The State of Kentucky has adopted a new slogan for itself – Unbridled Spirit, and it’s a well chosen soubriquet for a state where spirits run high in so many ways. Spirited horseflesh racing down the stretch, the open, generous and competitive spirit of its people, and the spirits that have made Kentucky famous as the home of bourbon and whiskey – all the varied meanings of spirit work together to make the Unbridled Spirit of Kentucky a wonderfully contagious one.
Kentucky, the home of bluegrass and good old Kentucky bourbon, has discovered another wonderful use for its rich earth and limestone caverns. Discovered is a bit of a misnomer, though. Kentucky’s history with wine goes back to 1799, when the Kentucky Vineyard Society planted one of the country’s first commercial vineyards. In the 1800s, Kentucky was the third largest wine producing state in the nation. Disease and Prohibition took a big bite out of Kentucky’s vineyards and wine industry, and the farmers of the area turned to tobacco. These days, as the tobacco industry declines, Kentucky farmers are turning back the clock and planting vines once again – and the wines from small, specialty Kentucky vineyards are again winning awards in national and international shows.
With aid from the state of Kentucky’s Vineyard Assistance Program, the Kentucky wine industry is recovering. In the fertile area of central Kentucky’s Bluegrass Country, vintners have found the perfect combination of soil and climate for growing grapes that result in award-winning wines. The vineyards in the central Kentucky area offer a wide variety of events and activities for adults and for the entire family. Spend a weekend touring Bluegrass Country with an itinerary designed to spark up your wine rack and sparkle your palate.
One of the most successful and well-known of the new Kentucky wineries, Chrisman Mill is located in Nicholasville, about halfway between Lexington and Richmond. The drive from either is a delightfully scenic one. A visit to Chrisman Mill can include a tour of the vineyards and winery, lunch or dinner in their delightful Tuscan style restaurant, along with an afternoon wine tasting. Chrisman Mill Wines have been winning international awards since 2001. In addition to the winery, Chrisman Mill offers afternoon winemakers’ tours, and several themed dinners a month. Among their top offerings is a 2002 Vidal Blanc, a 12 time International Silver Medal winner. My personal favorite is the Chrisman Mill 2003 Country Arbor, a sweet, fruity wine that’s perfect for crisp afternoons.
Jean Faris Winery is located in Lexington, just off the beautiful scenic byway. Owned and operated by Ben and Jeanie O’Daniel, both from Kentucky wine-making families, the Jean Faris Winery has made quite a splash in the wine world recently. In the Indiana Wine Awards held at the Indiana State Fair in July 2007, Jean Faris wines took home five medals. The Bistro at Jean Faris Winery offers a delicious and delightful dining experience on their open air patio overlooking the vineyards. The fresh regional food is perfectly complemented by the wines chosen to accompany them. There are often scheduled events and specialty wine tasting dinners in addition to regular dinner and luncheon hours.
Lovers Leap Wine embodies the flavor of Bluegrass wines. The largest vineyard in the state, Lovers Leap was voted Best Winery in Kentucky by the readers of Kentucky Magazine, and has won numerous awards for its distinctive wines made from American cultivars and French hybrid grapes. The Winery is located Lawrenceburg KY. Visitors may tour the vineyards and enjoy a glass of wine on the terrace overlooking the vineyards. Lovers Leap owns the distinction of producing the first Kentucky sparkling wine, a delicately dry Cuvee Blanc. A trip to Lovers Leap Winery will take you through some of the most beautiful country in one of the nation’s most beautiful states.
Talon, located in Lexington, KY, calls itself Lexington’s Winery. The five acre vineyard is located at historic Fair View Farm, three hundred acres with a long, rich history. Visitors to Talon enjoy a full tour of the vineyard and be part of the bottling process from vine to corking. Tours are self-guided, allowing visitors plenty of time and room to wander the beautiful farmlands, and visit the unique tasting room located in the 18th century farmhouse. Visitors are invited to picnic on the grounds, enjoying the ambience of the lush farm and gardens. Talon hosts an annual summer concert series and a unique Barbecue event in the autumn. Talon’s Coyote Red wine, a deliciously light semi-sweet red wine, took a Gold Medal in the Eastern Wine Competition 2007, and their Monarch, a peppery red Cabernet, took a bronze medal.
Take a break from wine for an afternoon to visit one of the oldest distilleries in Kentucky. Woodford Reserve Distillery is located in Versailles, KY. The Distillery Building was built in 1838 and grew over the years. Every building on the property is over 100 years old. Woodford Reserve is a National Landmark, and one of the three tours offered by the Distillery is the National Landmark Tour that focuses on the history and cultural impact of the Distillery on the surrounding area. Woodford also offers two other Distillery tours, including a two hour in depth “corn to cork” tour that takes visitors through the entire process of creating the award winning Kentucky Bourbon.
The Anderson, Woodford and Frankfort County Tourist Commissions have teamed up to put together a multi-day tour of wineries and distilleries in the Bluegrass Region. The tour features visits to Equus Run Winery, Woodford Distillery, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Lovers Leap Winery and Vineyards and several others. In addition, visitors will tour Rebecca Ruth Candy, where two sisters created Kentucky’s famous Bourbon Balls, as well as several historic homes in Bluegrass.
Take the time to get to know Kentucky’s Unbridled Spirits with tours of some of the finest creators of spirits in the state.