Baker-Bird Winery Aug.2012
In the 1870s, tiny Bracken County was the nation’s leading wine producer, squeezing more than 30,000 gallons annually. At the center of the enterprise was Abraham Baker Jr., who, prior to 1853, built what is today the Baker-Bird Winery during a time when the Ohio River Valley was being touted to German immigrants as “America’s Rhineland.” Situated just south of Augusta, the vineyard was dormant from the late 1870s, when a fungus killed the region’s vines, until 2003, when Dinah Bird bought the property.
Tobacco replaced the diseased grapes, but in a turnabout passage of federal legislation limiting tobacco production in 2004 marked the grapes’ resurgence.
Undisturbed, just as Baker commissioned it, is an arched, limestone wine cellar built by German immigrants, measuring 90 feet long, 40 feet high and 40 feet wide. “It’s a beautiful, incredible, peaceful space,” says Susan Keuper, Baker-Bird’s general manager. “It’s similar to many of the beer cellars you might find in Cincinnati. Today we also use it for special events and music.”
Baker-Bird claims to be the “oldest commercial estate winery in America” as opposed to America’s oldest winery, a fact backed up by the National Register of Historic Places.
Baker-Bird’s current varieties include the national award-winning Vidal Blanc, Ruby Hawk rosé, Chardonelle, Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc and the popular Catawba, which is available seasonally. For complete descriptions of the wines, visit bakerbirdwinery.com and read the reviews offered by the Vine Vixen and the Wine Wench.
The winery, located on Baker’s original farm, is at 4465 Augusta-Chatham Road. It is open on Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 p.m., for special events and by appointment.