Saturday, May 15, 2010

Early History of Michigan Wine Holds Surprises

Vineyard on the Leelanau peninsulaImage via Wikipedia
A new publication chronicles the beginning of the wine industry in Michigan and offers a few surprises. One of the big ones being that in May of 1918, Michigan outlawed alcohol, more than a year before the National Prohibition Act banned alcoholic beverages in all states in the union. Fifteen years later, Michigan was the first state to repeal the prohibition of alcohol. This is just one of the historical tidbits you'll discover when reading "The Early History of the Michigan Wine Industry," written by Lorri Hathaway and Sharon Kegerreis.

In 2009, the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council commissioned Hathaway and Kegerreis to document the early history of Michigan's wine industry -- from the pre-1900s to early 1970s. After completing their book, "From the Vine: Exploring Michigan Wineries," the pair was eager to take on the challenge of recording the history of Michigan wine. They spent the year interviewing, researching and documenting specific topics requested by the council.

"Through their research, Lorri and Sharon found records of winemaking in Michigan that date back to 1679," says Linda Jones, executive director of the council, "and references to the first vineyard for commercial winemaking being planted in 1863.

"Michigan is a youngster in the global wine picture," she says. "But the industry has grown at an amazing rate in the last 10 years -- from 25 wineries to 71, with at least four more due to open in the next year. We were concerned that some of the early history of the industry might be lost if we didn't get some of the stories firsthand."

Hathaway and Kegerreis interviewed some of the pioneers of the modern Michigan wine industry for the project, including Bernie Rink, Boskydel Vineyards; Ed O'Keefe, Sr., Chateau Grand Traverse; and David Braganini, St. Julian Wine Company.

"Every person we talked to was enthusiastic about getting their story down on paper," says Kegerreis. "They shared photographs, letters, legal documents and more, to help ensure this important part of Michigan's history is preserved."

"The Early History of the Michigan Wine Industry" is full of historic photos, and interesting, sometimes surprising, stories about the growth of the industry. The documents are available online at, under "About Michigan Wines," and will be preserved electronically in the Archives of Michigan.

The Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council is an 11-member panel that supports the growth of the grape and wine industry in Michigan. It is housed in the Michigan Department of Agriculture, which is the official state agency charged with serving, promoting and protecting the food, agriculture and agricultural economic interests of the people of the state of Michigan.

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