Winery & Tasting Room
Open year round
4724 Walz Road
Jackson, Mich. 49201
Dexter Tasting Room
Open from late Aug. to mid Nov.
Hours: Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sun. 12 to 5 p.m.
Dexter, Mich. 48130
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Holly Balansag, winemaker for Sandhill Crane Vineyards, to explore today’s winery. She was bursting at the seams with energy and genuinely passionate about the wine of her family.
Q: How many wines have you released this year?
A: This year, we’re actually releasing four wines: Shiraz, Noire (which is a New York Hybrid), our Sassy Rose, our Surly Chardonnay and our barrel fermented chardonnay.
Q: I’ve noticed that everything is made in very small batches. Why is that?
A: We started out with about five wines, and I try to do every category – a dry red, a dry white – you know, that kind of thing. And it was feeding off people’s requests to try different things because we’re in an area where there’s a lot of great fruit, and there’s a lot of different tastes and not everybody likes the standard dry stuff. We’d like everybody to come in here and find something that they like. That’s really, really important. So I’ve had a good time playing with different blends- I always tell people that I’m not as much a chemist as I am an artistic winemaker because that’s where my love is in winemaking. I really like to play with different blends! And we have really great fruit in the area. We have fantastic raspberries and amazing blueberries and I’ve had such a good time playing with that kind of stuff.
Q: What makes this winery the best in the state?
A: What we don’t grow here, we buy from other Michigan growers, so 100 percent of our fruit is Michigan. It is all hand crafted. It is not done in huge bulk quantities. I think the thing about Michigan wineries is that we’re all really unique and we all offer something different, and every time I go to one I find something I really enjoy about it, so I don’t think it is about, “Come to us and not them.” I think it’s the experience – the whole Michigan wine scene – that is the good thing to do. But I can say that some things that I have encountered nowhere else are the large selection of wines we have, and I think we have some of the friendliest people that work here. I really do.
Q: What can visitors look forward to?
A: We started out as total family and people love that. People come in, they’ve been here before, they get a hug, and that’s the way we want it. Completely family. From the moment you come through the door, we want you to have a fun time and just enjoy yourselves. We’re at a point now where we still don’t charge for wine tasting. We want people to feel at home and just enjoy themselves, and now they can get a sandwich too! So I guess it’s just the feeling! Most of the time you’ll get to meet one of the owners, take a tour or walk in the vineyard. Just a great cozy feeling.
~Nathan Smathers, feature writer