Verona Vines And Wines Tour

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The Verona Vines and Wines Tour featured four wineries in Verona, Kentucky all within minutes of each other.  What a fun day of wine tasting with friends we had lined up!

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We couldn’t have asked for a better day.  The weather was gorgeous!

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Our first stop was Verona Vineyards. Their wine list had doubled since our last visit. We sampled all they had to offer:

  • 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2015 Petit Verdot
  • 2016 Chardonnay
  • 2016 Charonnel
  • Viognier
  • White Trio – a white blend of Riesling, Pinot Grigio, and Viognier
  • Gewurztraminer

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The general consensus among our group was that the Cabernet Sauvignon was the favorite, with the Chardonnel coming in second.

Carla and Jen ordered a cheese plate which featured Luna Mercato Gouda Pecan Spread. Well seasoned with pecans, onion, garlic, and salt, it was quite a tasty spread.  Located in Louisville, Kentucky, Luna Mercato specializes in cheese spreads, dips, and gourmet cheeses.  We’re going to need to be on the look out for more of their products.

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Our next stop was Verona Landing Vineyard.  Not a winery per se, but rather a vineyard which produces grapes for Verona Vineyards.  They offered two wines of their own that were also produced and bottled at Verona Vineyards:

  • 2016 Chardonnel
  • 2012 Rose Cabernet Franc

The Chardonnel was very similar to what we had had at Verona Vineyards. Both wines were well iced and quite refreshing in the heat of the day.

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Our pilot, Ray, of course had to check out the planes.  Boys and their toys!

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On to Schoolyard Winery!  We had been there just two weeks earlier and were happy to introduce this new winery to our friends.  It was quite crowded so we opted for a bottle of their Merlot while everyone else did a tasting.  The wines that were available were:

  • Schoolhouse Red – Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Honor Roll – Merlot
  • Old School – Riesling
  • Homecoming – red blend of Norton and American
  • Teacher’s Pet – Rosé Catawba
  • Spring Break – Cayuga
  • Recess – Niagara

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Everyone loved the ambiance of the restored school house with its school themed wines and decor.

Brianza

Our final stop and resting place was Brianza Gardens and Winery.  We sampled a few of their wines before settling on bottles of their 2014 Cynthiana and Sweet Bottom Tropical. Their full wine list included the following:

  • 2015 Riesling
  • 2015 Chardonnay
  • 2016 Vignoles
  • 2015 Vignoles
  • Sweet Bottom Blush – blend of White Zinfandel, Vignoles, and Peach
  • Sweet Bottom Tropical – tropical blend with fruity notes
  • 2016 Sweet Bottom White – white blend of Vidal Blanc and Riesling
  • 2015 Sweet Bottom White – white blend of Vidal Blanc, Bignoles, Riesling, and Cayuga
  • Brittany Red – Marquette
  • 2016 Noiret
  • 2014 Cynthiana
  • 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Italian Stallion – red blend of Cynthiana and Chambourcin
  • Sweet Bottom Red – red blend of Concord and Blackberry
  • Sweet Bottom Black – Chocolate Infused

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As everyone completed their tastings, we made our way out to the patio where we joined by even more of our friends.  We enjoyed picnic fare and Chad ordered pizza for delivery. Brittany Red and Sweet Bottom Tropical were the popular wines of the evening.

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Amongst our laughter and conversation there was live music and even some dancing.

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Of course the evening wouldn’t have been complete without Ray trying on my hat.  He wears it well, don’t you think?

The Verona Wines and Vines Tour was such a nice event.  We all ended our tour with a complete set of wine glasses that we collected at each winery. What a wonderful way to spend a summer day among friends!

Wine Tasting – June 3, 2017

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It was a line up of organic wines from Bonterra Vineyards in California.  From their full line we sampled the following:

  • 2016 Sauvignon Blanc from Mendocino, Lake, & Sonoma Counties, California
  • 2016 Chardonnay from Mendocino County, California
  • 2014 Merlot from Mendocino County, California
  • 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon from North Coast, California
  • 2007 The Butler from Mendocino County, California – Southern Rhone Red Blend

Not big on the white varietals, Bushmaster and I started out with a half sample each of the Chardonnay and the Sauvignon Blanc.  When we switched glasses, it turned out he prefered my pour of the Sauvignon Blanc whereas I prefered his pour of the Chardonnay.  Funny how that works out sometimes!

Both reds were nice but my preference was for the Merlot that was bolder than the typical Merlot.  I spent several of my revisits on that one.

The Butler was in limited supply and the few extra bottles that JP had were snapped up quickly.  Unfortunately, he was out of samples by the time we reached that end of the line up.  We can only speculate about what we missed. JP has assured us though, that he will be getting more in stock.

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Our dessert wine for the day was Huber Winery’s Bourbon Barrel Blackberry wine from Borden, Indiana.  What a treat!  It was delicious with just the right balance of wood and bourbon flavor.  I had visited Huber Winery some years ago.  I remarked to Bushmaster, that we definitely needed to plan a stop there during our travels this summer!

MillaNova Winery

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It was so nice to be able to visit MillaNova again.  And this time in a more relaxed manner.  The last time we were here, we had stopped by on our way to our son’s state band concert.  Our son had ridden the bus with the rest of the band and in all the mirth and excitement had left his concert attire back in the band room.  By the time he texted us he was in a panic and there was no time for us to shop for replacements to rescue him.  He never forgot ANY pieces of his uniform ever again.

We were so distracted that day I can honestly say I don’t remember what I tried and Bushmaster couldn’t remember even being here until we arrived for this visit.

Enough of that!  On to the wine tasting!  From their extensive wine list, we selected the following:

  • Sinful-Leah – Zinfandel
  • Mafia Merlot
  • Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Petite Sirah Royale
  • Dry Riesling
  • Semi-Sweet Riesling
  • Alyssa’s Blush – a blend of Catawba, Diamond, and Concord
  • Mint Julia
  • Walnut Ridge

The reds were a bit too fruity and soft for me but Bushmaster liked them all.

We tried both of the Rieslings side by side for comparison.  The dry was crisp and refreshing and the semi-sweet leaned more toward the sweet side.

Of course Bushmaster could not resist a blend with Diamond in it.  If we are able to source our own Diamond, I know he’s doing his research for ideas.

It was the more unusual Mint and Walnut wines that caught our fancy here. The Mint Julia was refreshing but not overly sweet with hints of wintergreen. We can’t say enough about the Walnut.  It was so delicious.  I am now in search of the prefect walnut cake to pair with it for a special dessert!

Wight-Meyer Vineyard & Winery

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Our day started out with us traveling down the Bourbon Trail.  We made our stops and did our tastings and we found that we still had time left in our day to visit a couple wineries before we headed home.

The last time we had visited Wight-Meyer was back when we first were contemplating making wine of our own.  We had shared some great conversation with wine maker and owner, Jim Wight.  Jim has studied wine making extensively and has mentored other wine makers.  Jim was not available this visit, but his wife, Sandy, was our gracious host as we sampled a number of their wonderful wines:

  • Kunzee’s Reserve Chambourcin
  • Kentucky Norton
  • Kentucky Zinthiana
  • Kentucky Crimson Cabernet
  • Silhouette Rosé – Zinthiana
  • Cabernet Doré
  • Dry Diamond
  • Vignoles
  • Diamond
  • Sassy B – Riesling and Raspberry blend
  • Buffalo Head Red – Sweet Concord aged 10 months in a bourbon barrel
  • Sweet Blackberry
  • Barrel Aged Blackberry

Of course I was thrilled with the Chambourcin and Norton, both of which were very true to the grapes and done so well.

We were both surprised at how well Bushmaster liked the peppery Zinthiana.

Crimson Cabernet and Cabernet Doré were firsts for both of us and two hybrids in which we have been very interested.  I did not find the Crimson Cabernet to be bold enough for me, but Bushmaster liked it quite well for its smoothness and fruitiness.

The Dry Diamond was our favorite of this tasting.  Normally done to the sweet side, this dry version was fantastic and so full of flavor.  We also tried the sweet version to compare but much preferred the dry.

The Vignoles came off with a lot of grapefruit in both the nose and flavor.  I also detected some apple.  It reminded us more of a Sauvignon Blanc.

Sassy B was an enjoyable Riesling with just a hint of Raspberry.  It was a really nice balance with just the right amount of Raspberry for flavor but not to overpower the wine.

Buffalo Head Red was just as described.  It was definitely Concord and definitely aged in a bourbon barrel.

Both Blackberries were absolutely delicious dessert wines.

As we left the winery, we couldn’t help but notice all the vines in bloom just outside the door.  They were picture perfect on such a beautiful day.  No doubt, Jim will be turning their fruit into something wonderful come harvest time!

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Peanut’s Plum Wines

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With the purchase of a fruit press last summer, Bushmaster couldn’t wait to get started. We’d missed out on the local plum season, so he actually got started with fresh peaches. (Incidently, we are still putting the finishing touches on that batch.)  A few weeks later, I was in the grocery and they had plums on sale.  Not quite as good as getting the local ones, but I was anxious to make a plum wine.  We purchased enough for a three gallon batch.

Pretty much following the process we used for the peaches, we got the pressed plum juice underway fermenting with Lalvin 71B-1122 yeast.  We had already checked the acid level which was perfect and added the right amount of sugar to bring the specific gravity to a good starting level.  An appropriate amount of pectic enzyme and yeast energizer before pitching the yeast and we were off.

Our original plan was to arrest the fermentation to retain more of the natural sweetness, but the fermentation went more quickly than we expected and the must fermented to dry.

We racked and clarified and tasted and aged.  And then we tasted some more. Bushmaster and I were at opposite ends in our opinions.  I was thrilled with the dry version.   It had beautiful color and was light with just the right hint of spice.  He felt it should be sweeter with more plum flavor.

So we compromised.  We bottled two gallons of the dry and left one gallon of wine with which Bushmaster could experiment.

Hoping to bring out more fruit flavor, he added some natural plum flavoring and back sweetened with Old Orchard Strawberry Rhubarb frozen juice concentrate.  No longer 100% plum, he had to come up with a name for his creation and “Peanut’s Plumberry” was born.

At first, I wasn’t a fan.  I found it to be too sweet, but after aging in the bottle, the sweetness and flavors have balanced out and it is quite good.

My preference is still for Peanut’s Plum Dry and I feel it is one of the best wines we’ve made so far.  The color is beautiful and it pairs so well with shrimp and Asian dishes.

We are looking forward to the 2017 season, locally sourced plums, and at least double our 2016 production.

Schoolyard Winery

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Relatively new to the scene, Schoolyard Winery opened in the fall of 2016. The name was inspired by the old schoolhouse in which the winery resides. As we walked in, we were instantly charmed. I just love when a business selects a theme and stays true to it throughout and Schoolyard Winery has done just that.

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All their wines have school themed names.  Of course we tried them all.

  • Schoolhouse Red – Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Honor Roll – Merlot
  • Old School – Riesling
  • Homecoming – a red blend of Norton and American
  • Teacher’s Pet – Catawba
  • Recess – Niagara

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Their labels sport a vintage looking photograph of the old schoolhouse.  Our selection for the evening was the Cabernet Sauvignon.  Our friends, Vicki and David, who had joined us, chose the Merlot.  Both were wonderful wines.  In fact, all four of us found all of the wines to be quite good.

We enjoyed great conversation with owner and winemaker, Gary Younts.  He even took Bushmaster on a special tour of the vineyards

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Their tasting room is beyond adorable with antique and vintage school items on display. We ordered dinner which was delivered by a local restaurant and then enjoyed our wine as we played cards.  The cozy and comfortable atmosphere invited conversation with other patrons.  A local wine making club was meeting there for the evening and we made new friends as they extended us an invitation to join.

Schoolyard Winery is a great little place to enjoy a relaxing afternoon or evening.  We can’t wait to go back!

Hamon Haven Winery

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We were looking forward to our return to Hamon Haven Winery.  We had visited their adorable little tasting room for the first time in the spring of 2016.

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Owners Andy and Carrie Hamon are such gracious hosts.  Their wine list offers quite a variety.  We sampled all the wines on their list:

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Merlot
  • Chardonnay
  • Seyval Blanc
  • Chambourcin
  • Zinthiana
  • Diamond
  • Catawba
  • Niagara
  • June’s Blend – a blend of Concord and Niagara
  • Blackberry

The Sauvignon Blanc was lighter in flavor with much less grapefruit than is typical. Bushmaster and I both remarked that this was a Sauvignon Blanc we could drink.

Their Merlot was dry in keeping with the varietal.

Not typical of the usual Chardonnay, while dry, theirs had a lot of fruit flavor and came off as sweeter.  It was quite nice.

The Seyval Blanc was tart with discernible grapefruit flavor.  It reminded us more of a traditional Sauvignon Blanc.

Their Chambourcin stole the show for me.  It was rich, full of flavor, and everything I love in a Chambourcin.

At our previous tasting, Zinthiana had been my favorite.  It was still a front runner, coming in a close second to the Chambourcin.

We were both intrigued with the Diamond.  This is a grape we are hoping to work with this season in our own wine making.  It was so full of flavor with a slight sweetness.

We were surprised to find the Catawba to be so floral in the nose.  It reminded us of Traminette, but it was distinctively a Catawba.

Bushmaster hasn’t met a Niagara he hasn’t liked and this one did not disappoint.

June’s Blend was a little heavy on the Concord for our tastes but we could still appreciate how this was one of their more popular wines.

The Blackberry was such a treat.  Done lighter and semi-sweet it was not syrupy or overpowering.  This was another one of our favorites.

Just like last time, during our tasting we enjoyed wonderful conversation with the Andy and Carrie.  It is always a great experience to speak directly with the wine maker and learn more about what goes into their wine making processes.  Andy was happy to share tips for wine making and sourcing fruit with us.

Hamon Haven is such a nice little stop with some really nice wines.  You’ll want to make sure you put this winery on your list!

Harkness Edwards Vineyards

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We would love to tell you about their wines but unfortunately, when we arrived we discovered they were closed for a private wedding.  We had checked their website the night before.  We couldn’t actually tell if the winery was open or not as there was no signage announcing the closing.  Wandering around amongst wedding guests to find a staff person was all kinds of awkward. There were none to be found.  We finally located a card with a phone number and called.  We were told that the announcement was posted on their Facebook page because they “didn’t know how to update the website.”

After the fact research revealed they have two different websites, neither of which indicated anything about closing or calling ahead.  The Facebook post was made at 10:30 AM the day of the event which was after we had left for our trip.  Prior to that, the previous posting was made on March 31st, and the one before that was dated January 1st. Clearly it isn’t only the websites that don’t get frequent updates.

One website shows 2 wines, the other shows 4.  The second website shows tastings are $10 per person which seems very hefty for such a short wine list.

After years of being closed because of a fire, we had been excited to hear that they had reopened.  Our experience was disappointing to say the least. Bushmaster thought perhaps we might receive a call back from them, but as of this posting, we are still waiting.

Lessons learned?  When planning a trip, do thorough searches to make sure there aren’t “hidden” websites and follow up by looking for a Facebook page. That should be enough, but just to be safe, make sure you call ahead.

5/31/2017 UPDATE:  Harkness Edwards reached out to us on Facebook and in our comments.  (See below.)

6/13/2017 UPDATE:  Our gift package received from Harkness Edwards:

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Thank you so much! We have yet to sample the wine but will do so at a later date and review it at that time. We’re not sure when we will have the opportunity to revisit the winery as it is a bit of a drive from where we live.

Chenault Vineyards

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When we received our Vintage Kentucky 2017 Winery Guide, we were excited to see that someone had taken over the facility that used to be Acres of Land Winery. We had been saddened to learn the fate of Acres of Land as it was special to us. Our daughter is an EKU graduate and we had held her graduation party there.  Needless to say, we couldn’t wait to get back to see what was happening under the new ownership.

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The building with its vaulted ceilings was as we remembered it. The decor was beautiful and inviting. I quickly snapped a few pictures to send to my daughter. She too was impressed with what she saw.

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We settled into the comfortable upholstered chairs at the bar ready to sample their wines.

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At this time, they only have two wines available, both of which are made by and bottled by In Town Winery in Louisville, Kentucky.

Chenault Red is a blend of Merlot and Chambourcin aged in Kentucky Bourbon Barrels. It was smooth with a slight sweetness, however we found it to be a bit too sweet for our palates. We also were disappointed that there wasn’t more bourbon or wood flavor.

Chenault White is a blend of Riesling and Vidal Blanc. Leaning more to the dry side, it was light and refreshing with a nice flavor and my preference of the two.

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As we sat and talked with our hostess, we learned that the new owners were toiling away in the vineyards. The neglect of the vines during the years it was closed had taken quite a toll and they are now in the process of replanting the entire vineyard. This means that they are at least four years away from developing any estate wines. In the meantime they are concentrating on marketing their beautiful facility for weddings and special events. They are looking forward to reestablishing the cafe next month. We are hopeful that they will begin sourcing fruit and/or juice to produce wine in house rather than relying on a partnership with another winery. Done right, Chenault Vineyards has the potential to become a fantastic destination with lots to offer their customers. We’re keeping this one on our radar.

Wine Tasting – May 20, 2017

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JP presented us with a new line of wines that Party Town will be carrying. Thomas Henry Wines from California sport a signature label.  The bottles stand out with their bright orange caps. We sampled four of their offerings:

  • 2016 Sonoma County Chardonnay
  • 2016 Napa Valley Pinot Noir
  • 2013 California Merlot
  • 2014 California Zinfandel

The Chardonnay differed from traditional Chardonnays.  While it was unoaked, I did find it to be quite flavorable and enjoyable. The reds seemed to follow tradition. My favorite from this tasting turned out to be the Merlot which was a surprise to me as I tend to prefer the boldness of Zinfandels and Cabernet Francs. This just goes to show the value of trying everything.  You never know what you are going to find.

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The dessert wine of the day was Purple Toad Winery’s Honey Kiss Mead.  I had recently sampled a number of the Purple Toad wines when I visited their winery.  This mead is a lighter version with a very nice honey wine flavor.