by Fred McMillin
for April 13, 1998

A $519,750 Thomas Jefferson Wine


1787—Visiting Bordeaux, Thomas Jefferson wrote that Chateau Margaux, one of the top four producers, made about 150,000 bottles a year. He bought 252 of those bottles.

...James Gabler in "Passions"  

The Rest of the Story

Two hundred and two years later a New York wine merchant William Sokolin, offered for sale a a 1787 Chateau Margaux believed to have been owned by Jefferson. The belief was strong enough that the bottle was priced at $519,750.

Mr. Sokolin "carefully cradled the bottle against his hip" as he brought it into the roomful of New York wine buffs at the Four Seasons restaurant. Then, incredibly, he backed violently into a metal-topped table. The New York Times reported his reaction, as he watched aghast as the red wine gushed out, soaking the rug: "This is not possible!...So, I went to the head table, told two people I had broken the bottle, and I'm going home, and-- bang!--I went home."

We mention this because today is President Thomas Jefferson's birthday. It's clear that we can't toast the day (April 13,1743) with a half-million dollar Bordeaux, but we can with one that's more affordable.

Today's Wine

1994 Chateau Larose-Trintaudon, Haut-Medoc Bordeaux, France
Vineyard—The most extensive vineyard in the Haut-Medoc, with Cabernet Sauvignon dominating, supported by Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
Importer—Seagram Chateau & Estate Wines
Contact—Angela Freire, (707) 255-7667
Tasting Notes—Smooth enough for veal, sturdy enough for beef.
Price—$18 range


When in France, Thomas Jefferson, was an enthusiastic shipper of wines to other Americans...apparently too enthusiastic for the future second President of the United States, John Adams. On June 7,1785, he frantically wrote Jefferson, "For Mercy Sake, stop all my wine shipments except the Bordeaux...[or] I shall be ruined."

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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