Family owned winery and brewery puts Indian River 'On The Map'
Some people are born into wine-making families… while others more or less stumble into the industry.
That’s what happened with the Seasons of the North winery in Indian River.
The winery was established in 2012.
Sid VanValkenburgh is co-owner of Seasons of the North, along with his wife and in-laws. Wine making started out as a hobby for him.
“I had been doing wine for a couple of years personally.”
Then he heard about a winemaking class at North Central Michigan Community College in Petoskey.
From there the rest is history.
He said the class taught him everything he needed to know about viticulture, and hybrid grapes, which his vineyard now grows.
“Hybrids and cold hardy's because once you get above that 45th parallel, we have such a shorter growing season where you have to use those hybrids and cold hardys, and by cold hardy means it can withstand cold temperatures and not die off.”
Seasons grows five cold hardy varietals, three red and two white to produce ten different wines.
They include sangria, rosé, strawberry and a dry red.
VanValkenburgh said the family produces and bottles the wine themselves.
“Last year was our biggest year of actually doing it ourselves, we did five tons ourselves. So it takes a lot of time.”
It can take anywhere from three months to a year to make a batch of wine.
“Fruit wines are the quickest, you’ve got anywhere from 3-5 months we can get a fruit wine out.”
VanValkenburgh shows me around the vineyard. On site at the tasting room are dozens of vines, and they also have a second vineyard in Afton.
“This first row is everberry and raspberry, that’s what I make the dessert wine with.”
He said maintaining vines is a full time job.
“It’s farming cause you gotta spray for bugs in the spring, you gotta prune, you gotta spray in the fall for bugs, and then you have to do a little bit of hedging, and then you have to do picking.”
If having a winery wasn’t enough work, VanValkenburgh also began brewing beer in 2015.
Burt Lake Brewery now shares facilities with Seasons of the North.
“Right now I do a cream ale, that’s called Sand Bar, then I do a shandy, it’s a wheat beer then I have raspberries that we grow on site here that I add to it so it’s a raspberry shandy, then I have an IPA, burt it's a light IPA, it's like a 24 IBU so it’s not super hoppy. It’s like first time IPA drinkers kind of beer.”
VanValkenburgh said the turnaround time for beer is quicker than wine, so his family is able to balance the demands of both the vineyard and the brewery.
He said more types of beer and wine will be added, and they plan to expand the Seasons vineyard every year.
Seasons of the North and Burt Lake Brewery -- two family owned startups, that are helping to put Indian River on the map.