Europeans, I’m told, have a tradition of drinking local. A couple of times a year, they will launch off on a tour of their backyard wineries and haul home ten or so cases (whatever fits in their car) to get them through the next six months.
With that in mind, I decided to take a break from the mainstream wine world and taste some of the wines that are produced in our own backyard. I’ve had a number of opportunities to experience Kentucky’s local wines in years past and my results were always mixed – a few gems, but many off-balance funky wines that really weren’t good.
This time around we were really impressed! In just a few short years these wines have come a long way, with several wines that were complex, inspiring, and downright enjoyable!
The next two blog posts are a sampling of what I found.
Equus Run Vineyards
Just outside of Midway, Equus Run has been making wine since 1998 under the supervision of owner and winemaker Cynthia Bohn. I first tried their wines several years ago and thought they were kind of “meh.” But their wines have been consistently improving. In my opinion, the turning point in quality occurred several years ago when they were commissioned to produce a special recurring bottling for the Kentucky Derby. The grapes were originally sourced from California and the wines become immensely popular. The Derby wines are now coming from local grapes and the quality seems to be trickling down to Equus’ regular wines.
Equus Run makes 20 different wines, mostly labeled without vintages. Among their current releases, the reds are what really shine. We found the Reisling to be pleasantly smooth with notes of honey. Their Chardonnays and Vidal Blanc however, seemed very acidic, bitter and off -balance. Their Zinfandels however (Zin doesn’t really grow in Kentucky, so it’s probably California fruit) were wonderfully aromatic and well-balanced. We got some cola on the nose and both Zins were slightly jammy, with some black pepper and spice. The Tempranillo was equally pleasant and balanced. Their two Merlots came up a little short – dried fruit and herbs, but overkill on the tannins.
– Riesling ($16)
– Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc de Noir Rose ($16)
– Tempranillo ($23)
– Zinfandel ($22)
– Wine Club Reserve Zinfandel ($28)
Located just off the Bluegrass Parkway near Versailles, Wildside Winery is basically a one-man show. Owner and engineer-turned-winemaker Neil Vasilakes does most of the blending, winemaking, bottling and corking – occasionally soliciting help from his wife (or whoever is manning the tasting room.) The winemaking facility shares space with the tasting room which offers visitors a glimpse into the process of making wine.
This was my first experience with their wines, and the ones I tried were pretty solid. Wildside makes 19 wines: two whites, (a Dry Riesling and a Niagra) ten reds, and seven fruit wines. The Dry Riesling was acidic, smelled like apple blossoms and had lots of green apple flavors on the palate. If you like dry Rieslings from France or Germany, I think you’ll love this one! The Cabernets and Chambourcins were a little disappointing – too astringent for our liking. The Norton, Wild Duet Blend, and Cabernet Franc, were all pleasant – very peppery and with strong tannins. Most interesting is their Pawpaw, a forgotten local fruit, and honestly tasted like fruit salad in a glass. It was so intriguing, I’ll probably devote an entire post to it.
– 2012 Dry Riesling ($15)
– 2011 Wild Duet ($12) (red blend of Foch and DeChaunac grapes. Jammy and tart – very nice)
– 2010 Cabernet Franc ($25)
– 2011 Pawpaw ($13)