The new relationship began to blossom in the early spring of 2012, just like all the vintages that year. We were trying to visit each other as much as possible (we never went more than three weeks in the year before she moved) and basically fell off the radar to accomplish this. She had a wonderful way of planning all these exciting things to do in Kentucky that really brought to life everything the state is famous for; most notably, bourbon. Yes, the horse farms, historic downtown strolls, and hikes around limestone enriched knobs were inspiring. But the bourbon could not be beat. Casting a 30-mile radius around her house would easily include some of the world’s most famous distilleries…and I loved it.a mere three miles down the road in Lawrenceburg, KY. I reluctantly embarked on my very first real winery experience.
We ventured through a few of these until one day when Katy decided to try something that suited her taste, and already being a bit of a connoisseur, she knew there were a few wineries nearby. The relationship was still fairly new, so I agreed, although I sighed deeply on the inside. She took me to Lover’s Leap Winery, a mere three miles down the road in Lawrenceburg, KY. I reluctantly embarked on my very first real winery experience.
Flight: Name for a sequential wine tasting of multiple kinds of wines for comparing and sipping, generally with some type of pattern; commonly driest to sweetest. You may also feel a floating feeling after an enjoyable flight.
Varietal: Refers to the specific variety or type of grape used to make a wine. Example for a red is the Norton varietal and Vignoles (veen-yoles) for a white.
My first flight started with dry red varietals and worked up to sweet whites, and ended with a blackberry. For those new to even these ideas, both reds and whites can be dry or sweet, but typically reds are known to be dry to semi-sweet and whites known to be sweeter. This has to do with sugar content, tannins, acid, and a myriad of other factors such as weather and harvest timing. I will try to explain this further in a later post, but for more studious people who just can’t put off learning, I recommend a beginner’s book that is a quick read and taught me more than enough to enjoy wine and be able to talk about it with experienced folks:
Wine Basics: A Quick and Easy Guide by Dewey Markham Jr.
I suffered through the dry reds and could not understand how anybody could drink this for pleasure. I honestly remember asking Katy what the difference was between red and white and if those were the only colors they had. I didn’t understand the flavors the server was describing, the smells were confusing and worst of all, I didn’t enjoy a bit of the taste. However, an interesting thing happened as we worked our way to the sweeter varietals in the flight; I actually enjoyed what I was tasting and it seemed more familiar to me. By the time we reached the blackberry, I thought I had found the holy grail of enjoyable wine. That sweet concoction could be enjoyed for dessert or breakfast. We walked out with a bottle of the glorious blackberry and I figured this was the furthest path I would ever venture down into this unknown world of wine. Katy thought differently.
A few weeks after this initial tasting, the weather was warmer and Katy was hoping that if I attempted some different reds we would have more success. I approached the counter again, slightly less intimidated, and we booked our flight. This time we started off with the 2009 Norton, or Cynthiana, depending on where you are from.
Norton (Cynthiana): The “Cabernet of the Ozarks” is a dry red varietal with debated origins, but known to have been grown in Missouri as early as 1848. People in the know think a single seedling vine was given different names. Either way, many wineries use Norton or Cynthiana interchangeably based on their own preference.
Vintage: Can refer to the year the grape was harvested and laws require a certain percentage of varietal from the same year’s harvest in order to put a year on the label. Example: US law requires 85% of the grapes must be from that year.
I can distinctly remember drinking that first glass of Cynthiana at Lover’s Leap and flashing that big purple tooth grin at Katy. This was nothing like my tumultuous initial flight, as the aroma combined with the taste on the front and back of the mouth reminded me of everything I love about all things earthy, with a hint of bold fruit. The wine was a darker brown/purple than any I had seen before, the oak was unmistakable, and I was in love. It turns out this particular vintage was sweeter than most but was my gateway to red wines, so I am forever thankful. We finished the flight and purchased a bottle of the Cynthiana and the suggested cheese to pair with it, then proceeded to the deck that overlooked the vineyard. It was a particular sunny early summer day in Kentucky.
This was my earliest fond experience with wine. The weather was beautiful, the view was breathtaking, and we talked for hours. Wine paired with food was an improvement to the taste and experience of both (although this didn’t really make sense until much later). I had no idea. That was it for me: hook, line and sinker.. Or maybe I should say soil, water, and grapes (and a little luck). Halfway through that first bottle of red wine, we looked around and pondered about how it would be neat to grow some grapes someday. As the bottle approached empty we even started envisioning an imaginary vineyard of our own. Just a dream though, the kind that happens when you are feeling particularly above the clouds, like every guy ever that dreams of opening a bar. But it never hurts a guy to dream.
The summer of 2012 continued to be one of visiting wineries, learning from owners (and talking them into impromptu tours), and researching.
I started casually reading about wine (highly recommended) and was getting intrigued. A quick study on commonly grown Missouri grapes revealed to me that Norton is Missouri’s state grape. Imagine that (hello fate- we meet again). It wasn’t until early fall of 2012 that things really started to get interesting, as the roots started to set and spread in all directions, the water was absorbed, and a chance conversation led to what will hopefully be a fruitful endeavor.