BARK RIVER, Mich. (WLUC) - They were growing grapes before it was considered possible in the Upper Peninsula. Northern Sun Winery in Bark River even proved scientists wrong, and they’re not just growing, they are thriving because as the owners told TV6, good wine starts on the vine.
"We grow wine here. Everything that's bottled, we grow in our vineyards. We've been growing since 1999,” said Co-owner of Northern Sun Winery.
Their first crop was a French and North American hybrid.
"The benefit of the hybridization is that you get the tough, disease-resistance and cold-heartiness of American grapes,” Anthony said.
But back in '99, farmers and scientists from Michigan State University thought it was impossible to successfully grow grapes in Upper Michigan.
"Since then though, that whole perception, even with the universities, has changed for two reasons. One, is that there a micro-climates that allow for the growing of traditional hybrids and then an introduction of new hybrids,” Anthony said.
Hybrids come from colleges that focus on viticulture, like the University of Minnesota.
The Anthony Vineyard is in the middle of the "Banana Belt", which is in Delta County and that means…
"We miss a lot of the late frosts and the early frosts. But we're far enough away from the lake that we don't get the full lake effect,” Anthony said.
And the name, Northern Sun, is no coincidence.
"One other understanding in viticulture is that too much heat is not a good thing. We don't have to worry about that by far!” Anthony said. “But we make up for a loss of heat with sunlight. Our daylight lasts much longer than most areas. We have that benefit of the northern latitude."
Growing grapes like the Marquette and St. Pepin varieties, producing award winning wines.
"La Cresent, we have won gold medals in international competition,” Anthony said.
Name recognition is the only issue they sometimes have, not growing the commonly known Pinot Grigios and Cabernets, but they've turned that into a positive.
"Wine culture people are looking for that unique character,” Anthony said. “They're looking to see, what's in it flavor-wise, the nuance of it, and is it that good?"
So the grounds are set up to cater to that crowd. At Northern Sun, it's much more than just a business for the Anthony's. They offer their guests the complete wine tasting experience, from vine to table.
Dave and his wife Susie even have a permit for those who'd like to take their glass of wine and drink, while walking through the 5 acres of vineyard.
"In front of the tasting room, we have tables and chairs, and fountains and street lights so they can make themselves at home, get a bottle of wine and have a picnic,” Anthony said. “And again, that's a part of the culture that we want to be a part of and promote."
And part of that culture is making their operation a community effort.
"Our pickers are all volunteers,” Anthony said. “If they weren't friends to start with, they've become very close friends over the years."
In part three of this series on U.P. wineries, we will visit Mackinaw Trail Winery in Manistique.
For more information about Northern Sun Winery, click here.