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.
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.
Producing wines, full-bodied beers, and a grape-based spirit, the Round Barn is as well-rounded as the Amish barn that anchors the winery. The striking structure wasn’t always the southwest Michigan property’s main landmark, however. Biology teacher–turned-winemaker Rick Moersch had been cultivating the land for five award-winning years when he came across the 1911 structure in Rochester, Indiana. Timber by timber, he and his crew dismantled the barn and moved it to Baroda by truck after realizing it wouldn’t fit in a plane’s overhead bin.
The round barn was a natural fit for the round copper-pot still where Moersch was beginning to distill European-style brandies from his grapes. After his sons Matthew and Christian returned from college, they helped further expand the winery’s scope. They launched a grape-based luxury vodka, DiVine, in 2006, and entered the beer brewing business the following year.
Today, Round Barn Winery, Brewery & Distillery produces red, white, dessert and sparkling wines, eight different brews, and traditional grape-based vodka, rum, and bourbon bearing the DiVine logo. The Moersch family invites visitors to tour the facilities and sample the potent potions at their two tasting rooms, with wine tastings taking place in the Round Barn and beer tastings in the post-and-beam barn.
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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.