The letter opens with a recitation of the delay Jefferson experienced in receiving cuttings of Alexander vines that he had requested from Adlum the previous October. "Your favors of Feb. 15 & Mar. 10 were received in due time, but were not acknoledged because I was daily in expectation of the cuttings which should have accompanied the latter. on the 15th inst. I received yours of the 10th & concluding the bundle of cuttings had been rejected at some post office as too large to pass thro' that line, I had yesterday, in despair, written my acknolegements to you for the kind service you had desired to render me. but before I had sent off the letter, I received from the stage office at Milton the bundle of cuttings & bottle of wine safe. yesterday was employed in preparing ground for the cuttings, 165. in number, & this morning they will be planted. their long passage gives them a dry appearance, tho I hope that out of so many some will live and enable me to fill my ground. Their chance will be lessened because living on the top of a mountain I have not yet the command of water, which I hope to obtain this year by cisterns already prepared for saving the rain water."
Jefferson then turns to a discussion of the wine Adlum had sent him, which, when he had tasted it before, he compared favorably to Chambertin burgundy, one hundred bottles of which he had purchased for the White House in December 1803. Jefferson admits that his anticipation is tempered somewhat by a modification Adlum had introduced to his production method. "supposing the wine may require some time to settle, it has not been opened; but I have invited some friends to come and try it with me tomorrow. however the putting sugar into it may change the character of this batch. the quality of the bottle you sent me before satisfies me that we have at length found one native grape, inured to all the accidents of our climate, which will give us a wine worthy of the best vineyards of France. when you did me the favor of sending me the former bottle I placed it on the table with some of the Burgundy of Chambertin which I had imported myself from the maker of it, and desiring the company to point out which was the American bottle, it was acknoledged they could discover no sensible difference. I noted Cooper's recipe for making wine which you mention in your letter, and regretted it because it will have a tendency to continue the general error in this country that brandy always, & sugar sometimes are necessary for wine. this idea will retard & discourage our progress in making good wine. be assured there is never one atom of any thing whatever put into the any of the good wines made in France. I name that country because I can vouch the fact from the assurance to myself of the vignerons of all the best wine cantons of that country which I visited myself. it is never done but by the exporting merchants, & then only for the English & American markets where by a vitiated taste the intoxicating quality of wine, more than its flavor, is required by the palate."
Jefferson's concluding paragraph articulates a credo for American viticulture that both he and Adlum pursued: "I pray you to accept my thanks for your kind attention to my request. it was made with a view to encourage the example you have set, of trying our native grapes already acclimated, rather than those which will require an age to habituate them to our climate, & will disappoint & discourage those who try them. ..."
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