A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Back Roads Wine Trail showcases Northern Kentucky wineries

By John Lachmann

NKyTribune contributor

A few years ago, Julie Clinkenbeard and Dennis Walter found themselves running into several other local winemakers at area events.

It was during those gatherings that the idea was hatched to begin a Northern Kentucky wine trail.

The result was the Back Roads Wine Trail, the first such official trail in the state, which now boasts six members in Kenton, Campbell and Bracken counties.

Clinkenbeard is the owner of Atwood Hill Winery, and Walter heads StoneBrook Winery in Camp Springs.

“I saw Dennis at a meeting and he said ‘you know, I think we ought to think about maybe putting a wine trail together,’” Clinkenbeard said. “He’s close to Seven Wells (Winery) and Camp Springs (Vineyard), and we all get along great. So we had a meeting and sat down and everyone was really interested in it.”

Some of the featured wines from Back Road Wine Trail members

Some of the featured wines from Back Roads Wine Trail members (all photos by C. Lachmann)

The trail is a dream for wine lovers, who can easily visit several establishments on a Saturday or Sunday thanks to their relative proximity. Visitors can sample drinks in each winery’s tasting room and buy the ones they like on premises at reasonable prices.

Walter said that when he traveled to other wineries downstate, he coordinated trips so he could make multiple stops, and the Back Roads Wine Trail allows visitors to do the same when in this area.

“We personally at StoneBrook, know that when we go somewhere to visit wineries, we don’t want to drive two hours and visit one winery,” Walter said. “So the time was right…to form a wine trail so we can draw in the customer who may be coming (from) an hour away and make it worth their while that there’s several wineries within a day’s drive of where they’re going. It actually attracts people when you have more than just one winery.”

Those who visit any of the wineries can pick up a Back Roads “passport”, which is stamped at each stop, and upon arriving at the final one, the holder receives a ceramic coaster with the trail logo. Patrons have a year to complete their passports.

Another appeal of the Back Roads Wine Trail is the reasonable price for tastings and bottles. Customers can sample a number of wines at each stop for about $5, and most bottles run between $12 and $16.

“I think that’s always been our business plan, to make a good quality, affordable wine,’” Walter said. “Sometimes you’d like to have a wine that’s $40 a bottle – that would be a really nice, specialty wine – but for the average person this price point is affordable.”

Said Chris Enzweiler, co-owner of Camp Springs Vineyard. “It’s mostly what the market can support. We realize that we’re not in the Napa Valley, and it’s nice to keep prices where everybody can afford a bottle or two.”

Vineyard at Atwood Hill Winery

Vineyard at Atwood Hill Winery

Clinkenbeard’s Atwood Hill winery, which is about 13 miles south of Interstate 275 off the Independence exit, began planting its vines in 2005. It is often the first stop on the trail for visitors from the south because of its proximity to Interstate 75.

Like many wineries in the state, the sixth-generation family farm, which was established in 1918, previously harvested tobacco. With the outsourcing of that plant, and with fewer smokers nationwide, many wineries in Kentucky have similar stories about converting their fields.

Atwood Hill started selling wine in 2009, opening its tasting room the same year. Its most popular wine is its Vidal blanc.

“When you say Vidal, a lot of people in Kentucky aren’t familiar with it, but when you say it’s like a sweet Riesling, their eyes open up,” Clinkenbeard said.

StoneBrook Winery, another founding member of the trail located in Camp Springs, boasts 24 different wines with a 25th set to debut in the coming weeks. It opened its tasting room in June of 2005.

StoneBrook boasts an extensive line of wines and is best known for its blackberry wine, which has won numerous awards.

“I guess our specialty is our fruit wines,” Walter said. “It takes a little of bit of doing to make a really good fruit wine, with a nice finish on it, nice balance, not syrupy but clean and crisp.”

Camp Springs Vineyard, which opened its doors in 2010, is just three miles from StoneBrook. The Enzweiler family built the tasting room and store and also sells locally-made items such as art and quilts.

Its top seller this year has been its Herbst Vidal blanc, a semi-sweet white that has a light oak flavor.

Seven Wells Winery began planting grapes in 2004 and now has evolved to over 3,000 vines on five acres in California, Kentucky, about 15 miles south of I-275 off of U.S. 27.

Redman’s Winery, the newest member of the Back Roads Wine Trail, having joined last year, is located on a fifth-generation working farm in Morning View, about four miles southwest of Alexandria off of KY 177.

Baker-Bird Winery is the most outlying of the wineries on the trail, located off Ky. 19 in Augusta, but it boasts the richest history. It has the oldest wine cellar in the country still open to the public, which itself is worth the half hour trip down the AA Highway.

The 90-foot long and 40-foot high structure was built in the 1860s.

Atwood Hill 1

Baker-Bird has more high-end wines that are pricier and also imports grapes from other regions.
Most of the wineries are located on farms with lots of space and are available for large gatherings and wedding receptions. StoneBrook also hosts regular dinners, and Camp Springs will begin doing the same later this summer

Baker-Bird recently hosted a wedding in its wine cellar, and converted the cavernous space for the ensuing reception in just half an hour.

“I hired every teenager in Augusta,” owner Dinah Bird said.

Enzweiler said that the cooperative nature of the wineries has made marketing easier for all of them, as they pool money that’s used for promotional items, such as the trail’s brochure.

“It’s helped quite a bit,” Enzweiler said. “It’s easier to market – it helps to soften the blow – and there’s more of us out there marketing the trail than an individual winery.”

Combining efforts, putting out pamphlets and maintaining an active Website has also helped the trail members lead visitors to their remote locations.

Baker-Bird’s site even tells potential visitors not to trust their GPS devices when trying to locate its winery.

With more wineries popping up in the area, the Back Roads Wine Trail could ultimately add more members. The group has had discussions with Verona Vineyards, and nearby Brianza Gardens and Winery in Crittenden, which just opened its tasting room two months ago.

“We’re always looking for a nice addition,” Walter said. “The more the merrier sometimes.”

The Back Roads Wine Trail is having plenty of success with its six current members. Clinkenbeard estimated that a quarter of the visitors to Atwood on the weekends found out about her winery via the trail.

“It’s kind of like the bourbon and the beer – we’ve been doing the bourbon trail the last three or four years, and every time we go back they’ve added on, or the crowds are bigger, or there’s a charge for the tastings. It’s just getting bigger and bigger, and it’s become like an addiction,” Clinkenbeard said. “Even when we go on vacation, the first thing we want to do…is hit some new wineries. I think right now it’s just the ‘in’ thing.”


Year opened: 2009.
Website: www.atwoodhillwinery.com
Location: 1616 Spillman Rd., Morning View.
Tasting room hours: Fridays – 4-8 p.m., Saturdays – 1-7 p.m., Sundays – 1-6 p.m.

Year opened: 1856 (reopened in 2009).
Website: www.bakerbirdwinery.com
Location: 4465 Augusta-Chatham Rd., Augusta.
Tasting room hours: Saturdays and Sundays, 1-5 p.m.

Year opened: 2009.
Website: www.campspringsvineyard.com
Location: 6685 Four Mile Road, Camp Springs.
Tasting room hours: Fridays – 5-9 p.m., Saturdays – 1-6 p.m., Sundays 1-6 p.m.

Year opened: 2008.
Website: www.atwoodhillwinery.com
Location: 1616 Spillman Rd., Morning View.
Tasting room hours: Fridays – 4-8 p.m., Saturdays – 1-7 p.m., Sundays – 1-6 p.m.

Year opened: N/A
Website: www.redmansfarmnky.com
Location: 12449 Decoursey Pike, Morning View.
Tasting room hours: Fridays – 5-9 p.m., Saturdays – 1-9 p.m., Sundays – 1-6 p.m.

Year opened: 2008.
Website: www.sevenwellswinery.com
Location: 1223 Siry Rd., California.
Tasting room hours: Fridays – 5-9 p.m., Saturdays – 12-8 p.m., Sundays – 12-6 p.m.

Year opened: 2009.
Website: www.atwoodhillwinery.com
Location: 1616 Spillman Rd., Morning View.
Tasting room hours: Fridays – 4-8 p.m., Saturdays – 1-7 p.m., Sundays – 1-6 p.m.

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