Two Ways a Kentucky Winery Finds Grape Growers

Being in Kentucky with a limited selection of grapes that grow well within the state’s borders, Chenault Vineyards sources from growers in California and Chile to make the wines that round out its portfolio. 

Winemaker Alex Southwell said its estate grapes are useful for its sweeter wines, but the Richmond, Kentucky winery has found two resources especially helpful for making contacts with growers who are both in and out of state.

“For our climate here in Kentucky, there are only so many grapes that can grow well here,” Southwell said. “We grow predominantly hybrid and American varietal grapes. So for us it’s very important to be able to bring in vinifera grapes from outside sources to produce high quality dry wine.”

Working with grape brokers had made that task easier for the Richmond-based winery.

“Grape brokers are a great way to purchase outside grapes as they will only buy good fruit and facilitate all of the logistics for you,” Southwell said. “Keeping a good relationship with them is important based on purchasing from them year after year.”

He said state agricultural departments were also a good resource for determining your grower options.

“For local growers, Kentucky’s agricultural department is actually extremely helpful,” Southwell said. “They have a list of all the growers in the area and send it out every year. I always ask what the Brix and pH were of the harvest last year and judge it on that. I have noticed a lot of growers will harvest early to make sure they get the largest volume of grapes possible, so knowing this is very important.

“I look for a grower that’s willing to work with me on the timing of the harvest based on these numbers.”

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