Sunday, July 29, 2012


So much of our state's history has depended on people who came here from elsewhere (not even the Indians were natives) and they often came by a river.
Jean Jacques Dufour, impressed by our Revolution, came here seeking soil to grow the grapes his family grew in his native Switzerland. A riverboat dropped him at Salter's Tavern, where he saw the steep hills of wild Jessamine County, and he knew he was home.
In 1799 Dufour chartered the first commercial vineyard, not in Kentucky but in the new United States.  Henry Clay was among his subscribers; when he produced his first wine a few years later, bottles went to a noted American wine expert, President Thomas Jefferson.
In time, Dufour's noble experiment failed and the hillside vines fell into disuse; the stone buildings that had been his winery, collapsed.
Fast forward two hundred years.
Ex-police detective Tommy Beale, history buff, and amateur wine-maker goes looking for Dufour's original site. After pouring over deeds, old records, and history books, Beale felt he had found that site and bought the land. Subsequent excavations and surveys proved him right, and slowly over the years he brought the land back to a semblance of the days when Dufour presided over it.
He has now produced his first wine, which I had the pleasure to enjoy over last  weekend...and this weekend he will formally open his First Vineyard--Kentucky's first vineyard--America's first vineyard.
You need to be a pioneer, such as Dufour---and Tommy Beale to find the place..down a not very well marked two lane blacktop road, that becomes a one lane plus road (where the sign says "Road Narrows!"), past another road that once led to an old fort ("no longer visible", according to the US Geological Survey) and down Sugar Creek Pike to the Sugar Creek Resort which he also operates.
Starting Thursday, August 2nd, thru Saturday (no Sunday sales in Jessamine County, not even for America's first winery) the weekend, from one until seven pm this historic place will come to life again..  The vineyard/winery will be open to customers and history buffs and modern day tourists, in the footsteps of J.J. Dufour. Google First Vineyard, or go to, or call 859-229-3154, or 946-4208 to check on directions.  I strongly advise doing this; it is not easy to find  the first time..and I had a navigator.
But, if you persevere,  O Pioneer, you should arrive at 5800 Sugar Creek Pike..and step back into our history.

1 comment: