the soil black.”

20 April: Vercelli, Novara, Buffalora, Sedriano, and Milan (Albergo Reale). “From Vercelli to Novara the fields are all in rice, and now mostly under water.”

21-22 April: Milan. “Figs and pomegranates grow here unsheltered, as I am told.” “—Among a great many houses painted al fresco, the Casa Roma and Casa Candiani by Appiani, and Casa Belgioiosa by Martin are superior.”

23 April: Leaves Milan. Casino. Rozzano. “It is supposed [Parmesan cheese] was formerly made at Parma, and took it’s name thence, but none is made there now. It is made thro all the country extending from Milan 150 miles.” “The ice-houses at Rozzano are dug about 15.f. deep, and 20.f. diameter and poles are driven down all round.” Binasco. Pavia. “Near Cassino the rice ponds begin and continue to within 5. miles of Pavia, the whole ground being in rice, pasture, and willows…They gave me green peas at Pavia.”

24 April: Voghera. Tortona. Novi.

25 April: Voltaggio, Campo Marone, and Genoa. “At Novi the Appenines begin to rise. Their growth of timber is oak, tall, small, and knotty and chestnut.”

26 April: Genoa. “Strawberries at Genoa.”

28 April: Noli. “The Appenine and Alps appear to me to be one and the same continued ridge of mountains, separating every where the waters of the Adriatic gulph from those of the Mediterranean.”

29 April: Albenga

30 April: Oneglia and St. Remo (Augerge de la poste). “The wind continuing contrary, I took mules at Albenga for Oneglia. Along this tract are many of the tree called Carroubier, being a species of Locust…It’s pods furnish food for horses and even for the poor in times of scarcity.”

3 May: Luc. Brignolles. Tourves. Pourcieux. La Galiniere. Aix (Hotel St. Jaques).

4 May : Le Grand Pin, Marseilles (Hotel des Princes, May 6th).

7 May: Aix, St. Cannat, Pontroyal, Orgon.

8 May: Orgon. Avignon (Hotel de St. Omer), Vaucluse.

10 May: Nismes (Hotel de Luxemburg). Lunel. “Hills on the right, plains on the left. The soil reddish, a little stony and of middling quality. The produce olives, mulberries, vines, corn, St. foin….Lunel is famous for it’s vin de Muscat blanc, thence called Lunel, or vin Muscat de Lunel.”

11 May: Montpellier.

12 May: Frontignan. Cette.

13 May: Agde.

15 May: Beziers. Argilies. LeSaumal.—-On the Canal of Languedoc. “The Canal of Languedoc along which I now travel is 6. toises wide at bottom, and 10 toises at the surface of the water, which is 1. toise deep…The locks are mostly kept by women, but the necessary operations are much too laborious for them. The encroachments by the men on the offices proper for the women is a great derangement in the order of things. Men are shoemakers, tailors, upholsterers, staymakers, mantua makers, cooks, doorkeepers, housekeepers, housecleaners, bedmakers.”

16 May: Le Samumal. Marseillette.

18 May: Carcassonne. Castelnaudari. (Hotel de St. Jean Baptiste)

19 May: Castelnaudary (Hotel de Notredame). St. Feriol, Escarmare. Lampy.

20 May: Narouze, Villefranche. Baziège.

21 May: Toulouse (Hotel du Griffon d’Or). “At Toulouse the canal ends. It has four communications with the Mediterranean.”

22 May: Toulouse.

23 May: Agen (Hotel petit St. Jean), St. Hilaire, Port Ste. Marie, Aiguillon, Tonneins, Marmaude, Mottelandron, Le Preole, Cauderat, Langon, Barlade, Castres.

24-28 May: Bordeaux (Hotel de Richelieu) “The cantons in which the most celebrated wines of Bordeaux are made are MEDOC down the river, GRAVE adjoining the city and the parishes next above; all on the same side of the river.”

28 May: From Bordeaux to Blaye.

29 May: From Rochefort to Le Rocher.

30 May: Bacha, Le Rocher, Rochelle, Usseau, Marans, Morelles, Ste. Hermine.

31 May: Chantenay, St. Fulgent, Montaigu, Aigrefeuille, Nantes (A la Croix verte).

1-2 June: Le Temple, Moere, Pontchateau, Rochebernard, Massellac. Thex, Vannes, Auray, Landevant, Hennebont, L’Orient (Hotel de Epée Royal). “The country from Nates to LORIENT is very hilly and poor, the soil grey.”

3 June: Hennebont, Baud, Locminé, Josselin.

4 June: Ploemel, Campenéac, Plélan, Mordelles, Rennes.

5 June: Bout des Landes, Roudun, Brecharaye, Derval, Nozay, Bout de Bois, Gesvres, Nantes (St. Julien).

6-8 June: Nantes. Ancenis. Angers. Tours. Manves, le Plessis, Ancenis (Hotel de Bretagne). “Tours is at the 119th. Mile stone. Being desirous of enquiring here into a fact stated by Voltaire in his Questions encyclopediaques. Art. Coquilles, relative to the growth of shells unconnected with animal bodies at the chateau of Monsr. De la Sauvagiere near Tours, I called on M. Gentil premier Secretaire de l’Intendance, to whom the Intendant had written on my behalf at the request of the Marquis de Chastellux.”

9-10 June: Blois. Orleans. “At Blois the road leaves the river, and traverses the hills, which are mostly reddish, sometimes grey, good enough, in vines, corn S. foin.”

10 June: Returned to Paris


Jefferson’s notes on the trip total nearly 45 pages, and were written as a guide for two American friends – John Rutledge and Thomas Lee-Shippen.  Considering Jefferson lived in a ‘3 mile per hour’ age (horse and carriage), I find his 1,200-mile journey through southern France and northern Italy absolutely fascinating!  His detailed notes in his Memorandum book are even more amazing.

Thomas Jefferson on Wine, John Hailman
NY Times, Following Jefferson Through the Vineyards, June 10, 2010
The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. VI.
Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, http://wiki.monticello.org/


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