One Person’s Take on The KDF WineFest on Louisville’s Belvedere

By Jackie Hollenkamp Bentley

All families have their quirks. Oh man, the Hollenkamp family is no different. There’s five of us, three of us girls. And we share a deep love for a lot of things, two of them being our mom and wine. So when we found out the Kentucky Derby Festival’s Kentucky Proud WineFest opened the night of our mom’s 79th birthday (who has been making her own wine for a decade), we knew exactly how we were going to celebrate … and unleashed the Hollenkamp Family onto the Belvedere last night.

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My husband and I arrived first, media credentials in hand (he was louisvilleky.com’s official photographer that night). When we went to grab the complimentary wine glass for tastings, we were quickly informed the media gets nothing. The explanation (a valid one, I’m reluctant to admit) is that they sold out and each glass is assigned to each $40 ticket holder. That’s okay. I can sip from my sisters’ glasses.

One of the many wineries who happily shared their award-winning vino.

One of the many wineries who happily shared their award-winning vino.

I have to admit, it’s been awhile since I attended the WineFest. I believe I attended the very first one when it was nestled inside the Chow Wagon. So when we spotted handsomely dressed servers carrying plates of cheeses, crackers and fruits, we were impressed. Then we saw a guy walk around with a bucket. Unfortunately, our inner teenager popped out and my husband looked at me and I just KNEW he was going to reference Mel Brooks’ History of The World.

“Oh Royal Piss Boy!” Yeah. He went there.

So after the giggles between us subsided (Hey, we don’t get out much anymore), we greeted the rest of my family and turned to my nephew, A.J., for guidance. He has been at the last five our six festivals and I consider this his Disneyland. Like any party, everybody is quiet and sticking to their particular group of friends. Then the 6:30 Wine 101 class conducted by Louisville’s Old 502 Winery began.

Old 502 Winery booth. Next door, we learned about food and wine pairings during the winery's Wine 101 class

Old 502 Winery booth. Next door, we learned about food and wine pairings during the winery’s Wine 101 class.

“There’s a right way to drink wine and a wrong way to drink wine. We recommend both,” said the guy on the mic as employees happily filled the crowd’s wine glasses and shared their samples of food.

By then, my brother-in-law saved the day by giving me his drink tickets and glass. (He’s more of a beer/bourbon kind of guy.)

Here's my hero.

My brother-in-law, Tommy, who saved the day for me.

By 7:00, the atmosphere began to loosen up. By 8:00, EVERYBODY was everybody’s friend. Even the ladies in line with me at the restroom trailer were my besties for the moment. Laughter was heard throughout and smiles abound.

“Oh try this!”

“Is that a slushie? Where did you get that!?”

“What if I break my glass?”

“You’re screwed.”

“Who has a good white?”

“Oh man, that’s a good cab!”

Mind you, there were no slosh/hammered/staggering drunks. This was just a night to enjoy what Kentucky and Indiana’s wineries have to offer and share in that sense of community wine appreciation seems to create.

For The Hollenkamp Family, and my mom, it was a fun night and, hopefully, a birthday my mom won’t forget.

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That’s my mom, Eunice, in the middle. My dad (sporting the hat) is behind her. He wasn’t too enthused at first about going. “Everybody’s crazy paying $40 to drink wine and eat cheese!” But, we think he had a good time.

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