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Revolutionary War-Era Wine Discovered During Renovation of New Jersey Home

UNION, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- We think of barbecues and fireworks shows when it comes to the Fourth of July.

But have you ever wondered how our founding fathers toasted the nation's birth?

As CBS2's Christina Fan found out Monday, a recently unearthed cellar in New Jersey is providing answers.

When you visit a museum, you usually only get to see history. But at the Liberty Hall Museum in Union, you can almost taste it, too.

"We were totally surprised. We had no knowledge that we had that kind of wine here," museum president John Kean Sr. said.

Revolutionary War wines

FLASHBACKCenturies-Old Wine Discovered In Cellar At New Jersey Museum

Kean's family used to own a colonial-era home. It was originally built by New Jersey's first governor, William Livingston. During a recent renovation, museum employees discovered a forgotten cellar door. Inside was a secret stash of wine dating to the Revolutionary War. More bottles were uncovered in the attic.

"I literally was going to throw it away and, fortunately, did not do that, because it turned out to be something quite rare, and people are still talking about it," Kean said.

The cellar contained nearly three cases of Maderia, some of it dating back to 1796. Historians say this was the wine of choice our nation's founders drank during important celebrations.

"When they signed the Declaration of Independence, signing the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, any of those major documents, our founding father's are toasting with Maderia. So it is a very big drink for America," the museum's Rachael Goldberg said.

Now, 243 years later, Americans will have a chance to see this living history. The museum is putting out several of its 200 bottles on display. The exhibit opens on Independence Day.

"I think it is a different way to look at the history of the United States of America. We rely on paper documents, artifacts, letters, and liquor is just as important. It helps you through the good times. It helps you through the bad times," Goldberg said.

The new exhibit will cover nearly the entire history of alcohol in the United States.

A portion of the collection has already been auctioned off, with the highest price for one of the bottles -- $39,000.

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