Farmers seek ways to nurture wine industry
By Mike Rutledge
Enquirer staff writer
CAMP SPRINGS - As thousands of newly planted grape vines slowly grow in Northern
Kentucky soil, the area's young wine industry is raising the idea of putting a
tax on every bottle of wine sold in the state to help promote Kentucky wines.
"Some of the other wine-producing states actually have a surcharge that's on
every bottle of wine sold" regardless of where the wine was produced, said Larry
Leap of the Northern Kentucky Vintners & Grape Growers Association.
"That goes into the grape council's budget, that's used to promote and market
that state's wines," he said.
"That is certainly being considered as a proposal from the Kentucky Grape & Wine
Council," said Dewayne Ingram, chairman of the University of Kentucky's
horticulture department. "That is exactly the way neighboring states have funded
technical education research and support for their wine and grape industries.
"That's true in Indiana, I know; it's true in Ohio," Ingram said. "Various
states do it different ways."
Gov. Ernie Fletcher's office has no position on the tax proposal, said spokesman
"That's not something that anyone has discussed with us," Goins said. "And our
thought is certainly if the legislature wants to take a look at it, we'd be
willing to track it and obviously take a look at it.
"But we just believe that's more of a legislative issue for them," Goins said.
State Rep. Tom McKee, D-Cynthiana, who chaired the Interim Committee on
Agriculture and Natural Resources recently and heard Leap's pitch, declined to
comment on that issue.
"A new tax would probably have to go before Appropriations and Revenue," McKee
But he said he sees promise in grape-growing: "Vineyards offer some possibility
of a farmer diversifying his operation."
Northern Kentuckians this spring planted more than 12,000 grape vines, which
Campbell County agriculture extension agent David Koester said will make grapes
the area's top fruit crop when they start producing in three years.
This week, established vines were benefiting from cool evenings, and so far
grapes the size of peas are hanging from them on area hillsides
Leap offered other recommendations to lawmakers:
"We believe the state should be broken down into grape-growing regions, and each
of these regions should be given representation" on the governor-appointed Grape
& Wine Council, Leap said.
"There's nobody from western Kentucky, there's nobody from Northern Kentucky ...
it's all based out of the Lexington/Louisville region," Leap said.
Leap argues that Kentucky would benefit from legislation allowing creation of
cooperative wineries, like the ones in Oregon and California, which let multiple
companies share facilities and equipment to make wine. "This is done in
California and Oregon all the time," Leap said.
His group proposes a statewide quality seal program, like the one recently
started in Northern Kentucky, that judges wines for quality and taste, to help
"Part of the problem we're going to have is a lot of guys are starting out
wineries, and they don't have a lot of money," he said. "They don't have the
right equipment, and minimal knowledge. They get a wine out there, and it's not
that good, and basically it makes the Kentucky wine industry look bad."
He also requested incentives for wholesalers and retailers to distribute and
carry Kentucky wines.