Kentucky Lawmakers hear of wine industry’s growth | Environment
FRANKFORT – No longer in its infancy, Kentucky’s wine industry is maturing and thriving, a state agriculture official told lawmakers during today’s meeting of the Licensing and Occupations Committee.
Kentucky wines earned 11 honors, including two gold medals, at the recent Indy International Wine Competition, one of the nation’s premier wine festivals, said Mac Stone, executive director of the Office of Agriculture’s marketing office. He also noted that the number of Kentucky wines entered in Kentucky State Fair competitions has doubled, from 100 to 200, within the past two years.
Kentucky wineries have expanded beyond the central part of the state to areas including Owensboro, Paducah, Morehead and southeast Kentucky, Stone said. In addition to making wine, 42 wineries have tasting rooms, five have restaurants, 21 host special dinners, and 28 host concerts or music.
“That shows that it’s not just selling wine,” Stone said. “They are getting people out into the countryside. They are quite an economic engine for their local communities.”
Roger Leasor of the Kentucky Grape and Wine Council told lawmakers the wine industry that took years to develop is now firmly established. “I’ve been working with them for 17 years and at no time has it been healthier or looked brighter than it is now,” he said.
Kentucky wines are expected to have a spot on the menus at several Kentucky State Resort Parks, which plan to begin selling alcoholic beverages soon, Stone said.
Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, described the growth of Kentucky’s wine industry as “phenomenal,” and noted that Kentucky was once a top wine producer.
“Kentucky was a leading wine producer in 1900 in the United States, and then prohibition put us out of business,” he said.
Now that the wine industry has returned in Kentucky, hard-won gains must be protected, Leasor said. “We must defend the things that are working and not take any step backward.”
--From the Kentucky LRC