If you are not familiar with Paducah’s historic downtown you may not easily find Glisson Vineyard and Winery. As you walk the cobble-stoned street on Market House Square with the river to your right, look for the unique building with the beautiful ornate ceramic tiles. The entrance is set back a ways but the few extra steps are well worth it. You are always welcomed with a smile and a warm “Hello” from the friendly and knowledgeable staff. Stephen and Katie Glisson, owners of the business, have been making wine now for about thirteen years and began commercially in 2009, and as the familiar saying goes, “The rest is history.”
Stephen says, “I can remember as a boy watching and helping my grandfather make wine for the family to enjoy around the holidays. It was something I looked forward to every year. As time passed and I went off into the world, I never forgot about the days of making wine with my grandfather, and when I discovered my grandfather Pete’s diary, with all his recipes for wine, my passion for making wine finally became a reality.
So from then on I was following his recipes and, with fruit from our farm, working to perfect my skills; I also started to create my own recipes and processes in making wine. From there, the wine making steadily grew, but making fruit wine wasn’t enough to keep up with the pace of business, so I started our own vineyard from stems that I purchased from a more experienced vintner. That was 2004. Over the last 9 years we have expanded our vineyards, sold our wines at farmer’s markets, opened our downtown Paducah Kentucky Tasting Room and Retail Shop. Like good wine, passion is best when it’s passed down through generations. I think my grandfather would be proud.”
Stephen started making wine soon after he and his wife Katie were married. He says, “When we first got married we bought a house that had an acre-and-a-half of every kind of fruit tree you could think of, from Pears to Apples to Plums - you name it, we had it.” Stephen says after a couple of years of mowing around the fallen fruit and dealing with bees attacking not only he and his wife, but also the fruit, he started picking up the fruit and making wine with it. “I began reading books on making home-made wine and it really interested me.” Stephen jokingly adds, “My wife’s side of the story is humorous. She say’s when we got married we were so young and not old enough to drink, so I had to make my own. I began making a gallon or two here and there, and then I would read another book on the subject. My first experiment tasted like a good grass killer. I said, ‘How can I improve this?’ So I started going through small books and worked my way up to big thick books with details about the process and the commercial steps of winemaking. It’s not something I just learned over night, it’s been several years of trial and error and trying to improve over the years before.
After experimenting with fruit trees Stephen said they went on to plant a couple of grape vines. “That interested me,” he says, “and we then picked some more cuttings from another vineyard in which we had contact. We picked up three to four different varieties and started our vineyard from ‘cuttings’ right there in the back yard. We literally stuck them in the ground and they took off, they began to grow. We transplanted them and actually some of the Chambourcin grapes in our vineyard now are those grapes from when we first started. Those two grapevines we started with are now seven hundred.”
Stephen says this entire process has truly been “baby steps” for us and says, “The most important thing I want people to know in this area is that we are truly local wine. Just because you have wine in a bottle doesn’t mean it’s a true local wine. ‘True local wine’ means going to the local vineyards, meeting with the farmers, working with the farmers all year, getting their grapes, supporting them and making wine out of their grapes. We don’t go to a distributor and buy juice. We are all about ‘from the grape, to the bottle’. You can pick any one of my wines, make a fifty-mile radius, and within that radius, that’s where it came from. So we are all about supporting local farmers and growers.”
Stephen and Katie say, “We want wine lovers from all over to experience the flavor of fine, hand-crafted, quality wines, all made locally from our vineyard in Lone Oak Kentucky and from regionally grown grapes. One of our number one goals is to make sure our customers feel good about wine selection, whether they purchase from Glisson Vineyards and Winery or from one of the local stores that stock our products.” Once you have your glass of wine in hand, be sure to take some time and enjoy the back courtyard at their downtown Paducah location. As Katie says, “It’s a perfect setting in which to ‘wine-down’.”
The Glissons are members of the West Kentucky Wine Growers Association (WKWA). WKWA is a club type group of people from all walks of life with common interests in winemaking, grape growing and wine appreciation.