From openings to closings, from changes in ownership to changes in market status, a number of area wineries on both Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsula are experiencing transitions. Here's a quick look at developments taking place on the Northern Michigan wine scene.
Gill's Pier Vineyard & Winery
For the right investor, Ryan and Kris Sterkenburg are offering what many might consider a dream opportunity: purchasing a 54-acre parcel of property along Sleeping Bear Dunes and Lake Michigan that includes a fully operational winery, tasting room and custom 5-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom house. The asking price? $1.9 million.
Intrigued buyers would do well to act fast – though listed only three weeks ago, Ryan says “several” parties have already expressed interest in buying Gill's Pier Vineyard & Winery. “We have a successful business and probably one of the best turn-key opportunities for someone looking to get into (the industry),” he says. “We started 10 years ago with the idea of growing it and finding a buyer at some point that would want to continue to grow the brand.”
Interested in being that buyer? View the property listing for Gill's Pier here.
Circa Estate Winery
A series of financial setbacks – brought on in part by a soured investor relationship – led to the overnight closing of Circa Estate Winery off Horn Road in Suttons Bay this past January. Margaret and David Bell, who purchased the property's 48 acres in 1992 and opened the Circa tasting room in 2007, said a recalled loan by their investors forced the winery into bankruptcy. The resulting accelerated repayment schedule left “little wriggle room,” according to David, and a late payment allowed the investors to “take over the property, building, equipment, name and brand,” as well as the deed to the Bells' home.
The couple says that while the ongoing legal battle has been a “painful” experience, the outpouring of support from the community has helped soften the blow.
“In spite of all the difficulties we've been through, we had a wonderful experience at Circa,” Margaret says, noting that the family intends to remain in the area. “We shared in – and helped others share in – some wonderful memories there. No one can take that away from us.”
Shady Lane Cellars
Though details are under wrap, sources familiar with Shady Lane Cellars confirm that a rumored transfer of ownership at the winery is scheduled to go through this week. Adam Satchwell, who has been head winemaker at the vineyard since 2000 and briefly also took over winemaking duties at Leelanau Cellars during its 2011 vintage, declined to comment on the transition but confirmed he is now winemaking at Shady Lane “full-time” and is “no longer associated with" Leelanau Cellars. Provided the sale goes through, the new winery ownership is expected to be announced at the end of this week.
Traverse City natives Todd and Carter Oosterhouse (the latter of HGTV fame) have planted approximately 20 acres of wine grapes off Nelson Road on Old Mission Peninsula in anticipation of the opening of their new winery and tasting room in June 2014. Todd tells The Ticker that initial varietals offered by Oosterhouse Vineyards will include Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. The Peninsula Township Planning Commission will hold a public hearing at their regularly scheduled meeting on March 18 to consider a special use permit request by the brothers for the property.
“Things are looking good,” says Todd. “We have not had any road blocks as of yet. (Peninsula Township officials) have been pretty open to everything.”
Willow Vineyard & Winery
It's not easy letting go of owning a winery – something John and Jo Crampton recently discovered firsthand.
The couple and owners since 1992 of Willow Vineyard & Winery had originally put their 11-acre, $2.35 million winery, tasting room and residence up for sale in 2007, but decided to take it off the market last spring. Shelly Brunette of Real Estate One, who represented the property, said they received four offers for Willow over the course of its listing. However: “We thought we were ready to sell and move on, but our home is right here in the vineyard and the view could never be replaced,” explains Jo. “So we decided we were not ready to leave yet.”
The winery is currently open and operational. The Cramptons will celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the opening of the Willow tasting room this year.