Humans of Lexington | Elisha Holt

Wildside Winery is located in Versailles, Kentucky and features a tasting room with over 30 wines. They also host special events, concerts and weddings. We sat down with owner, Elisha Holt to talk wine, the future of Wildside and to get to know her better.

So talk to me a little bit about the concerts you’ve been having and Sangria Sunday. Will these continue into the winter?

Weather is the big key and with it getting colder we just need to see if people continue to come out. The last time I had High Five play, we parked 101 cars so there is definitely still interest. We’ve already talked to them about next year and continuing to do the outdoor concerts and we’ll start back up in the spring. We’ve been doing Sangria Sundays with Trippin Roots since February. I think we will continue that only we’ll move it inside, and will require reservations. Basically the way it’ll work is that in order to reserve your seat, you’ll call in and buy your first pitcher of sangria. This will reserve your table. We only have so many seats with the current mandate so it’ll be really limited compared to what we’ve been before. I just want folks to know if they’re coming that they can know they’ve got a seat that’s reserved.
We are also looking into adding an event because Trippin Roots has partnered with Mirror Twin to create their own beer called Trippin Fruits. They’re gonna have a release night at mirror twin. There are only three other locations that have been able to secure a keg of that beer and we’re one of them so we want to have some kind of a Woodford County release party.
Then we have the Halloween Bash. We’re going to do it drive in style and we’ll be decorating the whole place for Halloween. It’s gonna be crazy cool and then out there in the Walnut Grove, Clint has hung up Edison lights, so we can light that up now at nighttime. We’re going to do a costume contest. We’ve got a great drink as well by blending our cranberry and apple pie wines and then heating it up – so delicious. Go Go burger is going to come out and serve hot food for everybody. To me if you if you tailgate, this event is right up your alley.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up. Can groups book private parties here?

You can book the event space which is our whole back room for $250. That includes tables and chairs that are that are in here properly spaced. We have a full catering kitchen so you can hire your own caterer to come in and serve their food. It includes a bartender with the option of a pre-paid bar or a cash bar. When you rent this space you also get the pavilion and the patio for your use. It gives people kind of a chance to do something a little different. If people aren’t familiar with our area and need a caterer, a DJ or lets say a food truck, I have all those connections. Let me help you plan your great party and we’ll make sure it’s awesome.

You’ve not owned the winery for very long, just under a year. How did you come to own a winery?

As you know, I run the Midway Fall Festival and Francisco’s Farm Art Fair, and then I’m the event coordinator for the city of Versailles, and I’m connected with all these nonprofit organizations and events and things in Woodford County. I’d never lived in Woodford County, but I knew this was where I wanted to be and I was driving back and forth every day from Madison County which doesn’t make any sense right. And so finally I said to my significant other, “Hey look, I think it’s time we look at moving to Woodford County,” and he said “sure.”
So I wanted something that either had an event space, or that had the land that I could eventually build an event space. I’m in a Versailles Merchant Association meeting one day and someone asked how my house hunting was going. I said it was going terrible because everything I was finding, planning and zoning was telling me I couldn’t do what I wanted. In that meeting Rachel, the owner of Wildside Winery, overheard me talking about all the things I wanted and she told me just kind of privately that she and her husband were considering putting their winery on the market in the next year. She asked if I’d be willing to sit down and have a conversation so all these different pieces came together and we sat down and had a conversation and here we are. We’ve learned so much. There’s so much more to it than that you know….pruning starts in February when it’s still cold outside. I’m never sure if people really know we run that whole gamut of process from the pruning the vines in February, all the way to getting the wine in a bottle with a label on it.

How many different types of grapes do you grow here on property?
We have six different types including Norton. We also grow all of the fruit here as well. We have blackberries, blueberries pawpaws, persimmons, peaches, and an apple orchard. We have 80 active rows of grape vines right now. I’m not a horticulturist obviously like Neil, but part of the deal was that the previous owners agreed to give us 18 months of mentorship. It’s been a blessing and they are so knowledgeable and so nice.

What’s the future plans you have for the winery?

I’m a big picture person. I want people to view this as a community space, not as a winery or small business. Being a winery and being a small businesses are pieces of that the big picture. When people think of having events and gatherings, I want them to think about Wildside. You’re going to have a baby shower – call us and see what we have going on. Going to have a party, graduation, anniversary or the like, let’s see what Wildside has going on. I want to be on people’s radar as the place where they can come and either create their own private little communities with their own events, or they can find public events to create community within that one.

What about the wines you offer? Will you be keeping all of the ones you offer now, discontinuing some or expanding the list?

We have some, some big plans when it comes to wines. Before we took over we really thought that there were too many wines on the menu. There are over 30. We really thought that we would pare that down as most wineries have 10 to 12, and that’s much more manageable. Having been in it for this time period, I would say that was 100% wrong. People love coming in and seeing the variety, whether you’re a dry, a sweet or a mid range drinker, you’re gonna find not just one or two that you like you’re gonna find eight that you like.
People come in here every day and ask for Merlot. We said to ourselves, “why don’t we have a Merlot?” We should give people what they’re asking for right. So we’re going to add a Merlot and a few others.
This year we came out with our Gizmo wine. We have three shitzu dogs, so one bottle’s not gonna do it right, we’re gonna have to make a bottle for the other two. We’re going to do a dry read Zinfandel for Zoey and we’ll donate a portion of proceeds to an animal shelter or rescue or whatever so we want to continue to expand that line.
We’ll also keep doing events like our Harvest Market. We are thinking about adding a Christmas Market. We always want to support that handcrafted, local grown market in central Kentucky.

So tell me a little bit about you, personally. What do you do for fun,

I love international travel, which has been really hard this year obviously. I look for cheap plane tickets and wherever the cheap plane ticket is, that’s where myself and my best friend go. We’ve done Galapagos, Ecuador, Iceland and Spain and Portugal and all of it was unplanned. I would love to get to go to New Zealand and Australia, those are places that are really far away that never have cheap plane tickets. But international travel of any kind makes my heart really happy. Also Bali, I really want to go to Bali.
Locally, I’m a big Lake Cumberland lover. We like to go hang out at State Dock on the boat and just relax, take the dogs, wear a bathing suit and soak up some sun.

You said when you travel, you like to live like a local. If you had out of town guests visiting, how would you give them that experience?

I would book them either in a Sport Horse property downtown in midway, so they’re up above the town or somewhere like The Story Book Inn in Versailles. Something like that so they get that charming community experience.
Of course we’d have to do something bourbon related. Maybe a visit to Castle & Key. They have a great tour that is a really small group experience and it’s like a personalized tour.
I also would do a Sun Valley farm tour. Who doesn’t want to pet baby horses and Brett gives a great tour. He’s so laid back about things and he is so knowledgeable. You can’t find a better tour guide in my opinion.
There’s so many great restaurants, it’s hard to decide. I’d have to have a whole weekend of feeding them, so we could do brunch at The Castle, lunch at The Stave and dinner at Wallace Station or Holly Hill.