I found myself rather engrossed in an audio-recording of Stephen King’s, The Tommyknockers, as I passed through downtown Newcastle, Kentucky on my way to Smith-Berry Winery. An inane cognizance of the striking resemblance of this charming community to the novel’s fictionalized picturesque setting of Haven, Maine inadvertently flooded my thoughts and sent a chill down my spine. Quite thankfully, my reservations were quickly dowsed and I exhaled with resolute relief as I passed by the historic Henry County Courthouse. For as the townsfolk of Haven slowly lost their grip on humanity in their continued, ‘becoming,’ the population of Newcastle seemed perfectly sane and grounded in reality.
Just past Newcastle and down a gravel drive off of Drennon Road lies Smith-Berry Winery. At first glance, one could be forgiven for mistakenly questioning if they had unwittingly pulled into a well-maintained dairy farm as opposed to a winery. In fact, not so terribly long ago the large black barn by the parking lot had housed a milking facility for precisely that sort of operation. Now, however, where the cattle once idly stood for their daily milking now stands a line of gleaming stainless steel tanks. A portable state of the art ozone sanitation system sits atop the pristine concrete floors and the back corner of the transformed structure now houses a modern lab. Dozens of new French and American Oak barrels filled with aging wines sit stacked in an adjacent room of the barn which at one time also housed an art gallery.
Smith-Berry’s owner and wine maker, Chuck Smith, is by no means a novice in his field. With over a decade of experience making wines in the Commonwealth, Smith could be considered a pioneer and one of only a few seasoned veterans in the Kentucky wine industry. His wines are beautifully crafted with incredible depth, structure and finesse while at the same time managing to capture the unique Limestone terroir of the region. The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from a single vineyard in Millersburg, Kentucky, pours a dark garnet and has an enchantingly complex nose of fresh summer berries, clove and just a slight hint of Perique tobacco. The medium bodied wine burst with currant and cherry flavors and has just the right amount of spice imparted from an expert determination of precise time spent in oak.
Centrally located between I-64 and I-71, Smith-Berry’s winery and tasting room is an easy drive from Louisville, Lexington and Northern Kentucky. This hard working winery is an ideal weekend destination for anyone interested in serious wines in a picturesque setting. It’s not all serious business though; Jennifer Cowden, Smith-Berry’s Marketing/Events Director and general Jack-of-all-trades, couldn’t be friendlier. Despite her hectic schedule, she explains the wines with the fervor and apparent pleasure of someone who is truly passionate about her work and realizes that she’s part of something very special indeed.