Michigan Uncorked is a regular column by Lorri Hathaway and Sharon Kegerreis, writers who are passionate for Michigan and authors of award-winning From the Vine: Exploring Michigan Wineries. Learn all about Lorri & Sharon and their book at www.michiganvine.com.
Forty-five years ago, Bernie Rink planted grapes in northern Michigan. As a reflection of his own childhood on a vineyard in northern Ohio, Bernie believed the labor-intensive farming would instill good values in his five sons.
At the time, wine grapes were not being commercially farmed in northern Michigan. Bernie tested 35 French-American hybrid varieties to determine which ones could survive the cold winter temperatures. Six varieties made the cut, and Bernie has kept things simple by handcrafting quality table wines from the same varieties ever since. The six include Bernie’s favorite de Chaunac, as well as Vignoles, Seyval Blanc, Aurore Blanc, Vin Blanc and Soleil Blanc.
“Everybody should be able to afford to put decent wine on their dinner table each night,â€ states Bernie, who opened Boskydel Vineyards in 1976. Three price increases in almost 40 years has kept Bernie’s wines under $10 a bottle.
Boskydel wines can only be found in the simple tasting room on Leelanau Peninsula overlooking Lake Leelanau. On your way, keep an eye out for the small sign hidden among the trees and the rusted mailbox at the bottom of the drive. Also, be sure to just take a friend or two as the self-proclaimed “Wine Nazi” does not encourage groups or crowds and allows only eight tasters at a time; and be prepared with cash or check, the only two forms of payment accepted at the tasting room.
On a sunny day, you may find Bernie sitting outside his entry door. Most likely, though, you’ll find him pouring wines from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. every day amidst his piles of books and the haphazard collection of faded newspaper clippings, artwork and favorite sayings covering the four walls. A notable family treasure hanging on one wall is an 1847 grape picking basket brought from Germany on the Mosel River by Bernie’s great grandfather, Martin Rink. One of our favorite posted sayings is, “I’m a prisoner in a wine cellar – don’t shend help.” (An intentional play on “send” of course!)
The result of Bernie’s vision and hard work years ago has paid off five times over. Bernie is proud of his five sons and believes the values he instilled in them as young boys gave them the tools for their success today. Amazingly, a smart, fatherly decision in 1964 ignited northern Michigan’s now booming wine industry. So, while you won’t find gourmet cheese plates or fancy wine decor when you visit Boskydel, you will find one of northern Michigan’s most respected winemakers.