Kentucky’s largest winery is Paducah’s Purple Toad Winery, a family business that has found its niche with high-quality but accessible wines.
“We’ve got 41 wines,” says winemaker Allen Dossey. “We’ve got eight dry wines, but we sell a ton of sweet wines. We sell a lot of starter wines. We make what we trademarked as gourmet sweet wines. We just specialize in that market.”
Inspired by a trip to Napa, Allen planted his first grapes in Paducah nine years ago. Today, Purple Toad wines are among the top sellers at shops in Lexington, Louisville, Indianapolis and Nashville.
“The hardest part about having a winery in Kentucky is growing the grapes,” says co-winemaker Steven Dossey. “The weather just isn’t perfect for it, and so we work very hard to get our grapes to where they are.”
Steven adds that they grow a wide variety of grapes to determine which varieties would do best in the region. Visitors to Purple Toad can enjoy the results in their tasting room.
“I’d say 75 percent [of visitors] are sweet drinkers or people who have never drank wine before,” says Steven. “We want to give them the whole idea of what wines are. We do carry the dry wines but we’re primarily all the sweets. In this area of the country, a lot of dry wines are kind of taboo, and so what we offer are gourmet sweet wines.”
Coming up with the name Purple Toad was an important part of the process of starting the business.
“You’ve got to have something original. You’ve got trademark and copyright rules. We wanted something original, and it ended up being, if you press grapes the old way through your feet, you’ve got purple toes,” Allen explains, adding that the wines they make are not produced through that old method.
“It’s a little play on words,” he says. “We’ve got a little frog on [the label] and he has purple toes.”
This segment originally appeared as part of Kentucky Life episode #2406 which originally aired on November 10, 2018. Watch the full episode.