The whole city of Louisville buzzes in anticipation every spring for the Kentucky Derby Festival events, not least among them the three designed for imbibing. Pick your pleasure from the best of the local and regional bourbons, wines or beers at this year’s Bourbonville, WineFest or BeerFest.
The newest of the Kentucky Derby Festival (KDF) social drinking events, BourbonVille is returning for its second year on Thursday, April 12 at 6 p.m. at the Louisville Palace. This year, King Southern Bank is title sponsor for the festival, with Angel’s Envy hosting the VIP area.
Mike Gandolfo, Chairperson of the Bourbonville Committee, and a member of the Bourbon Society, said when he was approached last year, he was thrilled to help bring it to fruition. “I thought a signature bourbon event was long overdue, but Bourbonville is unique,” he said.
“Other bourbon events I’ve been to have all been geared towards bourbon ‘snobs.’ This event is for the casual bourbon drinker who enjoys a neat glass of bourbon just as much as the person who enjoys bourbon cocktails,” said Gandolfo. Bourbons being featured for the first time this year are Bulleit Bourbon and Jeptha Creed. Other bourbons participating include: Evan Williams, Four Roses, Jim Beam Distillery and Flat Boat.
Gandolfo said the beautiful venue also adds ambience to the event. The lobby and second floor of the Louisville Palace are used for tasting stations and a silent auction of bourbon-themed items. “Over 600 people come to this weekday event to escape work or whatever, and they can just sit back and relax, and enjoy bourbon.”
General admission tickets are $50, which includes food and tasting stations. According to Gandolfo, the VIP experience ($75) this year is a major step up, with additional gifts in the swag bag, VIP Access only to Angel’s Envy tasting, master distiller meet-and-greet and cigars.
The longest running of the events, the 14th annual Kentucky Derby Festival WineFest will take place Tuesday, May 1 and Wednesday, May 2, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the Belvedere. This year’s event offers an opportunity for oenophiles to sample winning wines from the Kentucky’s Commissioner’s Cup, the top recognition awarded to Kentucky wines annually. WineFest is sponsored by Kentucky Proud, who also provides locally sourced foods for sampling and purchase.
Event chairperson Barry Denton has been involved with WineFest for the last five years. “With Kentucky being a top-of-mind bourbon state, local wines may not get their due,” he said. “There are a ton of wineries in Kentuckiana that people don’t know about. Purple Toad in Paducah is a perfect example. It is the winery with the fourth most Facebook ‘likes’ in the world,” said Denton. For WineFest, participants can sip from over a dozen different wineries.
Denton said he encourages anyone who hasn’t experienced WineFest to make it a new Derby tradition. “It’s grown into so much more than a wine-tasting event,” he said. “Local chefs come to show pairings of what’s good with wine, so you are able to learn something. You get the opportunity to taste many phenomenal wines in one location. It’s a great event and a way to highlight some of the great things we do in our state,” he said.
Denton cautioned that those interested buy tickets early because WineFest always sells out. Tickets, which cost $45, include a complimentary wine glass, event pin and samplings of some of Kentucky’s finest beverages. WineFest also has a limited number of spots for a VIP experience at $85 which gives guests extra perks like private access entrance and samples of local cuisine. Designated Driver tickets will also be available to purchase at the door for $10 each.
In its sixth year is BeerFest, presented by American Founders Bank. The event will be held at The Overlook at Kroger’s Fest-a-Ville on the waterfront on Wednesday, May 2, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Jason Schuster, Craft brand manager for River City Distributing, said the event’s layout will have a fun new twist this year with “craft villages” including these sections: Pioneers of Craft (bigger distilleries like Blue Moon, Leinenkugel’s, Sierra Nevada), Kentucky Village (any beers that touch the state – made in Kentucky or surrounding states including Great Flood, Old Louisville Brewing and Tin Man ) and Specialty Imports (featuring Belgian and German beers including Paulaner, Latis Imports). New beers include Sam Adams ‘76, Yuengling, Sun King and Fly Wheel.
Tickets for the event are $45 each and include tastings and a souvenir sampling glass. BeerFest will be open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 2.VIP tickets will also be available for $75 each. This exclusive ticket will gain entry to the event an hour before it opens to the public, dinner, VIP glass, a goodie bag and private port-o-lets.