Winey Worms Spirits

I grew up in a "dry" area of Kentucky. This meant, that for many miles around my community, alcoholic beverages of all sorts (beer, wine, spirits) were illegal. To the best of my memory, the nearest liquor store was about 45 miles away. Later in life, it struck me as strange that Kentucky (proud of their long-time heritage of excellent bourbon production) would have large sections of the state where all alcohol was illegal. In my community, we certainly were aware that there were "bootleggers" transporting alcohol into our area as well as stories of multiple "moonshine stills" in the woods producing "white lightning."

Moonshine still

The Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was active in my hometown and had a subdivision, Youth Temperance Council (YTC), for teenagers. I remember fellow 'teens reading and, eventually, signing the commitment: "I promise, by the help of God, never to use alcoholic beverages, other narcotics, or tobacco, and to encourage everyone else to do the same, fulfilling the command, 'keep thyself pure'."

Shortly after I had been issued my driver's license (I was 16 years old) I was assisting with a U.S. Senate election by driving out to the rural areas to pick up potential voters (who had no transportation other than horses and buggies) and bringing them to the courthouse to vote. After they finished, I would drive them back to their homes. Virtually every voter would be given a free 6-pack of beer for voting for the "preferred" candidate. Not only was I flabbergasted by the illegal beer, but even more so because I learned that politics, even in my small town, could be problematic.

Neither Phyllis nor I had ever even tasted any alcoholic beverage prior to our honeymoon trip to California. We had been invited to a dinner at Hannah and Julius Hereford's in San Diego. As we were ringing the doorbell, I said to Phyllis, "They may serve alcohol. What shall we do?" As predicted, an alcoholic punch (including floating strawberries) was served and we had our first drink. Phyllis spent a great deal of time chasing that strawberry, but was ultimately successful by drinking all the punch to capture that prized illusive strawberry! The ministers of our churches had warned us as teenagers, that if we took "that first drink" that our lives would forever be controlled by our addiction to alcohol. We were shocked that we were not immediately forced to join Alcoholics Anonymous because we had followed "the way of the devil!"

Fruit in Alcohol

Our subsequent years in New York City demonstrated to us that most of our friends and acquaintances did partake and none of them were addicted nor did we see as much public inebriation as we had in our small "dry" Kentucky towns. We didn't experience either our own drunkenness or addiction. We did love the flavor of wine and the way it enhanced our meals.

I read books about wine production and made the decision to attempt to make my own wine. I purchased grapes, a wine-making kit, and precisely followed the directions. Items were sterilized, grapes were crushed and placed in a crock for initial fermentation. We were delighted to see bubbling fermentation activity and knew that we were well on our way to having our own home-made wine! Eventually, I filtered out the solid matter by passing the liquid through multiple layers of cheesecloth. Much later I checked the progress of the wine and found that it was still bubbling with a lot of activity on the surface of the new wine. We wanted this activity to slow prior to putting the "wine" in a large bottle fitted with a bubbler air-lock-trap.

Wine Making Kit

Why did the surface activity continue after so much time? Upon closer examination, I discovered that the movement was not caused by fermentation, but rather by tiny giggling, wiggling worms happily swimming in my new wine. Weeks of work for nothing? If it were tequila, perhaps the worms might have been more welcomed, but I sadly disposed of my first (and last) batch of homemade wine.

Although Phyllis enjoyed chasing the strawberry in the wine, she frowned upon chasing swimming winey worms. From that day to the present, I have purchased only commercially produced wine (and lots of it!)

To learn more about the joys of wine from
Master Sommelier,
Andrea Robinson,
click here.



Leftover Wine

Wine for dinner

Makers Mark
Diane and Phyllis at Maker's Mark Visitors Center

Maker's Mark Phyllis dipping

Makers Mark
Phyllis with her new hand-dipped Maker's Mark whisky bottle
Makers Mark
"Maker's Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky
This Special Edition was dipped by Phyllis Ramsey on 10-11-2000"

How Much


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