Bluegrass terrior: a culinary sense of place

Lexington, KY – There are many restaurants, wine shops and other establishments in the region that serve fine wines. However, determining what wines customers will want, and

in particular what wines will pair well with the establishment’s menu and the food of the Bluegrass region, takes specialized knowledge and resources.

A good pairing of wine with food makes both taste better, thus enhancing the customer’s experience and the business of the dining establishment over time.

Just because someone is a trained chef does not mean that he or she is knowledgeable about wine and wine-and-food pairing.

This sort of sophisticated knowledge development can be a lifelong process.

Many establishments in the area use the services of Vintner Select (, which is owned by Kentucky residents Gordon Huller and Doris Holzheimer. This year, Huller and Holzheimer celebrate 20 years of business and their labor of love. Huller is a recognized expert in Italian wines, and

they are represented in the Lexington area by sales representative Emily Jones.

They strive to be the best wine distributor in Kentucky, and locally they are an expert resource to many establishments. They only work with small, family-owned and boutique vineyards around the world and generally only supply to small, family-owned and boutique restaurants and wine shops. In Midway, their clients include Holly Hill Inn, Heirloom, Eqwine, and Bistro La Belle. Clients in Nicholasville are The Wine Shop and Euro Wine Bar. Lexington clients include Wines on Vine, Twisted Cork, Corner Wine, Wine and Market, School Restaurant, The Dish, Jonathan’s, Azur, Portofino, Summit, Le Deauville, Natasha’s CafÈ, Metropol, Soundbar and other locations. In Frankfort, their products are found at Serafini’s, Capital Cellars and Red Dot Liquors. It is local, independent restaurants and wine purveyors like these that go the extra mile to find boutique wines from around the globe that will pair well with their menu and differentiate themselves from competition such as chain restaurants. They do this through relationships with industry experts, and the knowledge growth is neverending. There is an overwhelming array of choices out there, and specialized knowledge resources mitigate the wine selection risk.

It’s useful to understand the philosophy and approach used by Vintner Select and their local restaurant and wine shop clients. At the heart of it is the concept of terrior (pronounced “ter-whah”), which means different things to different people. Basically it refers to how unique characteristics of a geographic area (soil, climate, topography) impart a distinct influence on how a wine, or other product, tastes. The definition of terrior can be expanded to include factors controlled by human decisions. When most use this term, it is in the context of wine. However, when you think of Kentucky’s rich culinary tradition and unique characteristics of the Central Kentucky region, with its limestone, soil type, climate and more, there is certainly an element of terrior in the food and beverage products produced in this region. This would include locally produced wine, bourbon and other products. Bluegrass terrior give us a “sense of place” on several dimensions. The varied food of this region or food served by the restaurants in this region all have wine and other beverage (beer, for example) pairing opportunities that can be the difference between a great and memorable dining experience and a lesser one. Our local independent restaurant owners are food pros who work with resources like Vintner Select to ably advise you on wine choices. It’s sophisticated matchmaking, with food of the Bluegrass region paired up with wines from Italy, France and other nations whose terrior give it that characteristic for a great match. In some cases, that match may be from a local vineyard as well. A nice Web resource for learning more about food and wine pairing is
We are about 14 short months from the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games ( and an opportunity to showcase the region and the state to the world. One of the things that will be showcased is the talent of our independent restaurateurs and chefs. Being able to put their best foot forward with great food and wine-pairing knowledge with help ensure a great dining experience for all visitors but may be even more important with many of the foreign visitors. Alltech’s Kentucky Ale will have a big presence at the Games. The Web site of the Beverage Testing Institute,, did a tasting of Kentucky Ale and gave it a “highly recommended” rating, with the specific comment that it was a “nice pizza beer.” Food and beverage pairing opportunities reach beyond wine, and doing it right raises the culinary bar for this great region.

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