Kentucky has its own claims to fame- the Derby, great bourbon, bluegrass music- and we can all agree it tops the charts for all of these things. But did you know the Bluegrass State also has some fantastic wineries?
Yep, you read that right- Kentucky has wineries and it’s part of the Ohio River Valley region, which is the second largest AVA in the country. The Ohio River Valley AVA is over 16 million acres, covering parts of Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio, and can be considered the birthplace of American viticulture. Most of Kentucky’s wineries are in Lexington and Louisville and although only part of Kentucky touches the Ohio River, this is the only AVA it currently belongs to.
The climate of the Ohio River Valley, where most of Kentucky’s vineyards are located, has a fairly mild climate which made it ideal for those early plantings by the Kentucky Vineyard Society. The slight humidity from the river and moderate temperatures of the region have created a fertile terroir prime for winegrowing which has led to production of over two million gallons of wine each year.
There are 65 active wineries throughout the state of Kentucky with strong focuses on Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc. The first commercial vineyard in all of America was in Kentucky, and it’s still an active winery today. First Vineyard Winery was started in 1799 by a man named John James Dufour in Jessamine County, Kentucky. Today, the winery still operates as it once did, and while they’ve renovated and re-established, it’s their mission to keep the land and production facilities as close to their historical heritage as possible.
A unique aspect of the Kentucky wine region is their grape selling program where farmers can sell to wineries that may not have their own vineyards. It’s authorized by the Kentucky Grape & Wine Council, and is a valid marketplace for grape growers and sellers throughout the state.
Throughout the state of Kentucky, you can find unique and interesting vineyards and wineries who have something special to offer. Just like the Bourbon Trail, you can make an entire adventure out of different vineyards as many are located close enough to each for a day’s journey!
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