When you think of Kentucky, it is natural to think of bourbon but did you know that Kentucky is the birthplace of America’s commercial wine industry? You can be forgiven if you didn’t but it’s true - the first vintage was enjoyed in 1803 by, among others, Thomas Jefferson.
Since that time, Kentucky’s wine industry has faced some challenges - little things like the civil war and prohibition - that turned its focus somewhat away from wine but, in 1976, when the state allowed wineries to operate once more, Kentucky wine was back!
While Kentucky vineyards have a lot of ground to make up if they ever want to compete with the bourbon distillers in their state for fame, they’re off to a great start. At this time, there are more than 60 Kentucky wineries and Kentucky wine is being produced at an estimated 100,000 cases a year with wineries state-wide offering wine tastings, dinners, art shows, concerts, and other visitor-friendly perks.
Kentucky wine is being produced mainly in the central, bluegrass region but also in the northern and eastern regions. The grapes grown range from the American cultivars Concord, Niagara, Norton; Hybrids Cayuga white, Chambourcin, Chardonel, M. Foch, Traminette, Seyval, Vidal blanc, Vignoles; and the European cultivars Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
With so many vineyards to visit, it’s hard to know where to begin. Luckily, there are already wine trails being established
, such as the Northern Kentucky Horseshoe Trail and the Backroads Kentucky Wine Trail, and companies like Best KY Tours
offering their touring services.
Kentucky’s bourbon heritage may be the stronger but Kentucky wine is growing and is as unique a part of Kentucky culture as bluegrass and the Kentucky Derby - and we’re eager to share it with you whether you’re a connoisseur or a just enjoy the occasional sip.