Wednesday, February 22, 2006


This morning, as I was coming back in the house after dropping Tommy off at school, I was greeted by a Sandhill Crane. It flew low, right over the house, calling all the way, then landed in the swamp between my house and the winery.

It took a minute to register (it was quite early after all). The first crane of spring!

Y'know it really hadn't felt like spring at all this morning -- at least to me. I had to argue with Tommy to wear a real coat over his light sweatshirt (did he know something I didn't? Nah.). At 25 degrees, with a 1/2 inch layer of frost on my car, it seemed pretty wintery.

But who am I to argue with a Sandhill Crane, freshly arrived from the south? The first glimpse of spring has come to southern Michigan.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Growing pains & pleasures

At this point we all agree that sometime during that first day we opened our doors, we had already outgrown our space.

We built our very charming building (actually Ann Arbor builder and architect, Attila Huth, built it...) with a specific sense of the business in mind. A small winery, closed in the winter. Maybe open during the weekends on shoulder seasons and bit more in the summer and autumn. Enough business (and enough wine) to make that work.

We opened in September 2003 on the first day of our newly formed wine trail's first event. Tickets sold out over a week ahead of the event. And during our first two days of operation we found ourselves serving 250+ new customers.

The back room, which we intended for storage and a work room, suddenly became a special parties room, seating about 25-30 people. And from that day on, that room has served a purpose we never envisioned.

Yesterday we held our 2nd annual Wine Lovers' Open House -- sort of a celebration of Valentine's Day weekend. When you hold an event in February in Michigan, you need to be able to accommodate everyone indoors. For a few hours yesterday it felt like we were splitting at the seams! Our helpers, Chris, Suzanne, and Ken were treasures. We happily made it through the day because of them.

But Holly and I spent the day (independently of each other, but simutaneously) dreaming of an addition that would actually accommodate a large winter event.

Our business started outgrowing itself on the first day we opened. It's been an exciting ride ever since.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Why blog?

Sandhill Crane Vineyards is a new-ish winery in southern Michigan, owned and run by the Moffatt family. Dad (Norman) was a winemaker for decades -- he started out with dandelions, elderberries, that sort of thing. As the years went by he perfected his craft -- purchasing wine grapes at Detroit's Eastern Market and producing some very drinkable amateur wine.

Nobody's quite sure how we made the decision to go commercial. There were a lot of factors: proximity to Lone Oak (new at the time), Holly's strong interest in winemaking, my Dad's need to always be busy and exploring new things... Somehow these factors (and more) came together and we found ourselves with a small commercial winery. And it's been going gang-busters ever since.

One of the things we all love best is how our customers respond to the family aspect of the winery. At one time or another the entire family gets involved. Dad (Norm) watches over everthing. Mom (Alice) works in the tasting room and does the day-to-day bookkeeping. Aunt Anne (Holly and I call her "Anna") also mans the tasting room. She's a perfectionist -- when she's around you won't find a spot on the glasses...

Holly, of course, is our winemaker. She took all the knowledge Dad passed on to her, added lots of technical info from seminars, etc, and brought in her own sense of organization and practicality. She's a stickler for attention to detail and watches over her wines like an ICU nurse in a newborn ward. Add in an exceptional palate (even with the world's worst sinuses!) and she's become a terrific winemaker in just a few short years.

Holly's and my families help out at special events and behind the scenes, as does our brother Tom and his family. Everyone else (Leo, Robin, and all the friends who help out at special events) are adopted family.

I work elsewhere full-time but find myself with lots of winery chores that are becoming more and more full-time themselves. I do the marketing, the buying for the gifts in the tasting room, the website, etc. And here I am adding one more job -- a blog.

My idea behind this blog is to chat in a friendly, informal way about the workings of Sandhill Crane Vineyards. What's going on behind the scenes. The kind of info that you won't find in a press release. Sort of an extension of the family atmosphere surrounding the place. So, from now on, consider yourself one of the family.