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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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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 11:15 am in Local, Local Wineries, WBW, Wineries | Permalink | Comments ()
Aug 03

Our Guide to Drinking Local

Originally posted on Aug 3, 2009 and updated continuously.

If you read CityBeat at all, then you noticed that they had a big article on Buying Local this week – complemented by an article on “Vineyard Tripping in Ripley.” Yep, CityBeat finally caught up to what I’ve been telling you all for years: Drink Local.

Happily, CityBeat visited both Kinkead Ridge, which gets most of the local press anyway, and Meranda-Nixon, which is sort of an undiscovered gem. (Or at least it was …)

So, as sort of a chaser to the CityBeat article, I wanted  to point new readers (hello Enquirer readers! *waving*) to some of our articles on Local Wineries, including Harmony Hill, Meranda-Nixon, Kinkead Ridge, and Chateau Thomas.

Back in the spring we had “winery week” here on My Wine Education, and we visited several local wineries:

Last autumn, we got to help harvest the grapes at Harmony Hill, which was fun, hard, and educational. I guarantee we’ll be helping out again.

We’ve also got a post from our 2008 Labor Day trip to most of the local wineries and even a photo of Kinkead Ridge in winter. I haven’t yet visited La Vigna Estate in Georgetown, OH, but I hear it’s lovely.

Don’t forget that you can also visit Henke, our own urban winery, over on the west side. Woodstone Creek, another local winery, is located near Xavier and offers bourbon and vodka in addition to wine.

Additionally, there are Kentucky wineries. We keep meaning to make it to very local Stonebrook Winery for one of their highly recommended winery dinners. I’ve also published posts on Elk Creek in Owenton and Jean Farris en route to Lake Cumberland, which share a winemaker.

Not quite local, but so many Cincinnatians head to Gatlinburg on a regular basis that I thought I’d share my post about the “Rocky Top Wine Trail” in Pigeon Forge.

Our Local Wineries category allows you to poke through all of our local winery-related posts, all the way back through 2006.

Finally, I just want to give a shout-out to Valeree, whose Cincinnati Locavore blog is your guide to everything Slow Food locally.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 10:54 am in Cincinnati, Local, Local Wineries, Wineries | Permalink | Comments (2)
Jul 31

Wine-Girl.net Meet-up/Tweet-up: Harmony Hill Winery

It's been a few months since I've been out to Harmony Hill Winery, but it's one of my favorite places to hang out on a beautiful summer day.

Join me tomorrow – let's call it a Wine-Girl Meetup (or Tweetup if you're on Twitter). Kevin and I are going to be there around 2 pm (when the winery opens) and I'd love to meet everyone there!

Don't forget that this is also your opportunity to partake in the Farmer's Market, which runs from 2 -6 pm.

Harmony Hill is family friendly – no matter who your family might be. So bring your kids and bring your dogs. Furry friends just need to be on a leash and friendly with other dogs and adoring people.

Bring your outdoor chairs or blankets in case there is a crowd and feel free to bring a picnic lunch and complement it with a bottle of summery wine and some great live and acoustic music.

Remember that buying and drinking local wines is a great way to stay "green". If you're interested in meeting the winemaker, he is usually around as well – and incredibly fun and friendly.

We hope to see you there!

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Jul 03

Guest Post: Kentucky’s Jean Farris Winery

While Kevin & I are in Alaska, we've asked some friends and
colleagues to post on their wine loves, wine experiences and more. For
this post we welcome Shannan Boyer, a local parenting blogger and one of the driving forces behind Cincinnati Women Bloggers – also one of my close friends! Thanks Shannan!


Every summer our family packs up the car and heads down to
Somerset, KY for a little boating on Lake Cumberland.  The drive down is about 2.5 hours long, giving us plenty of
time to play car games and check out the scenery.  On our drive one of the things I’ve often noticed and have
always been curious about were the road signs posted along I-75 for local

Well this past weekend we headed down for our first trip of
the summer and this time, rather than driving straight through to Somerset, we
decided to be a little adventurous. We decided to pull off outside of Lexington
and visit Jean Farris, a cute vineyard located
off the very scenic Richmond Road.

Not having heard of Jean Farris, we had no idea what to
expect as we drove down Richmond Road. When we finally arrived, we couldn’t
believe how beautiful it was.  The
drive up to the main building was lined with rows and rows of grapes.  It was like nothing we’d ever seen

While normally my husband and I would have sampled a few of
the wines before buying,  the
bistro was not open at the time we arrived, so we went with our guts and purchased
a bottle of their Riesling ($16).

From the label:

Cold fermented to
preserve the bright tropical fruits and citrus notes. This lightly sweet
Germanic white has a delicate balance, and soft floral notes.

Keep in mind I am no Michelle Lentz (ed. note: I think Shannan is doing just fine!), but I have to say that
this was one amazing Riesling. I found it to have a sweet taste and could
definitely identify the citrus notes.  The wine was smooth and I really
enjoyed the fact that it didn’t have a dry aftertaste.  If
you like dry wines, this would not be the wine for you.
This wine was
extremely easy to drink, and in fact, my husband and I finished the entire
bottle in less than an hour – a feat for me – as usually I am a
VERY slow wine drinker.

We are heading back down to Lake Cumberland soon and
I will definitely be picking up a few bottles of their Riesling to have at
home. Overall if I was using Michelle’s rating system, I would
give Jean Farris’ Riesling a giant smiley face.

A local parenting
blogger, Shannan Boyer resides in northern Kentucky with her husband and two
young boys. When she’s not blogging about her family’s many adventures on her
blog Mommy
, she and her family are likely to be found out exploring and
enjoying all that greater Cincinnati has to offer.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Michelle at 8:30 am in Guest Writers, Local Wineries, Tastings, Travel, Wineries | Permalink | Comments (6)
Jun 05

Winery Week: Chateau Thomas

We veered off of our well-beaten path this past weekend and visited the Chateau Thomas tasting room in Nashville, IN. Chateau Thomas also has a winery you can visit in Plainfield, just outside of Indianapolis. However, I've been going to Nashville, a cute crafts-oriented village, since I was a little girl. This seemed a great opportunity to go back.

Nashville is located just outside of Bloomington and is a fun little retreat. It boasts two different tasting rooms: Chateau Thomas and the Brown County Winery. Chateau Thomas is located in Coachlight Square, right as you pull into town.

The tasting menu blew us away. There are around 54 different types of wine listed. Of that list, you can pick 5 to try for free. Kevin and I each picked 5 and shared, giving us 10. We still didn't make a dent in the list. We came back later in the afternoon and tried another couple wines, plus 5 wines off of the reserve list. (The reserve tasting is $7.) The list is rather overwhelming. Looking at it now, I'm noticing things I didn't while in the tasting room, such as a 1991 Chardonnay library release. Had I noticed it then, I would have loved to try it!

The list is nicely organized based on Dry White, Classic, Dry Red, Sweet Wines, Slender, and Reserve. The back of the sheet offers a nice little quiz, magazine style, that helps you establish your wine tasting preferences so you can jump into the correct portion of the list.

In case you're curious, Chateau Thomas doesn't grow their own grapes. They import their grapes from Canada, Washington, California, and Oregon, and then all the blending, aging, and fermenting happens in Indiana.

As usual, the endorsement is in the wines we came home with. We brought home 1 each of the three Slender wines, because we want to give them a more in-depth review. Kevin is even taking a white Slender to the Wine Bloggers Conference with him. We also brought home a Teroldego and a Late Harvest Viognier.

After the jump, find our quick notes on the wines we tasted:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by Michelle at 12:26 am in Local Wineries, Tastings, Wineries | Permalink | Comments ()

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