With its rustic architecture and soft, rolling hills of vines, Chrisman Mill Vineyards brings a little taste of Tuscany to the Bluegrass State. Amidst hand-painted murals of Tuscan landscapes, guests in the tasting room pair ciccetti, or Italian tapas, with sips of local wine made from the best Kentucky grapes. The laid-back environment encourages visitors to savor the small pleasures in life, as do the staff, who entertain with amusing anecdotes and enlightening descriptions of how each wine is made. At the winery in Hamburg Pavilion, guests can also browse Kentucky-made goods as well as more than a thousand winery gift items, including customized gift baskets.
Talon Winery's Lexington and Shelbyville locations offer visitors a unique wine-tasting experience. At the Lexington location, visitors can follow the entire winemaking process from vine to bottle, while strolling through a lush five-acre vineyard. The vineyard features a gift shop, and guests are welcome to a wine tasting in the historical tasting house. At the Shelbyville location, guests can sample wine in a modern tasting room adorned with a barrel ceiling. Despite the contemporary decor, the tasting room is set against the small-town charm of the city. Like the Lexington location, the Shelbyville location features a gift shop to peruse.
Lexington Beerworks brings together homebrewers and fans of finely crafted beer with an emporium of brewing supplies and a bar full of craft beers on draft or in bottles. Guests stop in for sips of Three Floyd's Gumballhead or Southern Tier's Crème Brûlée, perfect for pairing with freshly baked thin-crust pizzas. Upstairs, visitors find a treasure trove of tools for trying out their own brewing recipes at home.
The gourmands at Mermaids Bar and Bistro present a menu full of rich New American fare and southern-inspired cuisine against a cozy bistro backdrop replete with partially bricked walls and small, homey tables. Duos and quartets inaugurate feasts with starters including fried green tomatoes (an $8 value) and JR’s tempura cocktail (a $12 value)—jumbo shrimp flanked by sweet thai sauce and spicy wasabi. Popular entrees, such as the seared Atlantic salmon fillet (a $20 value) or the chorizo-anchored creole risotto (a $17 value) tastily exercise long-dormant mouth muscles and heirloom forks brought from home.
Beer Engine Microbrewery & Tap's resident beer buffs conjure signature batches of oat sodas that are brewed in-house. Sip on a quartet of samples from Beer Engine's five microbrews, which range from Freedom Ranger pale and King George's nut brown ale to Kirkner's amber––a quintessentially American brew made purely from waves of grain. Souvenir pint glasses hold aloft foamy fermentations such as virtue porter or czechvar, and half-gallon growlers allow sippers to tote their two favorite potables home and may be returned and refilled later for a fee of $11.
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.