You don’t need a special occasion to wear a hat — but Derby is a great week to throw caution to the wind and enjoy making a fashion statement. Hats with jewels. Hats with peacock and pheasant feathers. Hats with sequins and satin bows. Large floppy brimmed hats, glitzy cowboy hats, bucket-shaped hats and fascinators. There are countless styles and choices from which to choose when it comes to Derby hats.

Frankfort native Lenée Peach says she has donned her fair share of Derby hats through the years. “We’ve gone to the Derby quite a few times. And, of course it wouldn’t be Derby without a special hat to wear,” she says. “My favorite style is probably the big-brimmed floppy hat. It just looks and feels feminine to me.”

Derby tips

Lenée goes to the Atlanta market to purchase hats for the gift shop at Prodigy Vineyard and Winery that she owns with her husband, Chad. “My favorite brand to buy is Whittall & Shon out of New York. They are really unique hats and always come up with something fabulous that you don’t see everywhere else,” she says. Jokingly, she adds, “Maybe it’s in my lineage to love hats. My great aunt had a hat shop in Chicago!”

Hats are not one size fits all and especially not on a windy Derby Day. Lenée says that it used to be hard to make sure a hat fit correctly. “You’d have to use this foam piece and put it on the inside of the hat. Now, the hatmakers have invented an interior drawstring that adjusts to the top of your head, making it much easier for the hat to stay put.”

Lenée says her best tip when choosing an outfit for the Oaks or Derby is to “definitely choose your hat first. It’s easier to match the hat than to match a hat to a dress — the color, the shape, the style. It seems to work well that way.

“I always have a backup plan for an outfit when I go to the track. You just never know what the weather will be. Hats keep you cool if it’s really sunny and hot. I have even worn my hat when it was raining. I’m not sure how hats with feathers would do, though. Clear raincoats are great so you can still see your outfit,” she says.

Lenée says she enjoys everything about Derby week — “I love all of it — the wardrobes, the hats, the fun, all the activities — the whole shabang.”

Family, grapes and horses

For the last few years, Chad and Lenée haven’t made it to the races on Derby Day because their winery on Versailles Road has hosted its own Derby party.

“It started out small with just karaoke. Every year it has grown and we started having a band play, too. It’s a family-friendly party and just good fun,” Lenée says. “And if there are any hats left in the gift shop, we’ll probably all put them on and wear them for the day.”

Lenée and Chad live in an apartment they built in the barn at the winery. “I married a builder,” Lenée says smiling. “He (Chad) promised me we’d live here maybe a year and then build a house — we’ve been here almost 19 years!” Chad also owns Peach Contracting and Construction. The couple have three children, Tristan, Trinity and Turner.

Lenée says that Chad got his thoroughbred trainer’s license when they first got married and has three horses on the farm he hopes to race. “That’s his passion, he loves the races. He and his dad did that together and had horses out at the family farm, The Oaks on 127,” she remarks.

While Chad enjoys working with thoroughbreds, Lenée has a bond with a 27-year-old palomino named Tardy. “Chad bought him for me years ago,” she says, letting the horse nudge her for attention. “He was named Tardy’s Midnight Oil when we bought him but we just call him Tardy. He roams free around here — he visits the other animals and even puts himself into a stall every day around 11 a.m.”

Tardy, Lenée’s riding horse for years, holds a special place in her heart. They have even named one of their wines after him called Palomino Peach. “One dollar from every sale goes to the Old Friends Farm,” Lenée explains. Old Friends Farm in Georgetown provides a retirement home for thoroughbreds including champions Silver Charm, War Emblem and the late Charismatic, as well as many others.

Tardy and a miniature horse on the farm named Buddy have become good friends. “They’ll hang out in the fields. Buddy is loose, too. Sometimes you’ll see one of them laying down and the other laying down right beside — like they’re spooning!” Lenée says.

Tardy and Buddy often greet visitors to Prodigy. The winery is a working farm, according to Lenée. So you may also see chickens, a rooster, two lovable “wine” dogs and an abundance of ducks and cats.

The family-owned vineyard and winery was established in 1998 and the tasting room at the farm opened in 2015. Lenée explains how they decided to get into the grape-growing business.

“The government was giving incentives to grow grapes so that’s where we started. Chad was just going to make some hobby wine which kind of got out of hand,” Lenée says with a smile.

A large area connected to the tasting room holds huge vats of wine in varying fermentation stages. In 2015, Prodigy Vineyards and Winery received the Commissioner’s Cup for Best Dry Red in the State of Kentucky with a 2009 Chambourcin.

In keeping with the pride of Kentucky and Chad’s interest in racing, the Prodigy bottle label is a profile of a thoroughbred horse’s head.