After respective careers as a research scientist and an educator, Larry and Pam Satek were ready to settle into retirement. They anticipated relaxing on the plot of land purchased by Pam's great-grandfather in 1915—a verdant space that had matured from an apple orchard into an overgrown tangle, and which the Sateks turned into a commercial vineyard where other Indiana wineries bought their grapes. Now that they had escaped the daily grind, the Sateks' plan was to begin crafting their own wine. They did so with well-recognized aplomb, and soon, their "retirement business" was winning awards at the INDY International Wine Competition. In the past three years, almost 80% of their wines have medaled—the 2012 contest alone landed them 23 awards, including two Concordance Golds, which signify a unanimous decision by the judges. Their success is hardly surprising, though, if one looks at the descriptions of their wines. They deem their Old Vine red zinfandel "a searing of lightning and poetry," and liken the sweet Mango Mania to "sunshine in your glass."
The Sateks remain continually tapped into the community in an effort to share these wines, many of which are made from exclusively locally grown fruit. Their Twitter feed and Facebook page keep fans posted regarding new releases and suddenly sold-out varieties, and those hoping for a closer look can take a tour of the vineyard and bottling facilities. Additionally, special events such as dinners and pairing classes teach visitors how to expertly marry sips to bites without disappointing both of their families.
In 1997, Kip and Dennise Barber sold their suburban home. But it wasn't because they were downsizing or moving to the city. Instead, they used the money to purchase a large, wooded plot of land in Grass Lake, which they cleared and planted with rows of grapevines. And thus, Lone Oak Vineyard Estate was born. Over the years, the couple worked to add more and more varietals to the vineyard, and today, their estate is home to 12 types of grapes spanning 25 acres. Handpicked at the peak of ripeness, each of the European grapes is transformed into estate wines, such as dry reds, semidry whites, and utterly sarcastic dessert wines.
St. Julian is Michigan’s oldest, largest and most awarded winery. This family-owned winery, founded by Mariano Meconi in 1921, is nestled in the picturesque fruit-growing region along the southern shore of Lake Michigan. Today, grandson, David Braganini, has adopted the family tradition of wine making.
Lorenzo Lizarralde's two passions—winemaking and aeronautics—may seem unrelated, but they coexist in harmony at Chateau Aeronautique Winery. There, the winery shares its space with an airplane hangar and grass runway on which the vintner frequently lands his 1956 Cessna 172. Fermented from Michigan grapes, the chateau's handcrafted wines span the gamut, from dry to semisweet, wafting strawberry bouquets, apricot aromas, and floral notes.
To spotlight his elixirs, Lorenzo regularly hosts events amid his idyllic environs, which take inspiration from the wineries in Bordeaux, France. Guests traipse across the grounds en route to a gazebo or the hangar, where they can revel with up to 80 fellow sippers. For more intimate flavor exploration, they flock to a private tasting room, replete with an ornate, wooden bar that provides the coziness of a grandparent's wine cellar, but with more wine and fewer Clark Gable posters.
Selecting a wine at The Earle Restaurant isn't as simple as choosing between a red and a white. A recipient of Wine Spectator's Best of Award of Excellence for 20-plus years, The Earle's wine list heaves under the weight of its more than 1,200 listed bottles and from all those bricks weighing it down. Some of those varietals are even available by the glass at The Earle's wine bar, where the menu of light bites includes handmade pizzas crowned with pesto and shrimp.
In the main dining room, wines likewise complement dinners of award-winning French and Italian cuisine, from linguini tossed with crumbled garlic sausage to sautéed duck breast in apple brandy and cider. Those feasts unfold amid the room's romantic lighting and the historic building's exposed brick walls. Once the home of a jazz club, the Earle now spotlights jazz five nights a week with trios on weekends and solo guitarists or pianists on select weekdays.