Building Tourism

Trimble County Fiscal Court
approves Sunday wine sales

Bedford winery to start its
Sunday sales by late spring

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

BEDFORD, Ky. (March 2012) – To say that Teresa and David Weyler are excited about the approval of Sunday wine sales in their precinct of Trimble County, Ky., would be an understatement. Their small, part-time business, the Little Kentucky River Winery, can now bring more revenue and tourists to the county.
Trimble County Fiscal Court in November approved the second reading of an ordinance that would allow the sale of wine on Sundays. There was only one dissenting vote, said Trimble County Judge-Executive Randy Stevens.
“We heard from a well-defined group on the second reading,” said Stevens. “Approximately 50 individuals came to the court meeting but only two spoke. I believe the rest were in support that Sunday wine sales are not a necessary thing.”
Many in the community feel that Sunday wine sales are just a step toward going wet, said Stevens. But he and others feel this is not the case. “This can’t happen unless it’s the will of the people.”
Stevens pointed out that initially, the winery was put in place by a public vote. Petitions were signed and it was approved by a 2-1 vote, even though there was not a heavy turnout, he said.
“The key to understanding Fiscal Court’s dealings with the issue is that we looked at it as a business decision,” Stevens said.
The court considered the idea of the winery helping the community in one respect by simply buying a piece of property with a dilapidated house and remodeling it. “Right now, the winery appears to be a good neighbor to the community,” he said.
The Weylers asked the court that they be allowed to sell wine from 1-10 p.m. on Sundays to better accommodate their customers, Stevens said. He continued, saying that similar small farm wineries can help other business in the area.
“I don’t believe small wineries such as this one can exist only on wine sales to Trimble County residents,” but rather it will also take outside sales to turn a profit, said Stevens.
“We’re happy that a lot of people in the community did back us,” said Teresa Weyler. “It should bring more revenue into the county.”
Although the Weylers had the majority of their support from the community in the East Bedford precinct where the winery is located, “there is still opposition within the religious community, but that is not a bad thing,” said Weyler.
One opposing group, the “Faith Community of Trimble County,” state their position as not wanting to share their day of worship with the sale of alcoholic beverages. Such groups just ask for reverence and honor for the Lord’s Day on Sundays.
There are a lot of surrounding counties that have passed the ordinance to sell wine on Sundays, said Weyler. She cited the following counties as having wineries: Henry County’s Smith-Berry Winery in New Castle; Owen County’s Elk Creek Vineyards in Owenton; and Carroll County’s River Valley Winery near Carrollton.
Weyler sees Sunday wine sales as a way to “bring a lot more people through the area. We see people from Madison, La Grange, Louisville, Ohio and even tourists from Alabama have stopped in,” she said. Any time tourists visit, Weyler said she is quick to point out other places of interest such as restaurants in the area.
Tourists often visit several wineries in one weekend, she said. For this reason, “they’ll spend time doing other things in the area.” She believes it’s difficult for visitors to spend much time in the area if a lot of businesses, such as wineries, are closed.
“It would be better for the industry if there were statewide approval of wine sales on Sunday,” she said.
The Little Kentucky River Winery works closely with the University of Kentucky Agricultural Department. “They’ve been a huge help” in getting the winery established, said Weyler. The Weylers are also members of Kentucky Proud Products and the Kentucky Vineyard Society.
“We continually research legislative laws and have a committee, made up of all of our board members, which lobby for laws in favor of those wineries and vineyards” said Alicia McGuire, executive director of the Kentucky Vineyard Society.
There are several wineries in this region of the state that are new and have had to go through the Sunday wine sale approval process. “We try to point wineries in the right direction,” she said. “A lot of new wineries have had this problem and the more established wineries can help them.”
McGuire said it would “behoove the Kentucky wine industry if all wineries could sell wine on Sundays. We’ll work toward that happening.”
The Kentucky Vineyard Society partners with the University of Kentucky Agricultural Department to provide continuing education classes for vineyard and winery owners. A winter conference was recently held in Lexington and a summer field day will be held in June. This field day provides onsite vineyard and winery training, said McGuire.
She said one of the main benefits for opening a winery in the state is that owners can use Kentucky Proud grapes. “Before the Prohibition, we were ranked in the top three states in the country for producing grapes,” McGuire said. She believes Kentuckians should “take pride in helping our vineyards and wineries get the respect we know we deserve.”
Kentucky has a lot of history, and UK and the Kentucky Vineyard Society offer the tools and continuing education to help vineyards and wineries become successful, she said. The society was recently awarded a $515,000 Kentucky Agricultural Department Funding grant. The grant helped save three positions in the Viticulure Department at UK and provided funding to the Kentucky Vineyard Society to help further educate wineries and vineyard owners.
Weyler said it would probably be late spring before the Little Kentucky River Winery actually began selling wine on Sundays. “Right now we’re in a slow season,” she said. But she has planned musical events and different activities for warmer months when people can get out with their families and enjoy the winery and surrounding amenities, such as fishing and picnic areas, that it has.

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