Kentucky isn't new to the wine-making industry. In fact, commercial wine making started here in 1803. The first commercial vineyard and winery in the United States was set up on the banks of the Kentucky River, thanks to Jean-Jacques Dufour, the personal winemaker for the Marquis de Lafayette. He set out on a mission to find the perfect soil for growing grapes on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. He found that spot in Jessamine County, Kentucky. A group of entrepreneurs, including the famous statesman Henry Clay, joined with Dufour and invested their money to buy a plot of land. The first vintage was bottled in 1803, and was sold to Thomas Jefferson for his personal collection. So began the commercial wine industry in America.
The reputation of Kentucky's wine spread quickly, enabling the fledgling business to grow rapidly until it was devastated during the civil war. The industry was slow to come back at first, but by the turn of the century, Kentucky was back in full wine production, becoming the third-largest wine-producing state in the nation.
The industry took a second major blow when Prohibition was enacted, essentially shutting it down for good. Farmers who were tending vineyards abandoned their grapes in favor of a new cash crop, tobacco. Even after Prohibition ended, a good portion of the stateâ€™s farmers continued to grow tobacco. It wasn't until 1976 that the Kentucky legislature once again began allowing wineries to operate, and the industry has been coming back strong since.
The wine industry in Kentucky is one of America's best kept secrets. After suffering some setbacks over the past two centuries, the Kentucky wine industry is once again strong and thriving, and ready to share its world-class vintages with the rest of the world. The quality of the wine produced in the state is starting to earn Kentucky vintners nation and international prominence.
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