Barnyard to Vineyard
lucrative venture in growing grapes,
making wine, as do other local farmers
Helen E. McKinney
CARROLLTON, Ky. (Sept. 2002) For Vicky and Krasi
Georgiev, growing grapes is more of an art form than arduous labor.
The Carrollton, Ky., couple has turned their romantic dream of owning
their own vineyard into a reality with River Valley Winery.
I cant see us doing anything else, said Vicky.
Love is the main thing, said Krasi, explaining why they
have put so much time and effort into this entrepreneurial business.
Vicky is a Carrollton native, while Krasi is from Bulgaria. It was during
the couples honeymoon near the Black Sea that they seriously began
gathering information on the grape growing process.
The entire culture of Bulgaria is proud of its wine, said Vicky. Since
the 13th century, the people of Bulgaria have been growing grapes, tending
vines and cultivating exquisite tastes that would become recognized
Every family has a vineyard; every family has wine, said
Krasi. Its like an ocean; you never see the end.
Georgiev of Carrollton
The couple researched the art of growing grapes and making
wines long before they actually planted their first grapevines. They
have worked closely with the state Agricultural Development Board, following
the states guidelines for establishing a winery.
Krasi advises anyone considering the business to work with an
agricultural agent or someone with experience.
Many different factors work together to produce a quality grape for
a quality wine. A suitable climate, a location that receives plenty
of sunlight, warmth, adequate air circulation between the vines, freedom
from frost and well-drained soil must be considered before instituting
a profitable vineyard.
Two basic decisions that must be made when starting a winery are site
selection and market consideration, according to David Loney, president
of the Kentucky Vineyard Society and a member of the Grape Industry
Advisory Committee and the Kentucky Horticulture Council.
If a commercial vineyard is being planned, growers must decide which
grape variety (or cultivar) to grow and what market is in need of that
Growing grapes is a slow process, said Krasi. The first two years are
the hardest and very labor intensive, said Vicky.
The couple hand-planted their 41/2 acres of grapes and stuck to a rigid
spray schedule to nurture their vines. Every vine has a different
personality, like kids, said Vicky. She has recently added bee
keeping to her endless list of duties to produce her own variety of
honey wine for future sale.
What wine they have produced so far will be offered for sale in September
and October at the Music in the Park series at the Butler Turpin House
at Gen. Butler State Resort Park in Carrollton. This months Music
in the Park is set for Sept. 7 and Sept. 28.
Vicky saw this music series as an opportunity to offer their product
not only to local customers but also to people from outside the state
We want to promote Carroll County, she said. Thus, they
have created wine bottle labels that illustrate the point where the
Kentucky and Ohio rivers meet in Carrollton.
When Krasi first came to Kentucky he was struck with the perfect conditions
the state afforded for the winery business. But his idea was not really
an innovative one for the area because the winery industry had flourished
in central Kentucky for years before it was destroyed by Prohibition.
The first commercial vineyard in the United States was located in Jessamine
County, Ky. It was started by Switzerland County, Ind., native John
James Dufour. Dufour organized the Kentucky Vineyard Society with 100
shareholders who planted five acres with 35 different species of grapes.
But due to a sickness that spread among the grapes, Dufour failed in
his efforts. He then moved across the Ohio River near Vevay, Ind., attempting
winemaking again in an area that became known as The Rhineland
Like Dufour, Krasi said he and his wife encountered difficulties, made
mistakes and constantly learn as we go. Vicky has been inspired
by Madison Vineyards in Madison, Ind., because they run a business similar
to what her idea of what a winery should be.
Madison Vineyards owner Steve Palmer said he has collected a library
of material and attended countless classes at Ohio State and Purdue
universities to learn as much as he could about the industry.
Palmers wife, Sandy, gave him a wine-making kit for their first
Christmas together in 1971. Four years later, they planted their first
Our biggest obstacle was financing, he said. We had
to purchase land and equipment. The Palmers converted a former
cattle farm into the present Madison Vineyards.
But unlike Palmer, Chuck Smith of Smith-Berry Gallery and Winery in
New Castle, Ky., already owned his farm and had previously grown tobacco
there. Like many other farmers searching for an alternative tobacco
crop, Smith pumped his Phase I Tobacco Settlement money back into his
farm to jump-start his winery.
Smith said that while grape growing is labor intensive on the front
end, it is easier than raising tobacco. He added that the ABC
(Alcoholic Beverage Control Board) has been helpful with the process.
There really is no replacement for tobacco, Loney said.
This is an alternative for some people. Wineries are good companions
for rural development. When supplemented with tourism, they open a full
potential for new challenges and opportunities.
Like the Georgievs and the Palmers, Smith has spent his share of time
researching the industry. He visited vineyards in California and Missouri
to observe the fundamentals of a successful winery business.
Smiths plan is to get more local farmers to grow grapes, so that
juice will not have to be shipped in to him from out of state, which
in turn aides the local economy.
Loney said that in time, Kentuckys vineyards would improve in
quality and characteristics. Expertise is what is needed most to guide
those individuals wishing to establish vineyards and wineries.
The same soil that produces world famous racehorses, bourbon and tobacco
will make a truly unique wine. The industry is still looking for
this signature group, he said.
To contact Loney at the Kentucky Vineyard Society,
call (606) 763-6120.
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