General Washington Elected President
of First War Vets Organization
Since next Saturday is Veterans' Day, today we look at the winemaking activities of the head of the first organization of veterans of an American army...the future President of the United States, George Washington.
The First Vets Organization
It was called "The Society of Cincinnati." It was made up of American officers who fought in the Revolutionary War against Great Britain. Formed in 1783, it selected as its first president General Washington, who was still in the field with the Army. Its national conventions attracted huge turnouts.
George Washington, The Vintner
Ten years earlier, in November, 1773, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson met visiting, Tuscany-born wine merchant, Philip Mazzei. Having talked with Ben Franklin in Europe, Philip was there to look at the winegrowing potential of the Virginia area. Later he would write Washington: "Virginia is better calculated than any other I am acquainted with for the produce of wine."
Washington, Jefferson, and friends invested 2,000 pounds sterling. Philip's boss, the Grand Duke Leopold of Tuscany, gave his approval for Philip to take vines and six Italian winegrowers to America.
The results? While commanding the army, Washington would write that the vines had failed, what wine they made was bad, and Virginia was simply too hot for the vines brought by the Tuscan winegrowers.
Two centuries later, America can grow Italian varietals successfully, and one of them is...
Our Wine of the Day
100% Sangiovese, the backbone of Tuscany's Chianti
'98 Flora Springs Sangiovese, Napa Valley Vine Age—This is the fifth vintage from estate vines planted in 1989 and 1990. The success of such relatively young vines is startling. A Flora Springs Sangiovese has already made the Wine Spectator's top 100 wines of the year. Tasting Notes—More pleasing fruit than power. Strawberry...cranberry. Rating—A strong RECOMMENDED. Contact—Sean Garvey, (415) 346-2929, FAX (415) 346-6136 or Julie Garvey, FAX (707) 963-7518 Price—$16 range
I'm not certain about the bond between Philip Mazzei and his boss, Duke Leoplod, because...Philip shipped him a wooden, sawdust-filled box containing a live rattlesnake!
About the Writer
Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.