Ensconcing visitors in spacious rooms surrounded by 30 lush acres of grapevines, Elk Creek Vineyards merges the grandeur of Napa Valley with Kentucky hospitality. Among three discrete lodgings, the Estates' wraparound deck sounds the creak of rocking chairs, the Inn's communial living room welcomes late-night conversation, and the Lodge's private decks open up onto vineyard and lake. Live entertainment every Friday and Saturday keeps eardrums occupied, and a gallery exhibits the creations of local artists. During tastings and tours, guests sample the vineyard's products and stroll through the fields, popping grapes to figure out which ones are alcoholic.
Since 1997, Neil and Rachel Vasilakes have been growing fresh fruit with minimal pesticides on 30 acres of rolling farmland. With the grapes, berries, apples, and peaches that grow there, they craft 22 wines. Included in these are nine dry reds, which range from medium to robust, as well as such dry whites as chardonnay and seyval blanc. Neil, the primary winemaker, also enjoys exploring unusual varietals, fermenting small quantities of inventive recipes for his Black Barrel Reserve collection. Though they frequently rotate, these wines sometimes include peach mead, port wine aged in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels, and black walnut wine aged in Maker's Mark barrels. The winery is also known for Neil's blackberry, strawberry, and blueberry wines.
Within their tasting room, they serve up cheese pairings to complement the flavors of the wines, several of which won silver and bronze medals at the 2009 Kentucky State Fair Commercial Wine Contest. Believing that no good thing should go to waste, they repurpose some wines from the tasting room into gourmet cooking vinegars.
Kentucky Wine Tours' knowledgeable guides open eyes and palates to the birthplaces of Kentucky's distinct wines and whiskeys, from the sun-kissed vineyards to the cellars stocked with oak barrels. Continuing a proud tradition begun during Prohibition, when bootleggers offered illegal tours of their moonshine-filled bathtubs, the all-inclusive excursions wend through everything from award-winning wineries to such famous distilleries as Wild Turkey and Maker's Mark. Named one of the 10 "classic American experiences" by CNN.com, bourbon tours travel along the historic Kentucky Bourbon Trail, surrounded by the historic buildings and limestone-rich rivers that lend the state's bourbons their distinct citrusy flavor.
Located in the bourbon capital of the world, Heaven Hill Distilleries has a long history that stretches back to the birth of the spirit. Today, Heaven Hills honors tried and true traditions by crafting its bourbon using pure Kentucky water and corn—as opposed to wheat from one of its neighboring states. Visitors can get an in-depth look at the distilling process through a host of tours that include educational bourbon tastings.