Kentucky wineries produce some good wines, but they also are home to some of the most beautiful landscapes and scenery.
Though March may not be the perfect month to see appealing vistas and grape-filled vines, if you're interested in sampling the wine then plan to visit several wineries on Saturday. McConnell Springs' 7th annual Wine Barrel Tasting will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 17 wineries are participating. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at any winery, and includes one wine barrel tasting at each. Call (859) 272-0682.
At a barrel tasting visitors get a one-ounce sample of wine in its final stages before bottling and release of the product. The tasting is not the finished product; however, it may have some of the final characteristics.
Ann Karsner, who owns Horseshoe Bend Vineyards in Willisburg along with her husband, said barrel tastings are an opportunity to sample a work in progress.
"The barrels are opened, samples taken, and then they are topped up at the end of the day. The barrels need to be kept full of wine to prevent oxidation of the wine. So, after the barrel tasting, we add wine back in to replace what was removed for the tasting. One can see the development of the wine as it ages gracefully and extracts the oak nuances from the barrel," Karsner said.
The Karsners have been participating in this event since the first one took place in 2008. And in 2009, it was the grand opening of their tasting room.
"This year it coincides with the 10th anniversary of our first vintage of 2004 cabernet," Karsner said.
Ben O'Daniel, owner/winemaker at Jean Farris Winery in Lexington, said the barrel tasting is the one time of the year most of the states wineries open their cellar doors and invite the public to taste from their barrels.
"It is also a celebration of spring and a look at the vintage to come. This year we will be tasting our merlot, cabernet franc, and our petite syrah. All are soon to be bottled so this is a great opportunity to taste the difference from wine at rest in the barrel as opposed to after bottling," O'Daniel said.
First Vineyard in Nicholasville — which is on the barrel tasting tour — is on the site of the first commercial vineyard in the United States, established in 1799.
"We are especially interested in the history of this region," said First Vineyard events coordinator Wilma Clapp. "We have participated in this event since it was started and have found that our participation not only benefited the springs, but also has allowed us to introduce many new friends to our wine and winery."
On Saturday, visitors will sample a chambourcin, which is made from Kentucky grapes. "In addition to purchasing grapes from other Kentucky farmers, we also grow our own grapes, particularly the Cape grape which was planted when the vineyard was first established," Clapp explained.
Here's the list of participating wineries:
■ Acres of Land, 2285 Barnes Mill Road, Richmond. Call (859) 328-3000 or go to Acresoflandwinery.com.
■ Black Barn Winery, 4200 Newtown Pike, Lexington. Call (859) 552-2525 or go to Blackbarnwinery.com.
■ Chrisman Mill Vineyards, 2385 Chrisman Mill Road, Nicholasville. Call (859) 881-5007 or go to Chrismanmill.com.
■ Chuckleberry Farm & Winery, 527 Garrison Lane, Bloomfield. Call (502) 249-1051 or go to Chuckleberryfarm.com.
■ Equus Run Vineyards, 1280 Moores Mill Road, Midway. Call (859) 846-9463 or go to Equusrunvineyards.com.
■ First Vineyard Winery, 5800 Sugar Creek Pike, Nicholasville. Call (859) 885-9359 or go to Firstvineyard.net.
■ Grimes Mill Winery, 6707 Grimes Mill Road, Lexington. Call (859) 543-9691 or go to Grimesmillwinery.com.
■ Hamon Haven Winery, 7041 Rockwell Road, Winchester. Call (859) 420-6510.
■ Horseshoe Bend Vineyard & Winery, 1187 Lawson Lane, Willisburg. Call (859) 375-0296 or go to Horseshoebend-ky.com.
■ Jean Farris Winery & Bistro, 6825 Old Richmond Road, Lexington. Call (859) 263-9463 or go to Jeanfarris.com.
■ Lovers Leap Vineyards & Winery, 1180 Lanes Mill Road, Lawrenceburg. Call (502) 839-1299 or go to Loversleapwine.com.
■ McIntyre's Winery & Berries, 531 McIntyre Lane, Bardstown. Call (502) 507-3264 or go to Mcintyreswinery.com.
■ Prodigy Vineyards & Winery, 3445 Versailles Road, Frankfort. Call (502) 352-9400 or go to Prodigyvineyards.com.
■ Rising Sons Winery, 975 Frankfort Road, Lawrenceburg. Call (502) 600-0224 or go to Risingsonswinery.com.
■ Springhill Winery & Plantation, 3205 Springfield Road, Bloomfield. Call (502) 252-9463 or go to Springhillwinery.com.
■ Talon Winery & Vineyards, 7086 Tates Creek Road, Lexington. Call (859) 971-3214 or go to Talonwine.com.
■ Wildside Winery & Vineyard, 5500 Troy Pike, Versailles. Call (859) 321-5046 or go to Wildsidewinery.com.
Sharon Thompson: (859) 231-3321. Twitter: @FlavorsofKY. Blog:flavorsofkentucky.bloginky.com