Cheers to Vintage Kentucky, Wine Festival at Henry Clay Estate, the Sequel

Cheers to Vintage Kentucky, Wine Festival at Henry Clay Estate, the Sequel

This article appears on page 5 of the Aug 25 edition of Ace.

Cheers to Labor Day Weekend in Lex:
Vintage Kentucky, the Second Year

Labor Day is a big weekend for alcohol festivities in the Bluegrass. Lexington Fest-of-Ales is September 2 in Cheapside Park, followed by the second annual Vintage Kentucky wine fest at Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate, on Sunday September 4.

The first annual Vintage Kentucky. Photo Tom Yates.

We attended Vintage Kentucky last year, and it was a terrific concept, with room for tweaking and fine tuning, as is true of any inaugural event.

Ideally, this would become a signature event for Lexington, like the one it’s modeled after in Grapevine, Texas, and it’s good to see it returning for a second year.

After attending last year’s fest, we posted these suggestions on the Ace blog:

    * Offer an option of 4 or 5 samples for $10 or $15. The 10 tickets for $20 was reasonable, but that’s a lot of wine. Additionally, a lower price point would open the event up to a younger, wine-loving demographic (while by no means creating a frat-friendly atmosphere). $50 bucks-plus-parking is a pricey date for an average 20 to 30-something couple that doesn’t include a meal.

Jonathan Lundy’s cheese plate. (Photo Tom Yates)

    * Open up the ticket exchange to food samples as well, and add a few more food options appropriate to the wine pairings. Jonathan, Wines on Vine, and Chrisman Mill had lovely offerings (for a separate price, not included with the wine tickets). Jonathan’s local cheese and fruit plates were extraordinary.

    * Add a marketing plan, including facebook and twitter. It would be an opportunity to introduce more of Lexington to the Henry Clay Estate.

And finally:

    * schedule around UK football games. It may not seem like the same demographic, but there is no demographic that is immune to UK sports.

One reader recommended the tastings at Market Wines at Findlay Market in Cinci as a model. A modest $5 to $10 will typically feature four wines, along with some light food from neighborhood chefs. There’s usually music, and the crowds range from 20 and 30-something singles to Moms with their Maclarens. Their facebook page actually includes an album, “Babies of Market Wine.” They also mix in beer tastings, and pair those with appropriate food like barbecue. The crowds are diverse and energetic. The modest tasting fee also leaves shoppers with plenty of discretionary leftover cash to purchase the wines and introduce them to new fans later at home. Here’s the facebook page for Market Wines at Findlay Market.

While nobody took any of our suggestions (sigh)– except for adding a Facebook Page and averting a UK football conflict — they did use Chef Tom’s beautiful photos from last year in all of the marketing and promotional materials for this year’s event, and they’re so pretty we’re repeating them again.

Here is a sampling of Chef Tom’s notes and photos reviewing last year’s Vintage Kentucky:

The First Vintage Kentucky

The first annual Vintage Kentucky Festival offered wine samplings from various local wineries and vineyards on the grounds of Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate on Saturday. On a late summer afternoon under the canopy of Ash trees, Kentucky’s wineries offered up their best in a tented tasting room.

Situated just outside the tasting tent were similar smaller food tents offering nibbles and snacks to pair with wine.
Cheeses, fruits, finger sandwiches, and pastas took center stage. Chrisman Mill Vineyard had a fresh grape and goat cheese sampler along with a build-your-own  pasta station.

A few steps down the shaded mulched pathway, Jonathan Lundy of Jonathan at Gratz Park plated  fresh Capriole goat cheese samplings with assorted crackers and huge plump fresh Kentucky proud blackberries, Sophia, a pillowy white mild cheese  streaked with ash veining, was tangy and nutty. Tomme de Chevre, a semi soft white cheese, had a salty tang. St. Francis, with its reddish washed rind was the standout. Not for the faint of heart with its wonderful pungent deep stinky flavor, it was the cheese that lingered in memory and taste. They all paired beautifully with the wines.

Equus Run served their official WEG offerings — a Blanc de Blanc and a Merlot. They describe the Blanc de Blanc as “a white table wine with hints of citrus on the nose. Stainless steel fermented with a Sauvignon Blanc finish.” As for the merlot, “the nose has light chocolate aroma with a tease of ripe purple plum. Medium mid-palate fruit with toasted almond nutty finish.”

Lovers Leap sampled their award winning selections, including the peach bellini that won the People’s Choice Award at the 2010 Taste of the Bluegrass. And Louisville’s River Bend winery served both a Bourbon Barrel Red, and a rhubarb white (vinted from rhubarb, not grapes).

The event was lovely. Crowds lounged in chairs or at picnic tables enjoying the welcome break from the summer’s heat and listening to the music from the DiMartino Osland Jazz Orchestra, as part of the annual Evening at Ashland celebration.

Sips of wine. Nips of cheese. A great way to while away the last summer afternoon on Labor Day weekend.

This year’s Vintage Kentucky actually raised the price to $25 (still ten wine taste tickets). Featured wineries are: Chrisman Mill Vineyards, Elk Creek Vineyards, Generation Hill Winery, Horseshoe Bend Vineyards, Prodigy Vineyards and Winery, and Purple Toad Winery. Parking on the grounds of the Henry Clay Estate is an additional $5. The Fest-of-Ales at Cheapside Park on Sep 2 is also $25. Neither event will be competing with UK football.

Best of Lexington on stands September 15.


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