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Another claim to fame: Ita€™s believed Philipa€™s words inspired Jeffersona€™s indelible phrase a€?all men are created equala€? in the Declaration of Independence.
When Francesco Mazzei was growing up, Philip was not just some dusty portrait in the stairwell of Castello di Fonteruoli, a medieval property that the Mazzei family inherited in 1435 a€” 57 years before Christopher Columbus discovered America.
The American chapter of Philipa€™s life began when he was running a trading company in London that imported agricultural products from Tuscany.
Philip quickly entered political circles in Virginia, where he was welcomed for his liberal ideas and his wit and energy.
In the library of Castello di Fonterutoli, giant tomes line the walls, each with refined, spidery handwriting crawling down the leather spine.
Made with natural yeast and minimal interference, Philip is matured for 24 months in barrique, primarily American oak thata€™s about 40 percent new.
For a profile of Francesco Mazzei and the winery, see a€?Keeping up with the Mazzeia€™s,a€? in the blog Living La Dolce Vita.
If you havena€™t a clue, let me suggest a wine thata€™s fit for the occasion: Philip, named after Philip Mazzei, an intriguing, if minor, player in the formative years of the United States of America. For starters, hea€™s the one who brought the first vitus vinifera to the Colonies and planted the first commercial vineyards in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Mazzei, who wrote under the pseudonym Furioso, penned these words: a€?All men are by nature equally free and independent. His older brother Filippo (and fellow CEO) took Philipa€™s name, and the household was generally aware of their 18th century ancestora€™s exploits. His professions included medicine, trade, horticulture, viticulture, politics, and pamphleteeringa€”vocations that took him around the globe. A friend from home, the powerful Grand Duke Leopold of Tuscany, asked him to acquire one of the latest modern conveniences: a metal-lined fireplace, named the Franklin Stove.
Jefferson provided the initial land for Philipa€™s venture: 193 acres on the south side of Monticello (above).


Philip the Restless became increasingly disengaged as he became more involved in the birth of the nation. He hired one of Philipa€™s vignerons to take charge of Monticelloa€™s vineyards, and thus Philipa€™s legacy lived on. Wine was always part of the equation; records show the Mazzeis made wine as far back as the 1300s.
Ita€™s a delicious winea€”bursting with dark fruit, with a background of spice and cedar, offering plush tannins that give structure without being overbearing. The Mazzei winery has partnered with the Thomas Jefferson Foundation to bring Tuscan vines to Virginia, fulfilling Philipa€™s promise (right).
Youa€™ll find him very pleasant company indeeda€”whether on Presidenta€™s Day or any day of the year. This was in 1774 on land obtained through his neighbor, Thomas Jefferson, as well as on Jeffersona€™s own Monticello plantation. Such equality is necessary in order to create a free government.a€? Without question, the mena€™s thinking was in sync, and the two politicos were tight friends who shared progressive libertarian ideals, traded volumes of private letters, and even published writings together.
He was pushy, always asking a€?I want to do this, I want to do that.a€™ So he was a bit of a pain. Philip got in touch with its inventor, Benjamin Franklin, who was then working in London as an agent for Pennsylvania and other American colonies. Philip purchased another 700 next door, named his farm Colle, and started planting on both farms. He went back to Tuscany at Jeffersona€™s request to solicit funds for the State of Virginia from his old friend the Grand Duke and to promote the Coloniesa€™ perspective.
Whata€™s remarkable is how many oft-told tales of Chianti intersect with the Mazzei family history. This wine could dress up for an elegant prime-rib dinner or go casual for a picnic of sloppy joes and BBQ.


Not surprisingly, ita€™s quite popular in the Washington DC and Virginia markets and sells like gangbusters at the gift shop in Monticello. The idea is to add a special plot to the vineyards now on the presidential property adjoining Monticello, named Montalto.
There are notes of Jefferson that say, a€?This guy isa€¦a€™ a€? Francesco shakes his head with a grimace, then breaks out in a laugh. They struck up a friendship, and through Franklin, Philip met Virginia businessman and politician Thomas Adams. To finance the operation, he created a wine companya€”Americana€™s firsta€”called the Wine Society, which was meant to produce and sell wine. The first written mention of Chianti wine, in 1398, was penned by a Mazzei: the notary Ser Lapo. He lived in, not just went to, Tuscany, Turkey, England, Virginia, France, Poland, Russia, and back in Tuscany,a€? he says, tapping the table for emphasis. Both Americans encouraged Philip to come up with a plan to cultivate Mediterranean vines, olive trees, citrus, and silk in the Colonies.
Thirty-one investors shelled out 50 pounds sterling per share; many prominent colonial leaders were among them, first and foremost Washington and Jefferson. Then therea€™s the legend of the Black Rooster, which recounts how Florence and Siena settled a longstanding territorial dispute through a horse race; the resulting border falls precisely at the hamlet of Fonterutoli.



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