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Kentucky’s Vineyards & Wineries

Most people are surprised to know that the first commercial
vineyard planted in the United States was located in Kentucky. The vineyard, which
was sponsored by the Kentucky Vineyard Society, was planted just south of Lexington
in the Great Bend of the Kentucky River off Highway 27 in Jessamine County.

This first vineyard was established by John James Dufour
from Switzerland, who was impressed with Kentucky’s climate and latitude in comparison
to some to the best-known wine countries in the world. He was also drawn by the
great availability of land. Dufour had been reading letters in the European press
from members of the French army who were in America aiding the Revolution. In
their letters, Dufour had noticed that the men often complained of the scarcity
of wine available in the United States.

In 1799, anxious for the vineyard to be under way,
the 100 shareholders of the newly founded Kentucky Vineyard Society decided to
begin planting before all the shares were subscribed for and before all the money
was collected. They planted five acres with 35 different species of the best grapes.
Dufour’s brothers soon joined him, and together they labored for three years to
bring forth fruit from the vines. Although some vines did produce grapes, this
was the last year that most of the vines were fruitful. A sickness overcame most
of them, with the exception of the few stocks of Cape and Madeira grapes. Shareholders
in Lexington drank the wine from these few vines at the following March meeting.

Feeling pressure of having failed in his efforts, Dufour
took his family and moved to the borders of Ohio, near Vevay, Indiana, where he
continued in the business of vineyards and wine making. Attempts at keeping the
first vineyard in Kentucky in operation continued for approximately the next decade.

Some years later in 1848, the Trappist monks of France
established a vineyard at the Gethsemani monastery near Bardstown. This vineyard
survived until about 1948. There were also other vineyards producing grapes in
Kentucky during this time period. According to Census records, 136,000 gallons
of wine were produced in Logan, Washington, Boyle, and 27 other counties in Kentucky.
Kentucky was recorded as the third largest wine producing state in America at
that time.

With the exception of the Gethsemani monastery, most
vineyards throughout Kentucky were destroyed around 1920 when Prohibition was
enacted. Gethsemani was allowed to continue cultivating grapes for weddings and
other ceremonies. With such difficulty in growing grapes in Kentucky at this time,
almost none of the vineyards were ever replanted. During this time Welch’s, the
grape juice company, sponsored the vineyard at Gethsemani, and they began to make
a name for themselves. After about 10 to 15 years they moved west in order to
avoid diseased vines and the cold winter months found in Kentucky.

Grape growers in Kentucky today have found ways to
alleviate many of the problems of disease and severe weather that existed for
the grape pioneers in Kentucky years ago. Thus, Kentucky has once again become
an attractive site for growing grapes. Legislation passed in 1990 reduced the
cost of a winery license in the state of Kentucky from $250 annually to only $25.
And with Kentucky’s recent tobacco settlement, money is available to farmers for
starting alternative crops. For more information on starting vineyards, see sidebars

Kentucky Vineyard Society

For questions on starting a vineyard, contact
David Loney, president of the Kentucky Vineyard Society, at:

Kentucky Vineyard Society Inc.

P. O. Box 99

Mays Lick, KY 41055

(606) 763-6120


Loney is a member of the Grape Industry Advisory
Committee (GIAC) and the Kentucky Horticulture Council.

Kentucky Vineyards & Wineries: A Touring Guide

Barker’s Blackberry Hill Winery

Jimmy Barker’s winery was the first established
commercial winery in the state of Kentucky, in business since 1990. Mr. Barker
does not, however, grow grapes. He makes most of his wine from blackberries,
offering people a unique alternative to other Kentucky wines. He also makes
a very unusual honey wine. Please call for an appointment or for more information,
(606) 428-0377.

Bravard Vineyards & Winery

Located 17 miles northeast of downtown Hopkinsville,
Bravard Vineyards & Winery has been a licensed commercial winery since 1992.
This vineyard offers a variety of activities throughout the year, explain owners
Jim and Janet Bravard.

Harvest Celebration takes place each year in mid-October
when the leaves in north Christian County are at their peak of brilliance. The
event hosts two live bluegrass bands with plenty of dancing, picnicking, and
a variety of events for every age. Poetry reading is conducted in the upper
vineyard with its peaceful backdrop, where visitors are invited to bring their
poetry to read. As is the case with every special event at the vineyard, free
wine tastings and tours are offered to guests.

The Christmas Open House celebrates the vineyard’s
anniversary each year (this year is its 10th). Highlights include a free bottle
of wine to every 10th customer and a drawing for a gift basket of Jim’s homemade
bread along with meat, cheese, fruit, candy, and a bottle of wine of the winner’s

For birthdays, anniversaries, or other special events,
the Bravards offer a unique opportunity to picnic on the grounds with someone
special. For $50 per couple, guests are seated at a candlelit table for two
in a secluded and quaint location of the vineyard. They provide a picnic basket
full of cheeses, fresh bread, fruit, sausages, crackers, desserts, sweets, and
a select bottle of wine. They also offer the unusual experience of dinner in
the vineyard, priced individually, for groups of up to 20 people, complete with
a table set with candles or cozy kerosene lanterns. Guests may bring their own
food or have it catered.

Chrisman Mill Vineyards

Unique in its décor and location, the tasting
room for Chrisman Mill Vineyards and Winery is located in the Victorian Square
in downtown Lexington. The original rock foundation, which dates back to the
early 1800s, gives visitors the feel of an old wine cellar as they meander through
arched doorways and old iron-gated entrances. Wine tasting is free of charge
to the public, as well as viewing the adjacent fine-art gallery. The beautiful
tasting room and atrium is available to the public for special events.

Although Chris and Denise Nelson do grow their own
grapes in Nicholasville, they also contract with other various growers in the
surrounding area in an effort to keep the harvesting of their five varieties
of premium grapes local to the area. Chris has been interested in and making
wine for approximately 15 years, and he and his wife, Denise, have been working
together in the industry for the last 10 years. Although they are a small family-run
business, they strive for excellence in every way with their grape growing and
wine making. That excellence has earned them some 17 international wine awards-putting
them on the map with wine makers all over the world.

Getting a bottle of wine from Chrisman Mill Vineyards
may prove challenging as they tend to sell quickly once bottled. Chrisman Mill
Vineyards also provides a variety of services such as gift baskets, beginning
at $30, personalized labels (for birthdays, businesses, anniversaries, and other
promotions), and classes open to the public in Wine Tasting, Wine Making, and
Food and Wine. Free parking is available in the Festival Market.

Lovers Leap Vineyard & Winery

Just off Highway 127 in Lawrenceburg lie 25 beautifully
manicured acres of grapes located at Lovers Leap Vineyard and Winery-a must-see
for any wine enthusiast. Always fascinated with vineyards and wineries, owners
Jerry and Ann Holder planted their first crop in 1994. After spending time with
vineyard owners in Pennsylvania and Ontario, Jerry brought back to Kentucky
a new specialized method of planting vineyards. He now shares his knowledge
with others seeking help in the area of establishing vineyards.

Jerry and Ann invite guests to relax and unwind on
their deck surrounding their spacious tasting room and adjacent gift shop, which
offers a variety of crafts, cheeses, candies, and gift baskets. Beginning in
May of this year, Lovers Leap will host a monthly music/art festival.

New Canaan Vineyard

New Canaan Vineyard, located in Bowling Green,
planted its first vines in 1968 and is one of many Kentucky vineyards operating
a small winery for personal use. Although not a licensed commercial winery,
David House and his wife, Betty, make several different types of wines. They
are also wholesale distributors to some of the larger wineries in the state
as well as distributors of table grapes to local vendors.

Springhill Vineyards

Eddie O’Daniel established Springhill Vineyards
as a commercial winery in 1993. He represents the third generation of grape
growers in his family. O’Daniel first became interested in wines while living
in Napa Valley, and learned his skill of winemaking from an Italian winemaker.
Among his awards for winemaking, O’Daniel has earned two consecutive “Best
of Show” awards at state fair competitions and bronze and silver medals
in commercial, international wine competition for 1995, 1996, and 1997.

Many of the Springhill wines are named after historic
Kentucky homes such as Federal Hill, which may have inspired Stephen Foster’s
My Old Kentucky Home. Springhill wines are made with no water addition
and are aged in French and Kentucky oak barrels for six to nine months for white
wines and nine to 12 months for red wines. Although previously located at General
Butler State Park, Springhill has now relocated their winery to an 1858 plantation
estate in Nelson County. They have completed renovation on one of the buildings
on site, which was replicated to an 1860s winery. They offer tours, tastings,
a historical exhibit, and a gift shop. They also host a variety of special activities
throughout the year such as music festivals, craft fairs, and art fairs.

Vineyards as an Alternate Crop

As the demand for grapes in Kentucky begins to
outweigh the current supply, more experienced farmers are beginning to consider
a vineyard as a profitable addition to their current farmland. The approximate
startup cost per acre is $3,634 according to the Cooperative Extension Service
at the University of Kentucky. They also estimate the maintenance for each following
year to be approximately $1,566 per acre with profits in the third year yielding
$1,200-$1,600 and $2,400-$3,200 during the fourth and following years.

Some individuals may prefer to have their vineyard
installed by a professional. Whether it is one trellis with a few vines or several
acres, Jerry Holder of Lovers Leap Vineyard & Winery in Lawrenceburg is
one of the few installers of vineyards in the state of Kentucky. He can be contacted
at (502) 839-1299.

A new incentive program is available for those interested
in establishing vineyards in Kentucky as a means of income. This 50/50 cost-share
program is sponsored by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the Grape Industry
Advisory Committee, and Murray State University. Reimbursement is available
for up to $1,500 per acre of grapes planted. For more information on this program
or to obtain an application, contact:

Murray State University

Department of Agriculture

Vineyard Assistance Program

P. O. Box 9

Murray, KY 42071

(502) 762-4329


Kentucky’s Vineyards & Wineries

* denotes a licensed winery

*Barker’s Blackberry Hill Winery

Jimmy A. Barker

16629 Mt. Zion-Verona Road

Crittenden, KY 41030


(859) 428-0377

*Bravard Vineyards and Winery

Jim and Jan Bravard

15000 Overton Road

Hopkinsville, KY 42240


(270) 269-2583

*Broad Run Vineyards and Winery

Jerry and Marilyn Kushner

10206 Broad Run Road

Louisville, KY 40299


(502) 231-0372

*Century House Winery & Vineyards

Jay and Gina Pruce

P. O. Box 629

218 Century House Lane

Lewisburg, KY 42256

(270) 755-2807


Wholesale only; tours by appointment

*Chrisman Mill Vineyards & Winery

Chris & Denise Nelson

2385 Chrisman Mill Road

Nicholasville, KY 40356

Tasting Room located at

Victorian Square Tasting Room

401 West Main St., Suite 102B

Lexington, KY 40507


(859) 455-8278 (TASTE)

*Equus Run Vineyards

Cynthia Bohn and Cynthia Hall

1280 Moore’s Mill Road

Midway, KY 40347


(859) 846-9463 (WINE)

Fox Fire Vineyards

John C. Homer

965 Van Hooser Road

Grand Rivers, KY 42045

(270) 928-2741

Francis Farm

Thomas and Ellin Francis

224 E. Cross St.

Lafayette, KY 42254

(270) 271-9165

*Highland Winery

Jack and Sandra Looney

P. O. Box 2, Hwy. 805

Seco, KY 41849


(606) 855-7968

*Horseshoe Bend Vineyards

Bob and Ann Karsner

1187 Lawson Lane

Willisburg, KY 40078

(859) 375-0296


*Lovers Leap Vineyard & Winery

Jerry and Ann Holder

129 Lovers Leap

Lawrenceburg, KY 40342


(502) 839-1299

New Canaan Vineyard

David and Betty House

395 Old Goshen Road

Alvaton, KY 42122

(270) 842-2507

On The Rocks Vineyard

Thomas and Norma Collins

4865 Tates Creek Road

Lexington, KY 40515

(859) 272-5205

Pilot Rock View Grapevine Nursery

Kenneth and Shirley Harmet

8380 Ebenezer-Ovil Road

Hopkinsville, KY 42240

(270) 269-2411


Rogers Vineyard

Charles Rogers

4711 LaFayette Road

Hopkinsville, KY 42240

(270) 886-3784

Rolling Hills Vineyard

Donnie and Ronnie Coulter

2385 Kelly Shop Road

Springfield, KY 40069

(859) 262-6154


Winery to open this year

*Springhill Vineyards Winery

Eddie and Phyllis O’Daniel

3205 Springfield Road

Bloomfield, KY 40008

(502) 252-9463


Bed and breakfast to open spring 2002

*Stovers Family Vineyard & Winery

Billy Ray Stover

200 Holly Branch Run

Magnolia, KY 42757

(270) 324-2455

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