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Sandhill Crane Vineyards Adds Café

by Lisa Diggs

A glass of wine can be a delight on its own, but pair it with the right food and the result can move the experience from sipping a tantalizing beverage to a culinary feast for all the senses. Visitors to Sandhill Crane Vineyards now have that unique opportunity with the opening of their brand new café this month.

The menu features fresh, homestyle, wine-friendly foods, including seasonal and daily specials to take advantage of fresh, local ingredients as well as special events. To mark the grand opening earlier this month, for example, the vineyard released its special edition port, 840, and created specials designed to pair particularly well with it.

According to Executive Director, Heather Price, plans for a café have been in the works for quite a while, but increased product demand provided a stimulus. “Because of the demand, we needed to expand our cellar/manufacturing area. To match that growth, we needed to expand in other ways that would generate revenue. The combination of a daily café and small banquet room for private parties should do a good job of utilizing our new commercial kitchen,” says Price. 

The vineyard's location also factored into the decision. Part of the Pioneer Wine Trail, Sandhill Crane is nestled in a quaint portion of Jackson, that’s a bit off the beaten path. Winding, tree-lined roads, small inland lakes, and pretty homes dot the landscape near the winery, a few miles northeast of exit 145 off I-94. While the setting is lovely, and fairly easy to access, it’s not particularly close to many dining options, which supported into the decision to expand.

Price also cited an extensive survey conducted a few years ago by the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council in which respondents were asked “If a winery you were visiting had an on-site restaurant, would you be inclined to eat there?” According to Price, an overwhelming amount of respondents indicated that they would, which fueled interest in opening a café to complement the wine tastings.

All the wine at Sandhill Crane is handcrafted on site, using only local grapes and other fruits. The emphasis on Michigan ingredients is already carried over into the café menu as well. Suppliers include: Calder Dairy of Carleton, McLaughlin Farm and Gilbert Chocolate of Jackson, Donnelly Farm of Leoni Township, Back Forty Acres and Greystone Creamery of Chelsea, Arbor Teas and Zingerman’s of Ann Arbor, Better Maid Snack Foods of Detroit, Pioneer Sugar of Bay City, D & N Honey of Concord, Snow’s Sugar Bush of Mason, Farm Country Cheese of Lake, Grassfields Cheese of Coopersville, Hannewald Lamb and Mama Mofoods of Munith, Serra Cheese of Clinton Township,  and Mill Pond Bakery of Waterloo.

The back of the facility houses a stage for live entertainment and use for private parties. There have already been two weddings in the past few weeks, and they are open late once a week for Thirsty Thursdays.  Those evenings run from 6PM to 9PM and feature live entertainment from 6:30-8:30. Food is available from the café menu with a few dinner specials offered as well.

The winery is regularly open 7 days a week for free winetasting: Monday – Saturday 11AM – 6PM (9PM on Thursdays), and Sunday Noon – 6PM.

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