A Leap of Faith for a Michigan Vineyard

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It hadn’t been twenty four hours since we finished planting our modest vineyard in the freshly tilled soil. I strolled through the vineyard studying the vines – at this point mere sticks in the ground. It was as if I was expecting to see some hint of green material almost believing that willpower alone could unfold the leaves.

Mark Dennis Vineyard

If it were that easy I suspect everyone would plant a vineyard here in Western Michigan. Our relatively small startup vineyard is nestled in a small agricultural community with a long history of growing just about everything – except wine grapes.

“You don’t always get to grow what you want. You grow what you can.” Those words constantly rang through my ears when deciding on what varietals to plant in our new vineyard.

A careful study of our site, nearly three years of test planting and countless hours of research and soil samples led us to believe that vinifera, while seemingly everyone’s favorite species, was not the right fit for us. Michigan gets cold in the winter. It seems fancy vinifera doesn’t take so well to deep, prolonged freezing temperatures. So we believe hybrids will provide our particular site with the most consistent growth and the best possible fruit and shrug off the worst of what winter could throw at them.

Varieties in hand, we set out this year on a major expansion, jumping head first into grape growing and a roll of the dice based upon our testing and gut instinct. The next three years will determine if we made the right choice. If we did, these new vines will flourish on our site and some fantastic Michigan wine can be made in 2018.