It’s harvest season in Kentucky, and one of the oldest crops ever raised commercially in the Commonwealth is finding resurgence. I’m talking about wine grapes, and vineyards from Paducah to Pikeville are ripening all over the hillsides.
The first commercial wine production in the United States began in Kentucky when the personal winemaker for Marquis de Lafayette, Jean-Jacques Dufour, found the conditions here just right and bought 600 acres along the Kentucky River in Jesamine County for his vineyard in 1798.
At one time Kentucky was the third-largest grape and wine producer in the United States, but prohibition put an end to most of that business.
After the tobacco buyout a few years ago, and with the help of the legislature, the new Kentucky grape and wine industry was reborn. Today more than 50 wineries are in operation throughout Kentucky.
Not only do the owners participate in an important agricultural business, but their operations include some of Kentucky’s finest and most relaxed entertainment opportunities this side of grandma’s shade tree.
From beautiful grounds, open-air concert venues, to stunning architecture and lodge-type surroundings, a visit to a Kentucky winery will likely cause you to thirst for more, and in more ways than one.
I’m not here to advance one winery over another, but there are some with such wonderful ambience that a visit between now and the time change should be part of your autumn plans.
Imagine sitting among lovely vines as live music wafts through the air. Picture people in a comfy clothes sitting in packable chairs around a small table of cheese, fruit and a bottle of cold Riesling or a dark red with hints of blackberry, as the golden hue of a September sunset casts long shadows over a warm green lawn.
Take in the view from the porch of an old stone home surrounded by majestic trees or on the patio of a timber-framed lodge situated above a peaceful lake reflecting the white and blue of an evening sky.
The cost of such an evening is usually very friendly, and the chance to sample some of Kentucky’s oldest tradition should make the experience that much more rewarding.
There are any numbers of fall festivals and fairs to visit as we watch the days of summer slip by, but I would encourage you to consider making plans for a stop at one of our Commonwealth’s great wineries this year.
It’s harvest season in Kentucky. Take advantage of it.
For more information on Kentucky vineyards and wineries visit KentuckyWine.com. In the great tradition of Lafayette, À la vôtre!
Marcus Carey is a Northern Kentucky lawyer with 32 years experience. He is also a farmer, talk radio host and public speaker who loves history and politics. He is a prolific and accomplished writer whose blog, BluegrassBulletin.com, is “dedicated to honest and respectful comment on the political and cultural issues of our time.” He writes a regular commentary for KyForward.