Michael Scaffidi would like to offer you a sip through history. Dine at Plume, the luxury restaurant in the Jefferson Hotel downtown, and he is likely to approach at the end of your meal, pushing a small cart clinking with bottles stenciled with obscure names and old vintages.
The cart is Scaffidi’s time machine. The hotel’s wine director and sommelier may offer you a glass of wine made the year you were born, or one that’s a century old. He may even offer you a wine that Thomas Jefferson himself might have tasted.
The wine is Madeira, from the Portuguese island of the same name that lies about 500 miles off the coast of Morocco. Madeira played an important part in early American history. The island was on the trade route from Europe to the New World and was a stopover for ships seeking provisions. “Pipes” (large casks) of the island’s wine served as ballast for the trans-Atlantic voyage. Madeira was a favorite tipple of many colonists.