Well, not ALL of it began there, but the wine industry in the U.S. did acutally start in Kentucky. Who knew? Probably just people from Kentucky. According to www.kentuckywine.com:
America’s commercial wine industry was born in Kentucky in 1798 when the Marquis de Lafayette’s winemaker, Jean-Jacques Dufour, set out into the new nation to find suitable land for growing grapes. He arrived at the “Athens of the West” – Lexington – and made the acquaintance of Henry Clay. Backed with money from several prominent statesmen, including Clay, Dufour formed the Kentucky Vineyard Society and bought 600 acres on the Kentucky River, in what’s now Jessamine County. Dufour planted what he called the “First Vineyard” and, in 1803, his first vintage went to an appreciative Thomas Jefferson.
Yeah, I had no idea. The state best known for bourbon and horses kicked off the wine industry here. However, the Civil War ravaged the established vineyards and prohibition led them to be converted into tobacco fields (because smoking is so much better than drinking wine, right?). It’s taken years for this beautiful state to recover. In fact, grapevine acreage has grown from 67 acres in 1999 to an estimated 500 acres today. In just five years, the number of Kentucky wineries has matured from 15 to more than 50, and is still growing. That’s great news for people in that region, including my brother-in-law, Pete.
Now, when I first met Pete, I never would have pegged him for a wine afficionado. He was kind of quiet, with a lot of tattoos and a pretty smile (because my hubby pushed him when they were younger and broke his teeth so he got new ones). I always thought of Pete as more of a hard liquor kind of guy. He probably is, when there’s no wine to be had. The last time I saw Pete, back in August, a group of us split several bottles. I lost count by the end of the evening, but it was definitely cool drinking with family and friends like that. We hung out on their mom’s back patio in Scottsdale, AZ, with my hubby’s best friend and a girl they knew from high school back in Indiana, drinking and catching up and enjoying our time together. I remember that it rained pretty hard halfway through. We all scurried back against the wall until the rain stopped dripping from the red tile roof. It was a great night and I can’t wait to do it again someday.
A few days ago, Pete sent me a bottle of wine from Kentucky. I guess he had been there on a short trip one weekend and went to this awesome vineyard called the Purple Toad Winery. It looks like a beautiful place. Just like I pictured Kentucky, green and lush, except with grape vines instead of horses and people drinking bourbon.
The best part is that the wine he sent me was lovely. I always fear that these boutique wineries go overboard on the sweetness. This Cabernet Franc was dry. Not too dry, but perfectly dry with hints of blackberry and toasted oak. Maybe even a little blue grass. Not really, but it did have a smooth yet spicey nose with a nice cedar scent. I like it. A lot. And best of all, it was a gift! I mean, you can’t beat that.
So, thanks Pete, my brother-in-law, for introducing me to a realm of wine that I had no idea ever existed. I appreciate you sending me this bottle and plan to finish it up before the night is over. I might even share some with your brother. Yeah, who am I kidding?