Winey Worms

I grew up in a rural Kentucky town (population of about 7,000) which was in a "dry" county. This meant that all "spirits" (beer, wine, whisky, gin, rum, etc.) were illegal for miles around. To the best of my memory, the nearest liquor store was about 45 miles from my town. We, of course, were well aware of "bootleggers" who would traffic in alcoholic beverages in our area, but as a youth, I had never even seen a bottle of beer, wine, or whisky. We also knew of the existence of "moonshine stills" in the woods where "white lightning" was made for sale and consumption. Later in life, it struck me as strange that a state which had such a great history of the finest bourbon in the world had large sections of the state where alcohol was both forbidden and illegal.

Moonshine and Bootleggers
Bootleggers with their moonshine still - not my relatives!

Bootleg Advertisement
(The above is not from my hometown in Kentucky!)

The WCTU (Woman's Christian Temperance Union) was very active where I lived. “The lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine”  is the last line of an anonymous poem from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) which became a popular mantra in the efforts by prohibitionists to stop all sales of alcoholic beverages in the United States.

Lips That Touch Liquor

There were also teen clubs of this organization known as the YTC (Youth Temperance Council.) I, and many of my teen friends, signed a pledge,

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 (on my 16th birthday) 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 transporting them into town and the courthouse to vote. After they voted, 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 the sacred vote, even in my small town, could be purchased.

Neither Phyllis nor I had ever even tasted any alcoholic beverage prior to our honeymoon in 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. Not wanting to offend our hosts, we experienced 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.

Wine Worms

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!)

When we were preparing to move from Louisville to Utah for a new job, my father drove up from Somerset, loaded all our heavy antique marble (from dressers, tables, etc.) and drove them back to Somerset to build protective crates (since we were renting a truck for the move.) On his drive from Louisville back home, he was stopped by police because his car appeared to be heavily loaded. They assumed that he was a bootlegger with a huge haul of liquor.

Another friend, who lived in a "wet" county, would bring beer and liquor into the "dry" county (on Lake Cumberland) for personal use. Along the way, he stopped, drank a beer and turned the bottle upside down and put it back in the case. He, too, was eventually stopped by police who confiscated his cargo. After arriving in the Somerset area, he visited a well-known "bootlegger" to purchase a new (and expensive) case of beer. After his purchase, he opened the case and found it to contain excellent beer except for one empty bottle which was turned upside down in the case. Now, let's see, how could that happen? Hmmmm.

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


Leftover Wine



Wine for dinner



Wine Man



Makers Mark
Our dear friend, Diane, and Phyllis at Maker's Mark Visitors Center

Maker's Mark Phyllis dipping
Phyllis hand-dips her Maker's Mark Bourbon bottle
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"


Love Wine

How Much






105 Year Old Woman

The local preacher at the First Baptist Church when I was a young boy was "Brother Hunter" who was fiercely opposed to the use of alcohol. One day he ran into the local drunk who, obviously, had consumed a lot of alcohol. When Brother Hunter saw him he said:

Brother Hunter (disdainfully): "Drunk again, Mr. Jones."
Mr. Jones (enthusiastically): "Me too, Brother Hunter."

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