Jefferson’s Montalto to become classroom for wine-making

Monticello/PVCC Vineyard partner for educational vineyard

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Wednesday, July 18, 2011
Media Contact: Lisa Stites, 434-984-7529

Aerial of Monticello and Montalto. Credit: Monticello/Photograph by Jack LooneyCHARLOTTESVILLE, VA.— Thomas Jefferson’s “high mountain” overlooking Monticello will become a hands-on classroom for Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC) students studying viticulture and enology.

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation (TJF) has partnered with PVCC to plant a training vineyard on Montalto as part of the college’s already extensive and popular curriculum devoted to the study of winemaking.

Beginning Aug. 30,  PVCC students will plant three separate blocks of pinot noir grapes on the site, which is situated on the slope of the Montalto summit overlooking the orchards at Monticello. The vineyard is a fitting tribute to Jefferson who has been called America's "first distinguished viticulturist" and "the greatest patron of wine and winegrowing that this country has yet had."

“Montalto provides the perfect location for an educational vineyard,” said Leslie Greene Bowman, president and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. “PVCC students will be literally learning from Jefferson’s land.”

Rising 410 feet above Monticello, Montalto is historically significant as Thomas Jefferson’s first land purchase. He was 28 in 1771 when he asked Edward Carter to agree to sell “as much of his nearest mountain as can be seen from mine, and 100 yds. beyond the line of sight.” After Jefferson’s death, the property had a series of different owners.

In 2004 the Thomas Jefferson Foundation acquired Montalto and placed the land in view from Monticello under a conservation easement.  The protection of Montalto allowed the Foundation to realize a long-held goal, and it was the high-water mark of its ongoing efforts to safeguard the historic and scenic nature of the views from Monticello.

The creation of the Montalto training vineyard will be supervised by Gabriele Rausse, assistant director of gardens and grounds at Monticello, who has been called the founder of Virginia’s modern wine industry. Rausse is also a member of PVCC’s Viticulture and Enology Advisory Council.

“PVCC and Monticello have been friends and neighbors for many years. The start-up vineyard initiative is another example of a unique partnership that will benefit the citizens of our region for years to come,” said PVCC President Frank Friedman.

The training vineyard offers students the unique perspective of learning from a new vineyard. Students will experience planning, planting and tending a start-up vineyard without incurring the associated cost. They will have the opportunity to lay out a vineyard, experiment with different trellising systems, plant vines in both the fall and spring, tend the vines throughout the year and learn the skills needed to start up and manage a new vineyard.

Once planting begins in the fall semester, PVCC viticulture and enology students will maintain the vineyard as part of their program.


The Thomas Jefferson Foundation owns and operates Monticello, the mountaintop home of Thomas Jefferson. As a private, nonprofit organization, the Foundation receives no regular federal or state budget support for its twofold mission of preservation and education.  About 450,000 people visit Monticello each year. For information, visit

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