Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Trip Report: Lexington, KY

A couple weekends ago, John and I drove 2 1/2 hours south to Lexington, KY. We were in need of a little spring getaway and while the weather was far from spring-like, we were happy to be out of Ohio. It was also a test for Miss Sadie who was boarded for the first time in 3 years. We were quite nervous about this but it was only one night. You gotta start somewhere, right?

I did a lot of pre-planning for our little road trip, consulting websites and friends, reading review after review of hotel, restaurant, etc. Truth be told, I think I enjoy trip planning almost as much as going on the actual vacation. Almost. We set off on a Friday morning after leaving Sadie at Petsmart where she thought she was just going to spend the day at daycamp, so she was excited. She said, "smell ya later" when we left. No, not really, but that's what I imagined her saying. Saxby's coffee in hand and a box of animal crackers in the back seat for snacking and we were set!

Having never really explored Lexington or Kentucky we decided to focus on one aspect, drinking. J/K, we're no lushes, but we did go to a number of wineries and one bourbon distillery. First, we stopped at Elk Creek Vineyards. This is about an hour north of Lexington so it broke up the drive a bit. It's also not the most convenient place to get to, in fact, none of our stops were super convenient but this is worth the winding roads if you're a wine lover. The grounds were expansive and would probably be very pretty in warmer weather.

We went on a tour of their set up and did a pretty in depth tasting. There was an older couple with us on the tour as well and then they asked if we wanted to have lunch with them! What could we say?! John and I had just been saying to each other that we were hungry and should eat there. It's not as if the invitation could have been met with a response of, "No thanks, we don't eat with strangers." So we said, when in Rome -- or Owenton, as the case was, "Sure! We'll eat with you." It actually ended up being fine and not uncomfortable. In the end they saved us because we needed to head on down the road to make the tour at our next stop. Thanks Gary and Cathy!

I am not a bourbon fan. I reeeeeallly want to like it but it's just not my cup of tea, or jigger of bourbon, if you will. But, I found the tour at Woodford Reserve very interesting all the same.

Copper still........where the magic happens

For $5, we toured the smallest of the Kentucky bourbon distilleries and tasted the product at the end. Plus, free bourbon balls! Those, I loved! I couldn't get enough. When a sign says 'Complimentary' I belly up. I'm pretty sure John was embarrassed at my return trips to the candy tray. Oh well! John loves bourbon so he purchased a bottle. Each time he pours some I smell it and taste a little. Still not a convert, but I'd like to go back and tour some of the other distilleries in the area. Unfortuantely, this was a short trip.

It was late afternoon by this point but I cajoled John into making another wine stop. As it happens, Equus Run is sort of on the way from Woodford Reserve to Lexington. We got there about 20 minutes before they closed and did just about the fastest tasting I've ever done. This place was a bargain on the tastings! 6 pours for $2 and you got to keep the glass. John and I will typically taste different wines and then share so you get to try as many as possible. In this case, we tried 12. (Disregard previous lush comment) I did most of the drinking as John was our driver. Equus was a lot smaller than Elk Creek but again had very nice grounds that I'd like to see when things are blooming and grapes are growing. They offer tours but we were too late. We bought a couple bottles, including a chocolate strawberry one that John was surprisingly enamored with, and headed into town.

I made a reservation at the Hyatt in downtown Lexington on the recommendation of friends of ours. It is attached to the convention center and Rupp arena where UK plays. You're definitely paying for location with this hotel. It was very nice but it's also only 1 of 2 options for walkable lodging if you think you're going to be walking to dinner, bars, shops, etc. in this area. At $180 for the night, it was more than I'd typically spend but since it was just one night, we sprung for it! The convenience was very nice. The only bad part was when we got back to our room after dinner and drinks around midnight, we discovered the sink was clogged and had to switch rooms. I was hoping for a discount, no such luck. Probably because I didn't feel like pitching a fit. Oh well.

Anyway, after checking in we napped off the wine and bourbon and got ready for dinner. If you're going to plan a drinking trip, you had best schedule in naptime. When we went to Niagara Falls, we took a monster nap after the first day of tsting. No joke, it was 3 hours and amazing. I digress. Just across the street was a popular Lexington restaurant, de Sha's. Even though we were in the land of fried chicken and I had a major craving, I was trying to be good. I ordered the crab cakes, which were pan-fried. Oops. John had the prime rib. The food was good. Service was a tad slow but we were in no hurry. After dinner we headed next door to The Horse and Barrel, a pub that was recently voted one of the best whiskey bars in the world. Fancy! We found a table easily and settled in for the OSU / UK game. There weren't that many people out and about which I'm attributing to the cold temps and wind. Also, we were definitely the only OSU fans in the house. The service here was attentive and the drinks were good. I discovered a new to me hard cider called Crispin. It's made by Sam Adams and I'm now on an all out scavenger hunt to see who distributes it in my area. But, my favorite drink of the night was Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale which they brew about 10 minutes from where we were. It's not that great in the bottle but is VERY tasty on draught. I wish someone around here would put it on tap. Maybe I'll give the bottles another shot. You can tour the brewing facilities there too. Maybe next trip.......

We headed back to the hotel and turned in. The next morning we were all jazzed for a quick and delicious breakfast at Cosi. Yeah, they weren't open. Oops again! We had coffee cake at Starbucks instead. This broke a standard vacation rule of my father's that I've adopted, never eat anywhere you can eat at home. Too bad Starbucks is everywhere! I would have loved to walk around more and see the beautiful homes and more of the city but again, the weather was not cooperating. Must go when it's warmer. Instead, we headed out to a couple more wineries before hitting the road.

We set out to find Jean Farris Winery near downtown. It was a modest building on decent grounds. Very swanky inside. We weren't super hungry yet so we didn't have lunch or a snack and we just did a quick tasting here. They weren't overly friendly and in fact, were kind of snobby. This was sad. I wanted to spend more time here tasting but neither of us felt very comfortable and just kind of unwanted. Nobody was very helpful and they didn't really have a shop to peruse. At least if they did, I didn't see it. Maybe if we went back for dinner with a tasting we'd get a better reception. Oh well. You can't win 'em all.

Talon Winery & Vineyards is also out in the middle of nowhere but it didn't take nearly as long to get to as the ones from the previous day. We had a heck of a time figuring out where we were supposed to taste here due to some misinformation from other wine seekers. There was a wedding set up happening but also, a barrel tasting at 14 different wineries in the area. We weren't interested in the barrel tasting so, wouldn't you know, we actually needed to be in the place marked "Tasting Room." Duh. The girl pouring was very knowledgeable and friendly as were the folks at both Elk Creek and Equus. Lots of tasty wines in Kentucky. We ended up bringing home 6 bottles in total from our various stops. Our wine rack is full!

Before heading up I-75 to pick up Sadie we had lunch at Ramsey's, which is supposedly a Lexington institution. In fact, there are several locations and we just happened upon one thanks to the Yelp app on my iphone. It was here that I gave in to temptation and ordered the fried chicken. WORTH.every.last.CALORIE! It was so good. John said, "I can tell you like it because you keep making mmm noises." Yeah, it was that good. I barely gave up a single bite for John to try. They had some really good looking pies but we abstained so as not to go too far off the deep end.

After that we drove home. Well, John drove. I slept the entire time -- which I did feel badly about no matter what he says. It was a successful getaway, although I only took about 6 pictures the whole time. If you don't have time to take a full vacation, you might as well take what you can get. I'm already planning our next one......for when it finally starts to warm up.

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