In 1797, the first commercial vineyard in the United States was planted in the Kentucky Bluegrass Region. Many German immigrants flocked to the Cincinnati area on the Ohio River. German immigrants like Robert Ruf, Henry Stahl, Mathias Darfinger, as well as Joseph Conrad, Joseph, Michael and George Schweitzer left Baden Germany, traveling through Antwerp, and arriving in the Augusta, Kentucky area by the mid 1800s. Since the Ohio River around Cincinnati reminded the german settler’s of their Homeland, these new settlers dubbed the area, “America’s Rhineland(R)”. The German immigrants helped construct impressive wine cellars and premium wine was produced in Augusta, Kentucky by 1856. The Kentucky Bluegrass produced some of the finest wines in the United States in the mid 1800s.
The historic Abraham Baker wine cellar is restored and newly named in the German tradition, Baker-Bird Winery. That is, the name is based on Baker, who built the winery and Bird, who currently owns the wintery. The Baker-Bird brand denotes high quality wines. In 2010, you will be able to visit the winery, which is on the United States National Historic Registry, the Civil War Heritage Trail, and the Freedom Trail. The historic vineyards and winery restoration allows you to savor the tradition of fine wines and “Tasting History(R)”.
A tasting room in the cellar, wine shop and vineyard/historic winery tours give visitors the ultimate wine experience in an historic setting. The Winery features a unique atmosphere and hospitality. The retail shop offers an array of interesting items, and goods produced by Kentucky farm families. Art and craft items created by local artistans are also for sale. Facilities for corporate and celebration events are available. And remember the delicious wines….
Keep in mind all proceeds from the sale of wine goes to restore this historic landmark as well as help support Kentucky farm families
The Winery’s Chronological History
1797 – Augusta, Kentucky was founded in Bracken County.
John Baker moves to Augusta and purchases one of the first lots in Augusta and is on the first tax roles.
1797 The first commercial vineyard in America was founded between Frankfort and Lexington, Kentucky in Jasmine County. This enterprise was called, ” First Vineyard.” And was started by Jean Dufour a Swiss vinedresser.
1799 Abraham Baker is on the Bracken County tax records.
1800 Abraham Baker marries a local Augusta young lady by the name Mary (Polly) Bowman.
1811 Abraham Baker purchased hundreds of acres of land where the Winery stands today.
Abraham Baker Jr. is born.
1825 to 1850 Nicholas Longworth planted hundreds of acres of vineyards in Cincinnati, Ohio area. Vineyards were so plentiful that the Cincinnati area of the Ohio River Valley was called the “America’s RhinelandTM.”
1850 Nicolas Longworth took a gold medal for his champagne in competitions in Paris, France.
1840 Abraham Baker, Sr. dies and is buried about one mile from the Winery in the Family Cemetery. Abraham Baker, Jr. inherits the land where the Winery stands today.
1852 to 1853 Abraham Baker, Jr. builds the Winery in this time frame.
1856-1857 Kentucky State historical records show, “The staple productions of Mason and Bracken Counties are Indian corn, wheat, barley, rye, oats, hemp, tobacco, grapes, horses, cattle, hogs, sheep, and mules. Mason County tobacco is famous for its excellence in the markets of Europe and is grown to considerable extent in both counties; the soil of Bracken is based on yellow clay, with limestone foundation
The cultivation of tobacco in Bracken is one of the most profitable crops grown in the West, three premiums out of four, offered by the State Society for 1856, were awarded to citizens of Bracken, on tobacco.
The culture of the grape in Bracken seems destined to rival that of any part of Ohio. During the last summer a New York wine merchant came to Augusta, after visiting the vineyards in Ohio, and paid for the wine raised in the vicinity of Augusta, $2.50 per gallon, that being fifty cents over the price of the best Ohio wine. There are now several large vineyards in the county, and this year there will be from one to two hundred acres put in vines. The soil of Bracken seems peculiarly adapted to the grape, and the German wine raisers are peopling different localities rapidly.”
1859 According to Kentucky State records, ” The vineyards on the Ohio are mostly young, and several bear fruit this year for the first time. There are upwards of 120 acres now bearing in Bracken County, KY, and 1.45 acres not bearing in Brown County, O. Should the next season be as productive as this, the vineyards, which bear this year, will probably produce double the number of gallons next year, thus making 300,000 gallons between August and Maysville. To this, add the probable crop of the young vineyards not bearing, and we will have 500,000 gallons of wine as the aggregate product of next season this statement is made in accordance with the views of several prominent men in business, In some sections the average per acre is 400 gallons, but these are old vineyards. The probable average is 250 gallons per acres. I noticed Messrs Bradford and Baker’s method of preserving sweet wine in a previous report by heating and sealing up the same as is done in the case of fruit. Mr. Reynolds of Ripley, as studied a preparation, which he pits in the wine as it runs from the press, and prevents fermentation entirely. He then proceeds to clarify it, and free the wine of all the sediments. Mr. R says it will keep retaining all the rich taste of the grape, perfectly sweet even if exposed to the air. Mr. Winters, of Dover, and Mr. Crammer, of Leanne, are making the celebrated French brandy. These two gentlemen have upwards of one hundred acres in vineyards.”
1862 The Civil War Battle of Augusta occurs and the Winery was used as a safe haven during the Battle. An eye witness account of the Battle by Sam Vetch states, “At about eleven o’clock a passerby brought a message from Father, to Mother, to bring the children and noon lunch and come at once to him at where he was stationed. I can never forget his words, “Go quickly to Baker’s wine cellar. I want you out of town before I am released. I am afraid of the Rebels are coming today.” We hurried out to the wine cellar. He came with us and we all ate lunch together. He went up the hill to gather grapes.I saw my Father coming over the hill shouting: ‘Leave the mare and colt in the road, throw the bridle over the fence into the weeds and make for the wine cellar.’ He beat me across the point of the hill, shouting to the folks about the wine press, warning them to take shelter.”
1863 “36,009 gallons of wine manufactured in Bracken Co. in 1862, and 31,030 gallons in 1863,” according to Kentucky State Agriculture records.
1865 “Dr. Joshua T. Bradford of Augusta, Bracken Co., sells to Wm. P. Anderson’s Longworth’s Wine House, Cincinnati, 10,000 gallons of mature wine from his own vineyard, at $2.36 and $2.50 per gallon.”
1870 The production of wine in 1870, by States, was as follows:
California 1,814,656 gallons
Missouri 326,173 gallons
Ohio 212, 912 gallons
Illinois 111, 882 gallons
Pennsylvania 97,165 gallons
New York 82,607 gallons
Kentucky 62,360 gallons
North Carolina 62,348 gallons
Iowa 37,518 gallons
Connecticut 27,414 gallons
Virginia 26,283 gallons
1919 Kentucky is the fifth largest grape producing State in the U.S.
1920 U.S. Prohibition starts on December 16th.
1933 On December 5th, Prohibition is repealed.
1947 George and Ruth White purchase the Winery and surrounding land for $1.00.
1975 The Winery is listed on the National Historic Registry.
2002 Dinah Bird and Martin Westerfield purchase the Winery.
2006 On April 15th, Good Friday, new vines are planted at the Baker Bird Winery.
2009 The Baker Bird Winery reopens and invites you to visit and enjoy wines of “Antiquarian ExtraordinaireTM ” while “Tasting HistoryTM.”