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.
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.
The ingredient list to make wines at DeAngelis Cantina del Vino Winery reads something like this: Grapes. That's it. The facility's refusal to use other additives–such as sulfites, preservatives, and glitter–means its bottles are filled with only all-natural flavors. Vintners who create all-natural wines believe good wine comes simply from healthy grapes aged in a vat. DeAngelis operates under that notion, all while producing the freshest, perhaps fruitier-than-usual varietals of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, zinfandel, and more.
Jaden James Brewery isn't the Bonga family's first foray into the world of sippable fermentation. In the same space where they now create specialty beers, they've spent years crafting wines from the fruits of Michigan's bountiful vineyards and orchards.
"So many people come for the wine, but we often get one half of a couple who says, 'I like beer,'" says Bob Bonga. The brewery's current selection includes a cream ale to be savored between bites of pretzels, a Russian Imperial Stout, and an oatmeal porter that Bob characterizes as "wonderfully dark, with roasted tones of chocolate and coffee." The juice of apples harvested in northwest Grand Rapids goes into hard ciders.
The family also prepares a short list of snacks for visitors. In the future, the Bongas may grow their menu further by distilling their own liquors.
The sommeliers of the recently opened Rogue River Winery, under the management of Jay Johnson, want their guests to learn about and love wine as much as they do, even providing do's and don’ts of wine drinking on their website. They fill appropriate glassware with blends created on the premises, which are perched atop the wooded banks of the Rogue River, and also pour notable wines and sangria from neighboring Michigan vineyards. A tasting room with burgundy walls, a reflective double-sided bar, and soft contemporary lighting welcome guests for leisurely wine-and-cheese tastings, and visitors can also enjoy a spacious outdoor patio. The winery also hosts corporate events, as well as bachelorette parties where brides-to-be can blend their own wine.
Cherries from Michigan bedeck rainbow trout from a farm in Harrietta. Mrs. Dog’s Disappearing Mustard, from Grand Rapids, drapes across sausage made from lamb raised on a family farm in McBain. Though many of the ingredients at Bar Divani are local, the chefs draw culinary influences from around the world. They dunk Bay of Fundy salmon in walnuts and apple horseradish relish, and combine dollops of aged cheddar-cheese grits with small plates of cajun-spiced black tiger shrimp. The trio of lamb sliders prance through a range of flavors, from sweet cinnamon honey yogurt to pickled carrot and pistachio butter.
The earthy scent of simmering bourbon barbecue sauce suits the warmly hued dining room, where light dances off rich wooden accents. An illuminated wine cellar showcases 40 varieties, allowing patrons to find the ideal pairing for any dish or discretely cheat through the Wine Connoisseur Weekly crossword. Servers cut among bronze columns beneath exposed-brick walls, leaving a wake of aromas that hint at alligator and exotic grains of paradise as they visit curved booths swaddled in ornate fabrics.