Wine History

Kentucky Wineries
Kentucky History
Kentucky Wineries
Kentucky Wineries
Kentucky Wineries

History of Kentucky Wine

America’s commercial wine industry was born in Kentucky in 1798 when Swiss vine-dresser, Jean-Jacques (John James) 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 of property on the banks of the Kentucky River, in what’s now Jessamine County. Dufour planted what he called the “First Vineyard” and, in 1803, bottles from his first vintage were sent to US president and well-known wine connoisseur, Thomas Jefferson.

Overcoming crop damage from the Civil War, as well as vine diseases, by the late 1800’s Kentucky had become the nation’s third largest grape and wine producer. However, Prohibition put Kentucky’s grape and wine industry out of business and many Kentucky farmers turned their acreage over to the production of tobacco.

Kentucky passed legislation in 1976 allowing wineries to operate, and tobacco settlement funds provided a number of Kentucky farmers the opportunity to once again explore grapes as a cash crop. The Commonwealth’s modern grape and wine industry has seen tremendous growth. Since 2000, the number of Kentucky wineries has matured from less than 10 to more than 75, and is still growing.

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Drink KY is the go-to app for enthusiasts of Kentucky wineries and breweries, brought to you by the Kentucky Grape & Wine Council and the Kentucky Guild of Brewers. It gives you everything you need (except the glass) to enjoy, explore and experience Kentucky’s vibrant, fast-growing wine and craft beer scene. Available for iPhone and Android Devices. If you do not see your business listed, contact agr.kyproud@ky.gov.