In honor of my favorite holiday, the Kentucky Derby, which runs this Saturday, it is officially Kentucky week here at My Wine Education. Yay!
I want to start by clearing up some misconceptions. Kentucky is not a bunch of people with bad accents running around in Daisy Dukes and marrying their cousins. I’m sure it happens, but really folks, it happens everywhere. Can the stereotype.
Admittedly, when I first moved across the river to Kentucky, I was a little embarrassed. Heck, where we live in Northern Kentucky puts Cincinnati, OH, in our backyard. It’s not like we’re in the country. Houses have lower prices here; the stores are just as trendy; it’s really a great place to live. Not two hours away are both Louisville and Lexington. In between those two cities are horse country and bourbon country, which are truly gorgeous. The grass really has a blue tint. The distilleries are all historic landmarks. The horses are running in fields bordered by white fences. It’s pastoral, lovely, and relaxing.
This is the Kentucky I love to visit.
Much to my surprise, there are a lot of Kentucky wineries. In fact, Kentucky was ahead of the game in the history of wine. Back in 1799, the Kentucky Vineyard Society planted one of the first commercial vineyards. By the mid-1800s, Kentucky was the third largest wine-producing state in our nation. That’s right – Kentucky. Like so many wineries, Kentucky was knocked out of the wine industry by disease and by Prohibition. (Heck, we’re still fighting with Prohibition-era regulations!) After that, farmers turned to tobacco, which became the largest legal cash crop in state for many years.
Tobacco farming is on the decline however. Farmers are returning to their roots, vineyards, as a replacement. Obviously, we are a state whose commerce thrives on vice. Tobacco fields are proving to be excellent for growing grapes. We have two appellations, including the Ohio River Valley AVA, which includes portions of Ohio, Virginia, and Indiana, and the Jefferson County AVA. According to the Appellation America web site,
significant is the state program that funds half the startup cost of
new vineyards. Wine grape acreage quadrupled from 1998-2002. With the
new plantings, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc have
gained the most ground, shifting the balance to vinifera, from native and hybrid varieties.
I have some Kentucky Bourbon beer, some Kentucky Rosé, a trip to Bourbon Country, and a Kentucky wine festival to tell you about this week. I don’t even know if I’ll get to it all. So sit back and have a sip of bourbon or wine and learn a little about a very underappreciated state.
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