I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m a wine snob. But not the obnoxious, pretentious kind, I swear. Give me a chance, here, okay?
I’m just a girl who loves wine and was born with what some may call a sophisticated palette. Being such, living in Kentucky can be, well, challenging at times.
When I moved back to Kentucky after 7 years in California (I know, California, the capital of great American wine- you’re starting to get it now, aren’t you?) my sudden distance from the world-renowned vineyards of the West Coast was, at times, unbearable!
Unbearable. You read that right. And no I’m not being dramatic. Fellow “it’s wine o’clock somewhere” ladies, you’re with me, right? Getting an afternoon buzz from some yummy juice in a green, sun-drenched vineyard is one of life’s greatest pleasures!
As much as I love solo travel, I simply cannot jet off to some world-class wine destination every time the desire strikes. (Which is, well, quite often as I’m sure you understand.)
So what did I do? I went to work. I scoured the state for the very best wineries in Kentucky where I could bask in the sun and probably spill a little pinot on my dress. (Like I always say: No shame in the stain.)
Do you want to know what I found? I found the Bluegrass State, with its lush rolling hills, majestic thoroughbreds, and wide-open skies, has some beautiful vineyards and weekend trip-worthy wineries!
I won’t lie to you though, alright? Is the wine on par with that of more premium United States destinations? No. This is Kentucky, we will never be Napa. We’ve got the whole we-make-great-bourbon-because-of-our-limestone-water thing and honestly, that works for us.
But are the state’s wineries still jaw-droppingly beautiful? Absolutely. Are Kentucky wines highly drinkable? I mean, yes, mostly. Do these vineyard getaways and day trips offer a fantastic freaking time? You know it!
Not only that, but I also learned that Kentucky played an important role in the birth of the American wine industry, all thanks to some interesting soil composition.
So get in loser, we’re going wine tasting. Let’s explore the 18 best wineries in Kentucky! I bet you’ll be glad you did.
PS: If you’re looking for Kentucky wineries with lodging for the perfect romantic getaway, I’ve got those too! Read on for all the best spots!
Quick Guide to Kentucky Wineries
Reader’s Note: While doing my research, I noticed a lot of blogs listing vineyards in the wrong cities or towns. As a Kentucky local, you can rest assured that the locations I’ve listed below are correct.
Map of Kentucky Wineries
Ready to get on the road? Here’s a map to help you navigate your visits to the best wineries in Kentucky!
Kentucky’s Wine History
If you don’t know much about Kentucky wine history, get ready for me to blow your mind. The first commercial vineyard in the United States was right here in the good ol’ K-Y. In fact, it’s still standing to this day in Nicholasville!
Not only that, but Kentucky’s grape production was once responsible for over half of the country’s output. It all started in the 1790s when Swissman Jean Jacques DuFour saw an entrepreneurial opportunity to establish America’s first wine operations. Noticing that certain places in America fell on the same latitudes as renowned wine-producing countries like France and Italy, his viticultural dreams were born. (More on that below.)
Today, the state is revitalizing its rich heritage and cultivating a wine industry poised to rival the finest in the world. Or so says the Kentucky Vineyard Society. I would love nothing more than to see Kentucky’s wine industry flourish! However, I wonder if the climate will allow us to compete with other well-established regions? Not to mention, the added challenge of proper marketing and branding.
According to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, the state wine industry has been growing since the mid-1990s. Much of this growth is thanks to the tobacco buyout when fertile farmlands had to turn a new leaf.
Who knows? If it weren’t for each disastrous Civil War battle tarnishing the Kentucky vineyards, maybe Kentucky would have become a world-class wine destination. We’ll never know what could have been.
The First Commercial Winery in the United States
Okay, first, we have to talk about First Vineyard. Its name, while literal, is also epically historical. Nicholasville’s First Vineyard was the very first commercial winery in the US.
Established by DuFour at the end of the 1700s, on the banks of the Kentucky River in Jessamine County, First Vineyard was backed by the likes of Henry Clay and President Thomas Jefferson. Though the original operations were soon thwarted by plant disease and war, it’s still considered America’s first commercial vineyard.
Make a weekend out of this historical wine trip at the property’s Sugar Creek Resort B&B. Though it’s a simple lodge, how cool would it be to say you’ve been the country’s first winery?
TIP: You can also pick up a rare commemorative bottle of wine here, produced from the Alexander grape, the grape that started America’s wine industry. Wine hasn’t been produced from this grape for over 200 years so this is a pretty rare collector’s item for a true wine enthusiast!
To book a stay at Sugar Creek Resort call (859) 885-9359.
The Best Wineries in Kentucky
After many weekend road trips to every winery Kentucky has (my surly boyfriend in tow), I’ve chosen my list of top bluegrass wineries. My top 7 selections have been included at the beginning.
Farmer & Frenchman
OMG, y’all. Farmer & Frenchman is my favorite winery in Kentucky. This place does not seem to be on a lot of people’s radars, but it should be! Located in Western Kentucky, outside of Owensboro, F&F is run by an adorable couple. One has a French accent, one has a Southern twang. It doesn’t get any cuter than that.
They have a stunning vineyard, a wonderful patio, and some great food. One of my best friends moved to Owensboro last year, and every time I visit, this is where we go. Personally, I love this space, because not only do they produce the best wines I’ve tried in Kentucky, but they also have a huge selection of quality French wine at their cafe.
It gets even better, though. They have 3 very cool, very modern cabins on the property that you can rent out. They come with large windows overlooking the property. Oh, and the sunsets? They’re everything.
Old 502 Winery
Old 502 Winery is not only Louisville’s only urban winery, but it’s also a 5-minute walk from my house! So, yes, I am, in fact, a regular.
This Kentucky winery crafts funky, unique wines with super fun names. Try their wine aged in bourbon barrels for a true Kentucky experience. If you’re a chocolate lover, ( aren’t we all?) “After Choc,” their chocolate wine will have you feeling like you won a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s factory.
Old 502 Winery also produces the Kentucky Derby Festival’s official wine, aptly named “Run for the Rosé.” When you sip, close your eyes and pretend you just won a million dollars at the Derby. See if you can’t detect those tasting notes of sweet, sweet victory.
Local’s Tip: New to Louisville? Check out the Somebody Society’s events. They’re often held at this location and are a great way to meet new people.
Lovers Leap Winery
Located in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, Lovers Leap Winery thrives on the unique limestone-based soil reminiscent of what you’d find in Bordeaux, France. Tres chic, non?
As a family-owned business, Lovers Leap cultivates four varieties of red grapes and six types of white grapes, allowing them to craft intriguing blends that reflect the distinctive climate of Kentucky. Their dedicated winemaker personally conducts tours, offering a deep understanding of the artistry behind their great wine.
This bluegrass vineyard may just be the prettiest one in all of Kentucky. They also have live music through their Summer Sips series all season long.
Jean Farris Winery & Bistro
Taste a little elegance and sophistication? Don’t mind if I do! Jean Farris Winery & Bistro is a lovely destination just outside of Lexington.
Enjoy a curated selection of Jean Farris wines, international wines, and an array of handcrafted cocktails. Relish the culinary harmony of Kentucky specialties like fried green tomatoes and bourbon pimento cheese alongside French classics like onion soup, filet mignon, and duck breast.
Enhancing your gourmet experience with the winery’s incredible cheese selection, adding a touch (or a handful!) of indulgence to your visit.
Baker-Bird Winery & Distillery
Explore Kentucky heritage and Civil War history at Baker-Bird Winery & Distillery. Here, you get the best of both worlds: wine and bourbon. This Kentucky vineyard produces internationally acclaimed wines and is the most historic spirits site in America. And honestly, yeah, it’s pretty epic.
Originally built in the 1850s, Baker-Bird claims the oldest wine cellar in the country. Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, get ready to be transported to a bygone era as you enjoy their bourbon barrel-aged wines.
The founding distiller, John Baker, played a role in the American Revolution and the Whiskey Rebellion. He moved to Augusta, Kentucky in 1797 and continued his distilling. You can find this slice of history between Lexington and Cincinnati, near the Ohio River.
Equus Run Vineyards
In Woodford County, a hidden gem is waiting! CNN Travel called Equus Run Vineyards winery a must-see hidden treasure of the US.
This part of Kentucky might be the most beautiful! Puffy clouds in a deep blue sky bend to meet the vibrant green Kentucky hills.
Not to mention the horses grazing in the fields as you drive down the open roads! I don’t consider myself much of a country girl, but this place had me close to changing my mind.
Totaling 38 acres in the heart of central Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region, these grounds are truly stunning to explore. This is a highly-regarded woman-owned business that’s been thriving since 1998. Their latest renovations took place in 2014.
The Blackberry Wine here is wildly popular. I was told people come in to load up on case after case of this stuff. I’m not big on fruit wines, but I will say, this stuff was actually pretty good.
There’s a lot to do at Equus Run. Kayak down South Elkhorn Creek, practice your golf swing on the green, go fishing, or enjoy the Sunday summer music series. Plus, you can also visit Saddlestone Distillery which just opened on the property!
Frankfort, Kentucky’s Prodigy Vineyards is one of my favorite wineries in Kentucky thanks to one lovely fact. You can enjoy a glass of wine while beautiful horses graze in front of you. I mean, come on, what sounds better than that?
With live music, a full food menu, and some Commissioner’s Cups under their belt, Prodigy Vineyards is a pretty epic place to spend a summer evening. Want to hear something even better? Tuesday is ladies’ night! Half-priced wine will always be a win in my book.
Local’s Tip: Stop by Rebecca Ruth’s Candy, less than 5 minutes away from Prodigy Vineyards! I didn’t know I liked bourbon balls until I tried them here, at the very place where they were created! You get a free piece of the yummy chocolate candy just for stopping by. This is one of those places that truly deserves the hype!
Talon Winery & Vineyards
Established in 1999, Talon Winery & Vineyards is located in the charming small town of Shelbyville, right outside of Louisville. Try the award-winning Vidal Blac in their unique tasting room, adorned with a spectacular barrel ceiling that adds a touch of grandeur to your visit.
To enhance the ambiance, Talon Winery & Vineyards hosts live music performances from June to October. You can also check out their unique cheeses, including wine cheese and bourbon cheese. (You know, like, beer cheese, only… better!) They also have a cozy tasting room in Lexington.
Purple Toad Winery
Purple Toad is considered to be one of the best wineries in Kentucky. I happen to disagree, but that’s because I’m not the biggest fan of their specialty: sweet wine. However, if you like your wine the way you like your sweet tea, then Paducah’s Purple Toad is the perfect Kentucky winery for you!
They’re known for their quality and an impressively large selection of flavors like Black Peach, Strawberry Jalapeno, Mango Breeze, and even Cotton Candy. This is one of the only wineries in Western Kentucky, but their products are sold throughout the state.
Forest Edge Winery
Sometimes we all need a little escape into nature. And by nature, I obviously mean a vineyard with a forest view.
Forest Edge Winery is located just outside of Bernheim Forest, a large and truly gorgeous nature preserve. If you do want to get a little exercise in before your wine tasting, these spots serve as a great combo since they’re both dog-friendly!
With $5 tastings and a casual environment, this is a great winery in Kentucky where you can enjoy a relaxed outing. There’s even a playroom for the kids.
Want to take things to the next level? Join their exclusive wine club, where you can gain access to fine wines that showcase the essence of Kentucky’s terroir.
Local’s Tip: Heading here for the weekend? Combine Forest Edge Winery with a trip to the Jim Beam Stillhouse nearby for some good ol’ fashioned Kentucky bourbon.
Don’t let the name fool you, Wildside Winery is actually quite family-friendly. With a large, diverse selection of wine, cheese, and chocolate, they aim to please all tastes.
Tucked between Frankfort and Lexington, this Kentucky winery has a slew of Commissioners Cup awards for their Cabernet Franc and plenty of others to ooh and awe over as the sommelier asks you to choose between them. But more importantly, there’s a winery cat and he is quite the little cutie.
With live music, yoga, crafting, and painting events, plus three yearly Harvest Festivals, there’s a real sense of community at Wildside Winery.
Elk Creek Vineyards
If you’re looking for a Kentucky winery with lodging, well come on in, welcome to paradise.
Tucked away in Owenton, Kentucky, not too far from Louisville is Elk Creek Vineyards. Come for the day or stay at their rustic lodge with a full-service cafe.
With a collection of 20 varieties of red, white, and fruit wines, Elk Creek Vineyards promises a fulfilling tasting experience. The best part? Their winery tour is totally free!
Near Bardstown, Kentucky, McIntyre’s Winery presents a unique opportunity to taste delicious wines and pick berries at the same time. They specialize in luscious fruit wines like blackberry wine and blueberry wine, but also offer other dry and sweet wines.
Local’s Tip: Pair your winery visit with a trip to the bourbon capital of Bardstown, Kentucky. There are tons of great distilleries to visit as well as fun museums, hikes, and yummy restaurants.
Brooks Hill Winery
Escape to the calming vineyard of Brooks Hill Winery for some southern hospitality.
Just south of Louisville, this family-owned winery invites you to unwind and savor a fresh glass of vino amidst a backdrop of natural beauty
Enjoy live music in the summer and a warm firepit for cool nights. Uncork and unwind at this cozy Kentucky winery.
Reid’s Livery Winery
Reid’s Livery Winery, which you absolutely must pronounce with a fun lil’ Southern twang, is a cozy farm winery in Alvaton, Kentucky, outside of Bowling Green.
This small but mighty operation has claimed three Commissioner’s Cups for the Best Boutique Wine in Kentucky and awards from various competitions like Sonoma’s US National.
There are plenty of reasons to come visit owner and grower, Rex Reid, and try things out for yourself. One of which is the adorable farm animals!
Located in Mount Washington, MillaNova Winery invites you to discover their collection of red, white, fruit, and dessert wines. Enjoy panoramic views from the covered pavilion of this pet-friendly Kentucky winery.
Owned by the Terranova family, MillaNova has some strong roots. This family has been a part of the winemaking tradition since their grandfather came to America in the early 20th century.
Atwood Hill Winery
Atwood Hill Winery is located just outside of Cincinnati. Enjoy the charm of this sixth-generation, family-owned farm, established in 1918.
They have a renovated 1930s farmhouse, aptly named The Farmstead, which serves as an idyllic venue for events and gatherings. Don’t miss the outdoor pergola, a picturesque setting for wine tastings amidst the lush vineyards.
Local’s Tip: Both part of the Northern Kentucky Back Roads Wine Trail, combine your trip to Atwood Hill Winery and Baker-Bird. (These are 2/8 wineries on the trail and the only ones I’ve included in this guide.)
Hamon Haven Hill Winery
Discover the allure of Hamon Haven Hill Winery, a small vineyard with award-winning red, white, and rosé wines. This is a charming escape where you can savor the fruits of their labor and indulge in the beauty of their picturesque vineyard.
Local’s Tip: Winchester is home to the quirky and unique Kentucky Beer Cheese Trail. I had no idea how much I loved beer cheese until I moved back to Louisville. Apparently, this is a Kentucky invention, and good god, is it amazing. I now count warm pretzels dipped in melted brewer’s cheese among the most sinful pleasures of my life!
Why not combine the two for a day or weekend filled with yummy, small-town delights?