Column: Nation’s first commercial winery founded by Swiss immigrants


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In 1796, John James Dufour left his native Switzerland to seek a new life and opportunity in the United States. Less than a decade later, he opened the country’s first successful wine-making business — in southeastern Indiana.

It was still the Indiana Territory at that time, but the settlement would soon become the town of Vevay in Switzerland County. It was briefly a popular destination for Swiss immigrants fleeing revolutionary Europe.

Dufour had done his homework. As a teen, he studied viticulture and worked the family vineyards in Canton de Vaud, Switzerland. Upon his arrival in America, he visited private vineyards, including Thomas Jefferson’s at Monticello, to study grape types, soil and climate.

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