NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ)-When you think of Kentucky you think of horses, the Kentucky Derby, maybe Kentucky bourbon. But wine isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. But more than 200 years ago wine actually got its start in America in Kentucky and now “First Vineyard & Winery” in Nicholasville has the certificate from Washington DC to prove it.
Bobbye Carpenter of “First Vineyard & Winery” says, “By getting on the National Historical Registery it’s, you know, we have finally proved to the ultimate people that it is in fact the first.”
It’s the first commercial vineyard in America. It was started by Swiss transplant John Dufour.
Carpenter says, “Most people say ‘oh that’s why you named it “First Vineyard” but we didn’t name it First Vineyard it was actually Dufour that did so in 1978.”
Thomas Beall bought the property in 1994 but at the time he didn’t know of it’s historic significance.
In 2002 a friend stumbled across a book in the Indiana State Library that told of the vineyard’s founding. Beall launched into a quest to document it’s rich history. More than a decade later it’s certified by the National Registry as the first.
Beall says, “People like Daniel Boone was a surveyor. Patrick Henry signed the first deed for the property. Henry Clay was both the attorney and one of the stockholders. Both Congressmen John Brown and John Edwards were also stockholders. George Nicholas, who also wrote the constitution for the state of Kentucky, was also a stockholder.”
It was wine that was regularly delivered to President Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Now a blend from the same species of vine is being sipped by visitors today.
Carpenter says, “We even try to plant them the same way individually staked as Dufour would have done it, for our top row that we planted the original ones.”
Without any family members to pass it on to eventually Beall will have to sell the winery. He hopes the state of Kentucky will want it or a major wine company as long as they leave it open to the public for future generations to enjoy.