RICHMOND — On an early fall day in our fair commonwealth, please find me a more serene moment than sitting at a wood table on a vast canopied porch in the country, taking in the panoramic views of hills, mountains and grapevines. There surely is no prettier sight in Kentucky, and Acres of Land works it to the hilt. The indoor dining area is spacious and comfortable, yet there is something about autumn vistas at a winery that is pretty near perfect.
Wherever you sit and whatever you order, be sure to do a wine sampling. You get six short pours for only $3.75. This approach will give you a feel for the winery's craft. Most of the grapes come from in-state. After trying the dry, semi-sweet and sweet wines made from classic varietals like chardonnay and merlot, ubiquitous French-American hybrids like vidal blanc, and fruits like Concord grapes and blackberries, you will be in the perfect position to decide what to drink with your food.
The menu represents a cross between contemporary American and classic Kentucky, meaning vermicelli in wine sauce here, hot Browns and barbecued pork there.
And of course, there are fried green tomatoes. At Acres, this quintessentially Southern dish is hearty. The fruit is thickly sliced, dipped in batter and deep-fried, resulting in big, meaty, slightly crunchy pieces. A nice counterpoint to this dense deliciousness is a little cup of corn relish, like chow chow, that will make you pucker from vinegar but smile from sugar. The tomatoes are considered a starter but are filling enough be a vegetarian entrée.
The chicken salad is large enough to share. This version will please lovers of creamy dressing, as will the potato salad with celery. For me, however, the dressing was too present on both. The chicken was very finely minced, and the abundance of dressing gave it the texture of purée. The potato salad had so much dressing it was almost soupy.
High marks, though, must be given to the four enormous halves of summer-ripe beefsteak tomatoes that came with the chicken salad, and the mustardy notes in the potato salad.
If I had to pick one salad, though, it would be the unfussy coleslaw, sweet yet tart, light yet earthy. It was a great companion for the substantial sandwiches.
The salmon club sandwich offers a taste of smoke on smoke. Between two halves of a tender croissant there is the star — a large fillet of house-smoked salmon — with more of those wonderful tomatoes, crisp lettuce leaves, and ... strips of bacon. This combination would not have occurred to me, but it works, especially with the contrasting fresh vegetables and buttery bread.
More traditional, but really wonderful, was the hamburger. Acres' kitchen sources meat from nearby Otter Creek Beef. This terrific burger rocks. It is lean and full of flavor. Served on a small ciabatta bun with melted cheddar, a buttery sauté of chopped mushrooms and sliced onions with more lettuce and tomatoes, it was hands-down my favorite item on the menu.
Each local winery has its own niche, to be sure. Some go gourmet; others have concerts; a few are simply minimalist. Acres of Land focuses on familiar Kentucky flavors in food and wine, all in a beautiful setting, a combination guaranteed to have broad appeal.
Wendy Miller is a Lexington-based food and spirits writer and critic.