While Kentucky may not often be considered one of the main wine producing regions in the United States, this state has a rich history in growing grapes. The first commercial vineyard in the United States was actually registered in Kentucky and at one point Kentucky produced more than half of the nation’s grapes and wines.
Similarly to what happened to wineries on the East Coast, prohibition severely hindered the wine industry here and it wasn’t until 1976 that legislation was passed in Kentucky allowing wineries to operate again. In just the past 10 years, the state has seen over 50 wineries pop up. These wineries are producing more than 100,000 cases of wine per year.
In Kentucky, American grapes have show to be the easiest to grow and the traditional vinifera European grape is the most challenging. Some American-French hybrid grapes have been successful. The most prominent grape is the vidal blanc, followed by the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Chambourcin. Kentucky’s weather allows for anything from hot, dry summers to cool, wet summers, which can make growing challenging and consistency difficult to achieve.
Northern Kentucky is home to the first wine trail in the state. The Northern Kentucky Back Roads Wine Trail has five wineries situated throughout Campbell County. Expect to enjoy a day passing historic stone houses from the mid-1800s and miles of rolling fields of bluegrass. The vineyards featured along the trail are the Camp Springs Vineyard and Winery, Stonebrook Winery, Atwood Hill Winery, Seven Wells Winery and Baker Bird Wine. A few awards earned by these wineries include Atwood Hill Winery’s Silver Medal at the 2010 Kentucky State Fair for its Atwood Reserve and Stone Brook’s Gold at the 2010 Derby Fest for their Vidal Blanc.
Many of Kentucky’s wineries also lie along the Ohio River Valley AVA, which actually covers four states. Located in this region is the Acres of Land, Chateau du Vieux Corbeau, Equus Run, Lovers Leap, Rolling Hills, Talon and Wildside wineries and vineyards. One memorable winery to stop by is Talon, which is located on 300 acres of land that was once a tobacco farm. The main grapes grown here are Vidal Blanc, Traminette, Cayuga, Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin and Cabernet Sauvignon. While this vineyard has experienced several award winners, the crisp, dry and fruity Traminette is memorable as is the 2005 ruby red Cabernet Sauvignon that has a crisp finish and fruity and mild tannins.
Across Kentucky, there are many unique lodging options located near wineries and vineyards. At the Elk Creek Vineyards, there is a four room lodge. Rooms can be rented individually or the entire lodge can be reserved, making it perfect for a retreat or a romantic get-away. At the Springhill Winery, which is located in a former plantation house, there is a bed and breakfast that features six suites. The owners recommend spending time wandering through the vineyards before coming in for a personal wine tasting, allowing for the total wine experience. The winemaker and his wife are also the owners of the bed and breakfast.