Henry farmer to produce,
sell wine in New Castle

Community votes to allow sale of wine

Ben Fronczek
Staff Writer

(January 2002) NEW CASTLE, Ky. – Henry County farmer Chuck Smith is chasing a three-year dream. If he fulfills it, folks may soon be referring to his hometown as “Vintage New Castle.”

Chuck & Mary Berry

Chuck & Mary Berry

Smith is working toward opening the city’s first commercial winery sometime in 2002. A Dec. 11 vote of county residents passed overwhelmingly, allowing Smith to establish a winery and giving him the right to sell wine in the otherwise dry Henry County under several Kentucky Revised Statutes.
Smith’s new venture will be called the Smith-Berry Winery and Vineyards and will be located on his 180-acre farm at 855 Drennon Rd., just east of town.
“We feel like our community really supported us and will continue to support us on this new venture,” said Smith, 43. “We’re overwhelmed with feelings that it went that well.”
A New Castle native, Smith runs his farm with his wife, Mary Berry, and his three daughters, Katie, 20, Virginia, 16, and Tanya, 11. The Smiths have owned the farm since 1980, raising of cattle and tobacco. During the 1990s, they started to raise organic vegetables, which they sold at the New Castle farmer’s market. They also had pasture poultry.
But a visit to California’s Napa Valley three years ago planted a new seed in the Smiths’ farming ventures. It was here and on a trip a year later to Livermore, Calif., that introduced Smith to the wonders of grape growing.
“It peaked my interest, especially that you didn’t need a lot of land to have a winery,” said Smith. “I always thought you needed to have 300 to 400 acres.”
But as it turned out, the Ivan Tamas Winery he visited in Livermore only had eight acres of vineyards.
“They had some really nice wines, too,” he said.
Upon his return home, Smith pursued his interest by becoming involved in the Kentucky Vineyard Society. He met Louisville resident Mark Klan, a society member.
Smith began studying laws of alcohol legislation in dry counties. In January 2000, Smith attended the Kentucky Vineyard and Horticulture meeting in Lexington, Ky. There, one of the issues discussed was trying to legalize the sale of wine in a dry county. It wasn’t long before a bill was drawn up and passed before the General Assembly, and local option elections on wine sales in such counties were allowed under the governance of statutes.
With these statutes in place, Smith began promoting a petition for a winery at his farm. He had to obtain signatures of 25 percent of the registered voters who voted in the last election in order for a local option election to be called. He said he found the community favorable to the issue. By late September, the petitions were turned into county clerk, and two months later, the vote was taken and the statute passed.
“I think this is an exciting thing,” said Henry County resident John Logan Brent. “If we are going to have a healthy local economy and maintain the quality of life, agriculture has to play a big part. I think a winery will work toward those goals and could open up a lot of doors for farmers and spin-off businesses.”
“I think this was a tremendous effort on his part,” said Klan, who came up from Louisville for the Dec. 11 meeting. “It provides a nice alternative to the traditional Kentucky tobacco growing. If you look at the location of New Castle between I-71 and I-64, it’s in a perfect area. Most of the people purchasing are interested in tourism, so a winery is a hot financial opportunity.”
The newly passed statute allows the sale of wine at Smith’s establishment only and not on Sundays.
Currently, Smith is already growing four types of grapes on four acres of land. He plans to offer a balance of both dry and sweet and red and white wines. Guests will able to tour the vineyards and enjoy the tasting room, which will be in an old buggy shed next to the Smiths’ Victorian gingerbread-style home. Smith said half of this structure will be used to house an art gallery. He is also planning to later establish a conference center and reception hall on his property.
“That is our long term plan,” he emphasized.
His tentative timeline is to prepare the tasting room by April and landscape his property to include a new driveway to accommodate bus tours and the like.
Smith invites anyone seeking information about the winery to call him at (502) 845-7091.

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