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]]
The floor-to-ceiling windows that frame Sentiments Bridal & Special Occasion display fashionable formal attire for men and women. Owner Marie Brown stays abreast of the trends, updating the displays regularly so the colors, textiles, and styles suit the season. Brown coordinates dresses for bridal parties, rents tuxes to groomsmen, and designs custom fashions for mothers. Accessories, including hats, shoes, and jewels, complete outfits. Brown's shop also outfits children with miniature garments for special occasions, such as christenings or space-camp graduations.
The potted professionals at Yellow Rose Florist pride themselves in personalized petal creations, crafting signature arrangements from a fresh flower inventory on a daily basis. Personalized bouquets ($50–$196) express affection for loved ones, while wedding and special-event arrangements ($199+) make ideal gifts for the happy couple or the unhappy barbershop quartet. Clients can custom-order arrangements or reference one of the florists' past creations, such as the exotic Bamboo Mojave ($50) or the plucky Yellow Roses ($60). Yellow Rose Florist's selection of potted greenhouse plants in varying sizes makes attentive, polite houseguests.
Verandah Shoe Shop outfits lady toes with more than 20 brands of shoes, including Cole Haan, Emu, and BCBG. Sandal seekers can slip into pairs from Havaianas ($25+), Oka b. ($25+), and Yellow Box ($50+) to feel breezes between foot fingers. Verandah also carries sole gloves by Naughty Monkey, Jessica Simpson, Poetic Licence, Bacio 61, and Nina, as well as a wide selection of jewelry and accessories, which–like hang-gliding lessons and autographed volleyballs–are not included in this deal.
A locally owned boutique boasting unique collections for women, newlyweds, and children, Orange Tree Gifts overflows with stylish frocks, casual beach apparel, and gift ideas. Kid-friendly motifs such as zoo animals and Russian literary greats adorn sleepwear for children, and sophisticated patterns make handbags from designers such as Cinda B easy to spot on the store’s shelves. Babies coo with delight as their little hands wrap around colorful rattlers, and teethers help to alleviate the stresses of stroller traffic jams. The aroma of Ambre Blends organic fragrances swirl through racks bearing stylish accessories and vibrant sundresses optimal for spring break getaways, competing with the floral scents of perfumes on display nearby.
Just Add H2O's diving experts have guided students of all levels of experience safely through waters for more than 34 years. Providing diving certifications through PADI and NAUI, instructors chart progression from introductory diving lessons all the way up to instructor certification, which comes with a license to ride giant seahorses. Just Add H2O's staff also hosts local and regional dives and leads trips to Lake Michigan shipwrecks, the cool depths of Gilboa Quarry, and tropical destinations such as Truk Lagoon in the Eastern Caroline Islands. To ensure that dives proceed without a hitch, the facility lets guests rent or purchase gear and can help to maintain used equipment.