By Marty Rosen
Not long ago, at a late summer potluck barbecue, the wine selection had prestigious leanings: Oregon Pinot Noir, French Rhone, Australian Shiraz. Into that mix I quietly slipped a few bottles made from Kentucky-grown Norton grapes.
Then I stepped aside and waited. But not for long.
Within minutes folks were asking where that nice wine was from. Right here in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, about 20 minutes south of Louisville in Bullitt County, a place that has long been legendary for its amber spirits.
Home of Jim Beam
The Beam family started making Bourbon here in 1795, and seven generations later the family is still involved in making Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon, one of the best-known, best-selling whiskeys in the world. In fact, the Jim Beam American Stillhouse – where visitors can take a guided tour and taste this liquid gold – is an official stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Tour, designated by National Geographic magazine in 2013 as one of the top 10 attractions in the world!
But it seems the same conditions that make for fine spirits often make for fine wines, so visitors to Bullitt County can tap into an emerging wine scene that’s already producing some very nice products. Those bottles of Kentucky Norton – a dry, robust wine that earned plenty of attention and paired perfectly with big barbecue flavors – came from award-winning Wight-Meyer Winery.
There, and at three other up-and-coming Bullitt County wineries (Brooks Hill Winery, Forest Edge Winery and MillaNova Winery) visitors can tour scenic vineyards and grounds, chat with the winemakers and discover regional wines that are starting to earn a national reputation.
Bourbon and Wine Trail
In fact, the Bullitt County Bourbon and Wine Trail covers a mere nine miles, but takes visitors to six locations – four wineries, Jim Beam American Stillhouse and the Four Roses Warehouse & Bottling Tour – before culminating at one of the area’s most popular restaurants, Cattleman’s Roadhouse.
(OK, you don’t have to order the aged 20-ounce top sirloin unless you’re a true cowpoke, but let’s face it – a day of tasting wine and Bourbon does build up a pretty good appetite.)
Though Bullitt County is only minutes away from the urban attractions of Louisville (including Churchill Downs, the KFC Yum! Center, Papa John’s Stadium, the Actors Theatre of Louisville and the Kentucky Center for the Arts), it’s most definitely a proud land of scuffed shoes, beautiful countryside, bluegrass music, and plenty of unique fairs, festivals and year-round attractions.
High Heels & Racing Thrills
Most shoe stores aren’t tourist destinations, but most shoe stores aren’t Zappo's, 6pm.com Outlet Stores, which has an enormous shipping operation in Bullitt County – and a 10,000-square-foot (no pun intended) outlet store with up to 70% off everyday.
If you do buy some shoes, you can break them in at one of Kentucky’s treasures: Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest. With 14,000 acres and 35 miles of trails, Bernheim is a peaceful, thoughtfully curated blend of nature, art, science and education. A rich array of programs offers stimulation for kids and adults alike, but it’s also a place where people can refresh with a stroll or an hour of quiet reflection on a comfortable bench.
For great family fun it’s hard to beat Kart Kountry, an expansive entertainment complex featuring miniature golf, bumper boats, batting cages, archery tag, an arcade and – stretching 1.5 miles – the longest go-kart track in the world!
Festival season runs pretty much year-round in Bullitt County and Shepherdsville, including everything from bluegrass (including an annual mid-winter festival) and a Native American Pow Wow to an annual demolition derby, Shepherdsfest (a September celebration of Christian art and music) and a famous – or some might say, infamous – semi-annual “machine gun shoot” at Knob Creek Gun Range that draws visitors from all over the country.
Ready to plan your trip to one of Kentucky’s most treasured areas? For more information on things to see and do, call (800) 526-2068 or visit www.travelbullitt.org.
If You Go
Tourist & Convention Commission
(502) 543-8687, (800) 526-2068, www.travelbullitt.org
Jim Beam American Stillhouse
(502) 543-2221, www.americanstillhouse.com
Kentucky Bourbon Trail
(502) 875-9354, www.kybourbontrail.com
Four Roses Warehouse & Bottling Tour
(502) 543-2264, www.fourrosesbourbon.com/warehousing-bottling-facility
(502) 921-0267, www.wight-meyervineyards.com
Brooks Hill Winery
(502) 957-7810, www.brookshillwinery.com
Forest Edge Winery
(502) 531-9610, www.forestedgewine.com
(502) 664-8304, www.millanovawinery.com
(502) 955-1010, www.cattlemansroadhouse.com
(502) 921-4949, www.zappos.com
Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest
(502) 955-8512, www.bernheim.org
(502) 543-9588, www.gokartkountry.com
(502) 541-9561, www.shepherdsfest.com
Knob Creek Gun Range
(502) 922-4457, www.knobcreekrange.com