Lemon Creek Farm in Berrien County has been handed down from generation to generation for more than 150 years. What began as a charming U-pick farm of quintessential Michigan berries and stone fruit like peaches, plums, cherries and apricots expanded in 1984 to include winemaking from home-grown grapes.
Jeff Lemon, seventh-generation member and current winemaker for Lemon Creek Winery, continues the family tradition. The winemaking enterprise began with Jeff’s parents, Robert and Helen, his brothers and one wine grape varietal, Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, with over 29 different single varietals or blends, including fruit and sparkling styles, the wine options have grown right along with the next generation of Lemons, which you might just meet if you happen to visit their latest family venture: a new tasting room in Grand Haven. Jeff shared some insights.
How did you first get into the wine business? Back in 1984, we were already producing wine grapes and distributing them to other wineries within the area, but we had more than we could necessarily sell, so I decided to start creating a few wines to utilize the extra production. Lemon Creek Fruit Farm had long been known as a U-pick farm for seasonal berries and stone fruit; wine tasting gave us something unique to offer customers.
Where do you get your inspirations for new blends? From a combination of things, and each year it’s different. Winemaking starts with the vintage of the grape varietal. Every season, certain varietals will be higher or lower in things such as sugar or acid. To balance these, I sometimes blend compatible varietals to create a more balanced wine. Our Grands Lacs Blanc and Grands Lacs Rouge are both great examples of taking a certain varietal and blending it to heighten the flavor profile. Feedback from customers, family and friends gives us fresh ideas too. Wine fans often have suggestions about what could be done to tweak wine to perfection.
What is your favorite wine and food pairing? For most meals, I like to start off with a dry white wine like our Dry Riesling or the Lemon Creek Chardonnay Reserve — either go great with hors d’oeuvres. For the main course, I enjoy the simplicity of a great steak, so either the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve or Cabernet Franc makes the perfect partner. The Cabernet’s full body and rich tannins with hints of cedar, oak and fruit stand up perfectly to a peppercorn-encrusted filet mignon or a charbroiled steak. For a real treat, we love to finish off the night with a small glass of our Snowmoon Ice Wine for dessert.
What do you most enjoy about the wine business? The people that I meet are one of best things about being a winemaker. With the opening of our new Grand Haven tasting room, I have met so many amazing people from the community. Visitors to both of our tasting rooms come in really curious about different wines, how to taste them and how to pair them with great food. We love sharing our knowledge. It’s a great feeling to know we are creating new wine fans every day.
What’s your favorite way to celebrate springtime? Getting outdoors, working in the fields and the orchards and just enjoying the smell of the blossoms. The beginning of the year is always an exciting time. It’s a new season that will turn into a new harvest. Since Lemon Creek Winery is an estate vineyard and 150-year old family farm, we are still very tied to the agricultural process. Springtime is when everything comes back to life. It’s truly the start of our new year.
What’s the best way to learn about wine? The best way to learn about wine is to go out to tasting rooms, try all different kinds of wine and talk with the people who are serving you. Ask lots of questions and you will learn about different wines through experience. And always let your taste buds guide you — they will never steer you wrong.
What’s next on your horizon? I’d like to take my own advice about learning more about wine and travel to the best wine regions of the world (aka semi-retirement!). ≈
Writer Caroline J. Beck lives in California’s wine country and Lexington, Mich.
A taste of what’s happening
Managed by Kaitlyn Lemon, Lemon Creek Winery hosts a variety of annual celebrations and events, including these:
Lemon Creek Winery & Fruit Farm, Berrien Springs
• Memorial Weekend Wine and Art Fair, May 25 and 26
• 29th Annual Father’s Day Festival & Corvette Car Show, June 16
• Vintage Blues Bash, July 20
• Annual Harvest Festival, Sept. 7
Grand Haven Tasting Room
• Earth Day Wine & Food Celebration, April 19-21
Learn more about these and other offerings at lemoncreekwinery.com.