UNION, NJ (WPIX/CNN) - A bottle of Madeira wine from 1796 in an unmarked crate was found deep in the cellar of Liberty Hall Museum.
“Well, there’s a good shot if you open this up, you could still enjoy it today,” said Bill Schroh, director of operations at the museum.
“These were colonial times in America, so to get anything decent, you had to ship it from Europe, and Madeira travels well. It’s easy to bring across the ocean, and it was the favorite drink like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, the folks who lived here. It was very popular at their tables.”
The cellar is beneath the home of New Jersey’s first governor, William Livingston. He built the estate as a country home before the Revolutionary War.
“All the wine was hidden in here, inside the cage,” Schroh said. “It was probably boarded up around the Prohibition era. It was only when museum staff ripped off the wood boards that they made these discoveries.”
Along with the rare Madeira wines they found bourbon bottled in the spring of 1884, American whiskey made in 1871, and case after case of Cuban cigars safely preserved inside a humidor.
Unfortunately, no wine tasting is allowed, but the wine cellar and the home is now open to the public for tours.
Descendants of the original owner, the Kean family, turned over the keys in 1995 to create Liberty Hall Museum at Kean University.
“They turned off the lights, locked the doors and gave us the key and an American experience of 240 years of stuff that’s just been amazing - continued finds like wines,” Schroh said.
The museum plans to explore Alexander Hamilton’s room next. Hamilton stayed in the 50-room house when he first settled in America.
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