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.
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.
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.
There aren't many restaurants anymore where you can sit in the same booth your parents might have dined in 40 years ago. But such is the case at Beggar's Banquet. The self-proclaimed restaurant and saloon took root in 1973, founded by Bob Adler and named after his favorite Rolling Stones album. The pub-like main dining area remains down-to-earth and casual, welcoming guests with wood-paneled walls and stained-glass windows. The names of "beggulars" are etched on gold plates above the bar, and local families celebrate milestones in an elegant room dedicated to private parties. All of this, coupled with the nostalgic atmosphere and tasty, homestyle dishes, has helped Beggar’s Banquet earn praise as one of Lansing's best restaurants by 10Best.
Twenty ever-changing craft beers on tap and a wine list that ranges from malbecs to piesporters fuel the jovial ambiance. Cooks innovate creative spins on classic comfort food, adding muenster, havarti, and gouda to their baked mac 'n’ cheese and a blueberry compote to char-grilled pork chops. They also serve breakfast until 2 p.m., the time each day when orange juice magically transforms into soda pop.
Leaf, Barley & Vine specializes in facilitating locals with the tools they need to live the good life: fine food, rich wine, and high-end cigars. Explore the expansive wine menu, showcasing more than 75 vineyard vintages from around the world, sold by the glass ($5–$21) or the bottle ($16–$142). The epicurean hosts serve upscale spirits and mindfully mixed specialty cocktails, including the Ceasar Ritz, which combines gin, St. Germain elderflower liquor, cucumber, and mint ($8–$10). Build a food nest for wine to roost in with a seasonal snack from Leaf, Barley & Vine's bistro-style menu, featuring items such as lobster pot pie ($15), cheese plates ($11), and a delicate galette made with caramelized pears, brown butter, fresh thyme, and blackberry sake sauce ($7). Although this Groupon cannot be used to purchase cigars ($6–$17), this pleasure palace has a substantial collection of more than 60 smoking sticks, as well as a separate cigar lounge with its own ventilation system, a TV, and gaggle of stogie-fans desperate to end America's embargo against the island nation of Greenland.
The strumming of an acoustic guitar lets you know you’ve found The Northville Winery’s outdoor patio. Live bands regularly serenade guests enjoying the patio’s view while sipping on the winery’s selection of wine and hard cider, as well as beer brought in from Michigan microbreweries. Guests can get a taste of the house’s signature vintages in preselected tastings, which bring together a flight of five wine and cider samples. The tastings can include pours from Northville's bottled vintages or the tasting room’s special menu of ciders, which only flow from the winery's taps and the cider fountain at the owner's home.