Wine experts punctuate their conversations with words such as ageworthy, austere, complex, earthy, off-nose and woody. But don't let the vocabulary scare you away from an upcoming tour of Central Kentucky wineries, where you'll get to do some tasting.
On March 31, McConnell Springs will hold its fifth annual Barrel Tasting, when 16 Bluegrass wineries offer guests samples of wines that are in their final stages before bottling.
"The benefit of sampling from a barrel is to see if you think it is ready for the bottle or not, and for the guests to give feedback to the winemaker," said Rachel Vasilakes, co-owner of Wildside Winery & Vineyard in Woodford County.
"It is a way for guests to help the winemaker understand how the market reacts to his or her wine before taking the irreversible step of bottling," she said.
Black Barn Winery crafts only one wine, a dry red blend made in the style of Bordeaux's famous St. Emilion region, said owner/ winemaker Collin Boyd.
"Sampling from the barrel allows visitors to taste the wine as the winemaker does before making the decision to bottle," he said. Then the bottled wine can be tasted in two months, to witness the beginning stages of bottle aging, which is an important, continuing process that ends with the opening of the bottle.
Visitors who stop at Jean Farris Winery on Old Richmond Road in Fayette County can barrel-taste several wines. This year, guests will taste cabernet sauvignon, which recently received a Double Gold award in San Francisco; a 2008 malbec, and the 2009 petite syrah.
"Jean Farris is known for outstanding dry red wines. I selected these wines because I felt that they best showed the depth of character and intense fruit expression that Kentucky can offer," winemaker Ben O'Daniel said.
If you like country fruit wines, plan to visit McIntyre's Winery & Berries in Bardstown. Tommy and Debbie McIntyre grow blackberries and blueberries on the farm and produce wines that are dry and sweet. Tour guests will sample a blackberry wine.
"This batch of wine, in an oak barrel, can be compared to the same batch of wine that is made in a stainless steel vat. Sampling from the barrel will show guests how the oak flavor is developed in the wine," winemaker Tommy McIntyre said.
At Grimes Mill Winery on Grimes Mill Road in Fayette County, co-owners Philip and Lois DeSimone will have three wines available for tasting.
"Our intention is to teach the palate the maturation process of a wine either in a barrel or tank. Three wines will be evaluated: vidal blanc, a great wine for blending because of its softness and balance; pinot grigio, for its citrus flavors and aromas; and catawba for its fruitiness," Philip DeSimone said.
Ann Karsner, co-owner of Horseshoe Bend Winery in Willisburg, said guests don't have to know a lot about wine to enjoy the barrel-tasting. Visitors at Horseshoe Bend will taste a merlot made from grapes grown in Washington County at Simple Pleasures Vineyard.
Annette Mathy, chairwoman of the Barrel Tasting event, said guests may start at any of the wineries and buy a $20 bracelet that allows access to all the wineries on the tour. You might want to end the day at Acres of Land Winery on Barnes Mill Road in Madison County; it has a professional chef who prepares outstanding lunches and dinners Wednesday through Sunday.
Jean Farris Bistro will serve brunch and dinner the day of the event. Several of the other wineries will offer appetizers or snacks the day of the tour: Lovers Leap Winery will serve blackberry wine hot cocoa, McIntryre's will offer chicken tortilla spirals, Horseshoe Bend will have golden sun pie, Chuckleberry Farm will serve wine cupcakes, and Springhill Winerywill offer port cake balls.
Here are two recipes from Acres of Land.
2 7- to 9-ounce Mahi fillets
1 teaspoon Blackened Redfish Magic (Chef Paul Prudhomme) seasonings
Pineapple salsa (recipe follows)
Parsley for garnish
Pat dry Mahi fillets and lightly coat with blackening seasonings on both sides. Lightly sprinkle with salt. Grill or pan sear fish over medium to high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, depending on thickness, on both sides, turning once until seared and browned but slightly translucent in the center. Do not overcook. Top with pineapple salsa and parsley.
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
2 or 3 sliced pickled jalapeños, minced
1 cup fresh pineapple, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
Grill or sear fresh pineapple before chopping, two minutes a side. Mix all ingredients well, and simmer over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.