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Dufour Jean Jacques

In 1796, the young Swiss winemaker Jean Jacques - later John James Dufour (1763-1827) emigrated from Vevey (Canton Vaud) to America and travelled through the present-day states of Pennsylvania, Illinois and Kentucky. In the latter he first tried to do viticulture. Together with some citizens of the city of Lexington in Jessamine-County, he founded the "Kentucky Vineyard Society", which, by the way, was reorganized in 1981 and still exists today. In 1798 Dufour acquired 1,500 cuttings of 35 different grape varieties from a Peter Legaux from Pennsylvania. He planted them in 1799 south of Lexington in an area of five acres on a loop of the Kentucky River. Among them was the Alexander, which Dufour called "Cape Grape" because he had been mistakenly informed by Legaux that it came from the Cape in South Africa. Most of them were European vines and died, especially from mildew and extremely bad weather conditions, unknown to European varieties, but the Alexander survived as one of the few varieties.

Because of these problems, the experiment went wrong after only three years and Dufour left the Winegrowers' Association. But the winegrowing activities were continued by the society, so this vineyard can be called the first commercially managed winery in the USA. The current successor to this historic site is the Chrisman Mill Vineyards and Winery, which exists not far from this site. Dufour was looking for a new place for his winegrowing activities and in 1802, not far from his first attempt as a winegrower on the Ohio River in the present state of Indiana near Vevay, he planted a new vineyard in Switzerland County, named after the Swiss immigrants, which he called "New Switzerland". There he produced his first high quality wine in 1806 or 1807. Some barrels of the first harvest were delivered by horse-drawn carriage to the White House in Washington to Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), who was still president at the time and expressly praised the wine. By 1809, 1,200 gallons of wine had already been produced.

At the beginning of 1800 Dufour made a trip to Switzerland, but returned to the USA. One year before his death, he published the book "The American Vine-Dresser's Guide. Cultivation of the Vine and the Process of Wine Making in the United States", covering vine diseases, soil and climate, grape varieties, crossbreeding and grafting, winery operations and winemaking techniques. It is an extremely interesting first presentation about viticulture in America at that time and was a standard work in the United States until the beginning of the 20th century. The book was reprinted in 1999. Dufour's sons and descendants produced wine on this estate until 1850, when they stopped producing due to sales problems associated with land speculation. Since 1968, the "Swiss Wine Festival" has been held annually in August in Vevay (Indiana) in honour of the wine-growing pioneer.

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