From a press release: “Vintage Kentucky: The Vine to Wine Experience” chronicles Kentucky’s wine industry, from its status as a national leader in the 1800s to its demise as a result of Prohibition, to its current reemergence. The 30-minute documentary, co-produced by New West in cooperation with the Kentucky Grape and Wine Council and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, will be shown statewide on KET with the first airing on Thursday, Nov. 5 at 10:30 p.m. (Dates and times of additional airings are available at www.ket.org.)
Few people know that Kentucky was home to the nation’s first commercial vineyard when in 1798 the Marquis de Lafayette’s winemaker, Jean-Jacques Dufour, planted what he called the “First Vineyard” on 600 acres in what is now Jessamine County. By the late 1800s, Kentucky had become the country’s third largest grape and wine producer. The industry was wiped out by Prohibition and didn’t begin its resurrection until 1976, when Kentucky lawmakers passed a bill allowing wineries to operate. Today there are more than 50 wineries and an estimated 500 acres dedicated to the growing of grapes.
“Vintage Kentucky” is the culmination of a year’s worth of work. After the Kentucky Grape and Wine Council and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture commissioned the production, filming began in August 2008 and was completed by the end of July 2009. Ten of the state’s wineries are featured as are vineyard owners and winemakers. Scientists and wine industry experts from the University of Kentucky, who have helped Kentucky farmers make the transition to growing grapes, also appear in the film.
“Kentucky has a fascinating history and strong tradition of producing wine, but it’s largely unknown,” said Kim Butterweck, a senior account manager at New West and co-producer of the documentary. “We’re hopeful this film will raise awareness and spur greater interest in the state’s wine industry.”
Already, the industry’s resurgence is having an impact on state tourism. Fueled by consumer interest in “agritourism” and the support of local farmers and businesses, visitation at Kentucky’s wineries continues to grow and wineries now offer a wide variety of experiences – from wine tastings and concerts, to theme dinners, art shows and family friendly events.