Orange Uncovered
Barboursville Vineyards and the Barboursville Ruins

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Solve History’s Mysteries

True or False: Thomas Jefferson designed the Barboursville Mansion.

True or False: Unlike Thomas Jefferson, Gianni Zonin had immediate success cultivating grapes and producing wine.

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Barboursville Vineyards

In the 18th century, long before Google, Thomas Jefferson was a human search engine, always seeking answers to life’s questions. The third United States President loved solving complex problems, which made him a standout in politics, economics, agriculture and architecture…just to name a few!

Jefferson’s love for agriculture and architecture came together when he designed a home for James Barbour, a friend, neighbor, farmer and fellow statesman, on the Barbour family’s plantation. Set among lush farmland, the Barboursville mansion was a marvel of design completed in 1822. While the Barbour family’s farming legacy was long, their enjoyment of the mansion was short-lived. The home was destroyed by a Christmas Day fire in 1884.

While the mansion’s ruins are all that remain, Jefferson and Barbour’s shared love of the land lives on at Barboursville Vineyards. In 1976 (200 years after Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence), a viticulturist and problem solver named Gianni Zonin had “grape expectations” for the Barboursville family estate. Equipped with eight generations of grape growing success in Italy, Zonin believed that Orange County’s soil, climate and quality of life were perfect for making wine.

Two centuries earlier, Thomas Jefferson tried and failed to cultivate European grapes into wine on Virginia farmland. His inability to solve this problem made people believe it couldn’t be done. Ignoring the naysayers, Zonin experimented, struggled and eventually succeeded, growing European grapes on the farmland. Today, Barboursville Vineyards is one of the oldest and most respected wineries in Virginia, boasting over 900 acres of healthy soil and vines. With experience and determination on his side, Zonin solved an agricultural riddle and proved Thomas Jefferson right!

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