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Sep 16

WBW #61: At the Source: Elk Creek Vineyards

Every month, wine bloggers the globe over participate in Wine Blogging Wednesday, where we all write to a specific theme. This month, our assignment is to go drink local, but to do it at the local winery, talk to the winemaker, and just get to know the place. Wine always tastes better "at the source."

This ended up presenting an interesting conundrum for me. I wanted to branch out and visit a Kentucky winery instead of an Ohio one. The nice folks at Elk Creek in Owenton invited me down for a tour and tasting (and even threw in Temptations tickets). So two weeks ago, I went to the winery, had a great time, and came home and whipped up this post (which has been patiently in my queue, waiting for WBW). Now for the conundrum: a few days after my visit, Elk Creek reached out to me for social media marketing. Effective today, Elk Creek is a client. I made the decision to go ahead and publish this post because it was written early, but I wanted to make my new relationship with the winery clear as well.

Now that we've got that out of the way …

I'd never been to Elk Creek, and I was surprised to find out it's only an hour from Cincinnati. In fact, it's only an hour from Cincinnati, Louisville, and Lexington, and it sits halfway between I-71 and I-75. To get there I took the scenic route from I-75, which had a lot of twisty-turny roads. I came home the highway, on I-71, which took about 15 minutes longer but was much more my speed.

The Elk Creek campus is lovely. It includes the winery, an outdoor amphitheater where they hold concerts, grape vines (of course), the Elk Creek Hunt Club (clay shooting), and a bed & breakfast with a small spa. Inside the winery building is an art gallery and a deli.

Vineyard and Lodge

While I got a great tour of the winery (they make over 220,000 bottles), what I really want to tell you about is the wines. They offer a lot of varieties, running the gamut from the popular and best-selling sweet wines to dryer wines.

Joe Hall took me through the winery and chose wines he thought I might enjoy. I'm not sure what Joe's position is at the winery, but he definitely has a handle on the production process as well as on what makes each wine unique. Joe also has his own watercolors on display in the art gallery!

Elk Creek grows some of their own grapes (about 45 tons), but they also bring in a lot of grapes for their wines. They source their grapes from farmers throughout Kentucky and occasionally bring in grapes from California and Oregon. Their current estate (grown on property) wines are a Chambourcin, a Chardonelle, and a Cabernet Franc.

Estate grown grapes

I tasted a fair number of wines, although not as many sweet wines as they offer. Not surprisingly, the sweeter wines, both white and red, are their best sellers. Here's is a quick run-down of the notes I scribbled:

2006 "Kentucky Blue" Vidal Blanc ($9.99/bottle): I tend to enjoy Vidal grapes, and this one was not too sweet, very light and tart. 

2007 Chardonnay (14.99/bottle): I was told that this particular Chardonnay is similar to their special edition bottlings for their US Open Chardonnay and the Ghostly White Chardonnay for this year's Halloween wine.  This vintage of the Chardonnay was oak-free. Despite my overall dislike of Chardonnay, this may have been my favorite of what I tasted.

2006 Kentucky Blue Riesling ($14.99/bottle): Light and sweet with apples and peaches. I have girlfriends who would love this wine. 

2006 Crazy Elk Blush ($9.99/bottle): I noticed at the Temptations concert that this was a pretty popular wine. It's not my thing though. The notes read that it's got a hint of strawberries – I'd say it was more than a hint. It's also really similar to a White Zin style, which explains both its popularity and why I didn't really care for it.

2006 Sweet Owen Red ($12.99/bottle): When I tried this the first time, I didn't really like it. It's a Norton, which is perhaps my least favorite grape on the face of the planet. Again, this is one of their top selling wines because it's a sweet red. However, I tried it again at the concert and this time, it was chilled. While still not my favorite, I thought chilling it showed a marked improvement. 

2007 Estate Chambourcin ($19.99/bottle): These grapes were grown right on property. I'm a big fan of Chambourcin in most cases and this was no exception. It was aged in oak for 1.5 years, but I thought it was well balanced.

2006 Viognier ($19.99/bottle): I wanted to like this one a lot, as I love a good Viognier. This one was too oaky for me, but it was very round, and filled my whole mouth (as it should). But I definitely needed less oak. 

2006 Chardonnay ($17.99/bottle): While I have girlfriends who would love the heavy feel and oak of this Chardonnay, I preferred the "naked" Chardonnay I had earlier. This one was too much for me.

2006 Sangiovese ($24.99/bottle): This is an enjoyable wine, although in the past I've tried what I think was the 2005, and its even better. The 2006  is a soft summer red, fairly dry. Apparently it pairs well with Italian (which makes sense) but I'll need to try it out. 

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.99/bottle): This wine is supposed to be similar to the US Open and Halloween Bone-Dry Red limited edition bottlings. The Cabernet is a bright young wine, a bit tangy, and would probably do well to be saved for about a year.

2007 Estate Cabernet Franc ($34.99/bottle): This is a really good wine. Is it a $34.99 wine? I don't know. I understand the price point based on the work that goes into an estate wine, but I tend to get extra picky when the price crosses $25. That said, it's a soft Cab Franc and my exact notes are "not a lot of pepper, really enjoyable," which is saying something. I usually can't stand Cabernet Franc. 

If you live nearby (as in Louisville, Lexington, or Cincinnati), Elk Creek is certainly worth the hour drive. The people are incredibly nice, the wines are good (and in many cases local), and there's a lot to do. The view from their patio is gorgeous. It's a perfect excursion for a nice autumn day.

Elk Creek at Sunset

View all my photos from Elk Creek.

My big thanks to my friend Lenn at the newly renamed New York Cork Report for hosting this month's edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday.

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Posted by Michelle at 11:15 am in Local, Local Wineries, WBW, Wineries | Permalink | Comments ()

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