Rockie Rick left behind the apples, peaches, and cherries of the farm he grew up on to pursue a business degree. But as he worked at different jobs, he realized that he missed working outside and yearned to be his own boss. Seeing southwest Michigan’s wine industry flourish, he bought land and began growing grapes to sell to a winery. Next, he organized bus tours of area wineries, the success of which enabled Rockie to buy more land for a total of 30 acres. In 2011, he and his staff began making wine from their own grapes, crafting the small batches in oak barrels and stainless-steel tanks.
Rockie’s independent streak flourishes at Gravity Winery, from the modern indoor seating area with deep blues, crisp whites, and an industrial steel bar to a wine named after Rockie’s dog, Oliver, who’s known for greeting guests. “We tried to break the mold of what people think of when they go to a winery,” he says. “We figured … let’s be really different.”
Rockie’s favorite wine is an “awesome peppery cabernet France” called The Theory, which sports an image of Sir Isaac Newton on the bottle. During wine flights—Gravity Vineyard’s version of a tasting and the best way for guests to sample a variety of glasses—he pairs it with dark chocolate laden with almonds and sea salt that is made locally by Vineyards Gourmet. The flights feature four wines paired with cheese or chocolate, and guests can savor their chosen flavors inside or on the patios for hilltop views of the nearby lake or vineyard.
Though the knowledgeable staff can expertly pair each wine and easily converse with the staunchest of wine-lovers, Rockie and his staff eschew snobbery. “If you want to drink a big bowl of red cabernet with your fish, great. If that’s what you enjoy, that’s what you should do,” he says. “We don’t want anyone to be intimidated because they like a certain wine over another, or they don’t know the right word to describe it.”:m]]