The First Vineyard
Today, in 1798, the first American vineyard was planted 25 miles from Lexington, Kentucky.
It was started by a Swiss immigrant named John James Dufour. He established the first successful commercial vineyard and winery in America. He called it “The First Vineyard.”
Dufour had read newspaper accounts of the American Revolution as a young boy in Switzerland. What struck him most was something the French fighters had said. They were fighting alongside the colonists, and they bemoaned the fact that they didn't have any wine to drink in America. It left an impression on DuFour. His grandfather and father were both vine dressers in Switzerland. Dufour wanted to bring their winemaking skills to America.
In 1796, Dufour arrived in America. Initially, he made a point of visiting Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and other estates. DuFour noticed they were working with the wild grapes, which Dufour felt were inferior.
After one year of success with "The First Vineyard," Dufour wrote to his father, brothers, and sisters in Switzerland and invited them all to join him. Seventeen members of his family made the voyage.
After his family arrived, Dufour petitioned congress for the privilege of getting land in Indiana. The area had a steep valley that reminded the family of Switzerland. Congress granted special approval for Dufour. By 1806, the first wine was made from the vineyard in Indiana, known as "The Second Vineyard," and the area became known as New Switzerland.