Kentucky


Kentucky Wine Overview

Wine in Kentucky is nothing new, but there’s no question Kentucky’s wine production has been overshadowed by bourbon. Bourbon is so well known as being a distinctly Kentucky product that few people even realize the state also has a thriving wine industry.

Grape growing and wine have a long history in Kentucky, dating back to just prior to 1800. A well known figure in Kentucky history, Jean Jacques Dufour, developed what is believed to be the first commercial vineyard in America here in Kentucky. By the end of the 1800s, Kentucky was the third largest wine producing state in America.

All that changed with Prohibition, as Kentucky’s wineries lay dormant until well into the 1970s. Now, there are more than sixty wineries in the state and more than 500 acres of vineyards, many transformed from old tobacco fields. Wineries and vineyards have proven to be a great match with some of Kentucky’s other agri-tourism attractions, too. Central Kentucky in particular is a veritable showcase for native farms, Bourbon distilleries, horse farms, and of course vineyards and wineries.

Grape growing and wine have a long history in Kentucky, dating back to just prior to 1800.

Grapes grow well all over the state due to a relatively long growing season and comparatively mild winters. Native American grapes do best in Kentucky, like Catawba, Niagara, Cythiana and Norton. French hybrid grapes are also grown here successfully, such as Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc, Foch and De Chaunac. At Kentucky wineries, you’re likely to experience a wide variety of wines — those made with these grapes and also a variety of fruit wines, which are often mixed with grape-based wines.

We have had the opportunity to sample and buy quite a few Kentucky wines and have been favorably impressed with Kentucky table white wines in particular. We find them to be very clean with just the right touch of sweetness — ideal when served with chicken or fish dishes. Further, we’ve found that many local liquor retailers in Kentucky have embraced local vintages. Many retail outlets carry Kentucky wine, and many wineries will ship out of state.

Kentucky Wine Trails

Currently, Kentucky hosts one wine trail, although we expect a few more to be established in the near future. For now, wine travelers can explore the Northern Kentucky Backroads Wine Trail, five Kentucky wineries within an hour’s drive from Cincinnati, Ohio.

A well-known figure in Kentucky history, Jean Jacques Dufour, developed what is believed to be the first commercial vineyard in America in Kentucky.

The five wineries on this Kentucky wine trail are all located relatively near the Ohio River in the rolling and winding hills of northern Kentucky. The Ohio River Valley is an excellent area to grow grapes, stretching from West Virginia over to southern Indiana. Each of the five wineries on the Northern Kentucky Backroads Wine Trail creates wine via grapes in their on-site vineyards, so you’ll get a true taste of Kentucky by traveling this trail! The proximity to Cincinnati is a big plus — if you’ve never explored the Queen City, we encourage you to do so. Cincinnati is a great restaurant town, and we particularly recommend a visit to the Mt. Adams area with its many shops and spectacular views of Cincinnati, Kentucky and the Ohio River.

By the end of the 1800s, Kentucky was the third largest wine-producing state in America.

Of particular note on this wine trail is the drive along the Ohio River on Kentucky State Highway 8. The farthest flung winery on the trail is located in the beautiful river town of Augusta, Baker-Bird Winery and Vineyard. Augusta is a destination to explore and enjoy, as there are ample opportunities to enjoy antiquing, shopping and Kentucky history.

Since there are many wineries clustered in central Kentucky, we believe more wine trails will be designated in the next few years. With its many horse farms and the famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail, a visit to this area is well worth your time. Visit Kentucky Wine for a complete list of Kentucky wineries.

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