Kentucky’s limestone-based soil, famous for its contribution to horses and bourbon, is also perfect for a wide variety of grapes. That’s why the Marquis de Lafayette’s winemaker, Jean Jacques Dufour, planted the “First Vineyard” in what is now Jessamine County, Kentucky, and the United States’ commercial wine industry was born.
In recent years, many Kentucky farmers have turned their acreage from tobacco production to return to the proud tradition of grape growing. With state grants and incentives in place, and with the support and expertise of horticulture and viticulture experts, Kentucky’s grape and wine industry has experienced tremendous growth.
It takes about four to five years from initial planting to the first grape harvest, not to mention a significant financial investment and even more in sweat equity. While grapes can grow in all parts of the state, an ideal vineyard site is one that gets plenty of sunshine and warmth, has good drainage and is slightly more elevated than the surrounding land. Topography and temperature trends help determine if a site is suitable for growing grapes and can help determine which types of grapes might best flourish there.
Be sure to explore our “From Soil to Grape” videos to learn more about growing grapes in the Bluegrass State.