Kentucky Wine Affair – Wednesday Review

If I asked you 15 years ago what drink first comes to mind when I say “Kentucky” and “Alcohol” you would likely have said Bourbon (or if you are in my family, maybe Jello Shots). Thanks to some hard working citizen’s lengthy battle against out dated prohibition laws, these days you might find another distinguished refreshment coming to mind… Wine.

Is Bourbon being replaced as the State’s most renown beverage? 

As tabacco continues it’s retreat into the cobwebs of farmers crops, vineyards are popping up more and more across the sweet, rolling hills of my childhood home state. Kentucky is known for a lot of things… that famous Derby, blue grass, big hats, Mint Juleps, and tractors. Now grapes?

Derby, Blue Grass, Mint Juleps, Tractors, and … Grapes?

My experience heretofore, regarding Kentucky wine, had been limited to the sweet varieties my family preferred. Making the mistake of thinking this is all Kentucky had to offer, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a wealth of choices and culture ripe for the tasting.

Could Wine be the new “It” crop of Kentucky?

Venturing out from Northern Kentucky, we pointed our GPSs in the direction of Louisville. Passing nicely manicured acres of perfect horse country, we turned onto a more rural back road that lead us (me and my Step Mom Darlene) to our first destination Broad Run Vineyards.

Me and my wingman Darlene, on a mission seeking great wine.
First Stop- Broad Run Vineyards Est. 1992

Established in 1992, Broad Run is one of the oldest Vineyards in Kentucky. Still a blossoming young thing as far as Vineyards go, but practice is certainly making perfect this establishment. For a mere $10 you can taste around 20 vintages from Broad Run’s wide selection. Expecting more sweet varieties, I was surprised to find Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah on the list next to the Gala, Rosette, and Strawberry selections. Terry, a permanent fixture in the tasting room, did a great job educating us on the history, and flavor profile of the region, bringing special attention to a few of the “off menu” items. Feeling thirsty, I happily tried one of everything finding my favorites right away. Quite a few surprises jumped out at me, including a lovely 2009 dry Riesling. Riesling is more widely known as a sweeter dry wine (a bit sweet for my taste), however this day I discovered the un sweet version of Riesling, which I have to say suited my taste profile perfectly. A tad milder than a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir, I enjoyed the dry grassy taste with a hint of acidity at the end.

 A Jalapeño Jack made by Kenny’s Farm House Cheese complimented our tasting well.

A few other varieties to highlight were the “Frankly Scarlet” Cab/Syrah blend which went down spicy, and smooth, and “Red Butler” full of rich, warm notes. My favorite sample, by far came with a great story, the 1999 Cabernet Reserve, which came from a banner drought year creating an award worthy full flavor. For those looking for a nice sweet, fruity wine, the Strawberry was out of this world. You could smell the intoxicating fragrance of the red fruit from across the room, and the flavor was perfection.

Try “Frankly Scarlet” and pair with a juicy steak. 

Departing with a few bottles for home, we took off for our next, and final destination just a few minutes away, Milla Nova Winery. The tasting room was elegantly appointed, and ready for events. Comfy chairs, and flat screens provided a resting area for those not interested in taking a seat at the tasting counter. Owners John and Donna Miller greeted us with a welcoming smile and another extensive wine list.

Milla Nova Winery near Louisville, Ky

I began with a crisp Pinot Grigio which held a hint of sweetness. Unlike other Kentucky wines, I noticed immediately that MN’s selections lacked the “green” after taste many other vineyards I’d tried, carried. When I commented as such John assured me that was due to their high standards when choosing their grapes.

Owner John Miller and his award winning selection.

Another Dry Riesling later and I knew I’d discovered a new favorite vineyard. As I enjoyed their two time award winning Cabernet Sauvignon, John and Donna began sharing the story of Milla Nova.

An Award winning Cab worth the travel to taste it.

I was fascinated to learn about their journey from Real Estate development/ winemaking hobbyist, to full fledge Label. John shared that he had fought for many of the new legislative changes helping the vineyards in Kentucky grow, which in turn helped to make positive economic changes in the region. As we finished our visit, I requested by far the most interested wine I’ve ever seen. The “Mint Julia.

A Wine Kentucky should be proud of. 

Inspired by the Derby favorite “Mint Julep”, I was skeptical that they could actually accomplish something so unique. Yet, as I pulled away from that first taste, my eyes widened in awe… they did it. A well balanced honey and mint flavor slid smoothly down my throat. You would think it would be too sweet, or too minty, and not even taste like a wine… but amazingly it did. Words escape me to truly explain the Mint Julia, all I have to say, is that you should buy some today and try it for yourself because it is spectacular. 

Thank you John and Donna for an exceptional experience. 
My adventure through Kentucky wine country taught me a few new things, and changed my mind about what this great state has to offer. Though still in her early stages, Kentucky’s budding wine country has everything it needs to begin getting recognized for its efforts. So the next time you think Kentucky, you might want to add wine to the list of great things it has to offer.
Enjoy the Journey
xo-Amy West