My Kentucky Derby trip report continues with a recount of the activities we took part on the day before the big race.
Our host warned us it would be a busy two days and indeed it was. We were granted a small reprieve — no activities until 11am — but the rest of the day would be packed.
A tour bus served as our main mode of transport over the weekend and we departed our hotel (Embassy Suites in Lexington, KY) precisely at 11am. Our first stop was at the Prodigy Winery in Frankfort. This family run vineyard bottles red, white and dessert wines and hosted our lunch: pulled pork sandwiches. One of the owners took us behind the scenes to show us wine in progress and explain how wine is made.
Next, we drove to Gainsborough Farm in Versailles, Kentucky. Gainsborough has a fascinating history which you can read in this NY Times article. The farm breeds and raises race horses, but is owned by the royal family of Dubai. Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, former Emir of Dubai, was a rabid horse enthusiast and invested in stables around the world, including in Kentucky. You wouldn’t recognize the UAE influence, though. The stables do not look like Emirates First Class and nearly all the employees are native Kentuckians.
Our next stop was the Woodford Reserve Distillery. Calling itself America’s old bourbon distillery, operations began in 1780. It was interesting to learn about small batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is created and although (admittedly) I just have not acquired a taste for it, I was happy to give it a taste.
The campus has been designated a National Historic Landmark and offers a great tour (suitable for the whole family) and a nice cafe that has more family-friendly beverages like coffee and soft drinks.
And Now the Governor’s Mansion
Our day still was not over. After a short break to change into evening attire, we left at 6:30p to drive to Frankfort for Derby Eve Celebration at the Governor’s Mansion. The Govenor’s Mansion sits adjacent to the statehouse. Pulling up to mansion as the sunset began to set, the capitol dome glistened in the late-afternoon sun.
We proceeded into the Governor’s Mansion where a group of hosts welcomed us. There was no formal program or even a few words from governor Matt Bevin: just a laid back open house. Various food stations offered a full meal and of course drinks flowed freely (a theme of the weekend…). I had a mint julep that proved to be the best drink of the weekend. The governor did take time to speak to every guest and welcomed John and me warmly to Kentucky: I appreciated that gesture. There were no politics on this night.
Around 10:30p we headed back to the hotel. Tomorrow would be an even busier day and would require a much earlier start.