Although Leelanau Peninsula is known for its wineries, Suttons Bay Ciders has a prominent position. Found on 10 acres of rolling land nestled atop of a hill overlooking west Grand Traverse Bay, it opened in 2015 as a hidden gem with a killer view. But today, its reputation for tasty ciders takes center stage.
In 2017 and 2018, Suttons Bay Ciders competed in the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (GLINTCAP). Its ciders won bronze, silver and, as of last year, a gold medal in varying divisions. Its I Spy Ginger received a gold medal in the 2018 spiced cider category.
“Our ciders are not commercial, in the way that there are no additives and flavorings and God knows what is in it,” said Madelynn Korzon, who owns the cidery with her husband Mark.
The Korzons’ less sweet, more English cider-making style has become their signature. The cidery offers eight or nine types at any given time and the offerings are varied. Some ciders are made exclusively from the apples that grow in their 2-acre orchard on the property, like Power Island, Smitten and Korzon Orchard. The rest may contain creative ingredients like Michigan cherries (Cherry Fest!), Michigan berries (Saskatoon), hops (Mosaic), jalapeño and habanero peppers (Sidra-LaPeno), lavender and other mixed varieties of apples.
Although wine, beer and spirits have dominated the alcoholic beverage industry for years, hard cider is coming into its own in Michigan, the third-largest hard cider-producing state in the country. Cideries like Suttons Bay are diversifying the market on a national and local level.
John Crampton, owner of Willow Vineyards and a neighbor of the Korzon’s property, said he enjoys sending guests to Suttons Bay Ciders as a nice break from all of the wineries in the area.
Although wine, beer and spirits have dominated the alcoholic beverage industry for years, hard cider is coming into its own in Michigan, the third-largest hard cider-producing state in the country.
“It’s really a nice complement with what’s already going on up here,” he said. “They’re a great asset to the community because there are a lot of people who like ciders, so it’s good to have something that offers that to them here.”
The Korzons said that in the beginning, most of their guests would stumble upon the cidery while visiting nearby wineries. Once they saw the view, they decided to stay.
“It was almost like most of our guests at first would come for the view and stay for a cider, and that’s how the word got out about us,” Madelynn said. “Now, after only a few years, people are coming for the cider first and the view is coming secondary.”
After living in Ann Arbor for nearly 40 years and running their own landscaping company, the Korzons saw their children grow up and move out. Being no strangers to business, they decided to tackle a new project.
“Mark’s parents have a house in the Traverse City area, and we have other friends up here, as well,” Korzon said. “It wasn’t a difficult transition.”
Their dream was to find property and plant a vineyard in the Traverse City area. But once they found the right property, they reconsidered due to the number of existing wineries surrounding them.
In 2012, they bought the 10-acre property and decided to renovate the 2,200-square-foot home into a tasting room and cider production facility.
“Mark moved to Traverse City in 2013 to start on this business, and we opened in 2015,“ Korzon said. “During that time, I also worked as a psych nurse at a hospital in Ann Arbor. When I would get time off, I would commute to Traverse City and stay there for the weekend and then come back. We sometimes have to make sacrifices for our bigger goals, and that was one of them.”
And those sacrifices paid off. Since opening in fall 2015, Suttons Bay Ciders has become so busy it now stays open during the offseason.
“Our food and drink industry is a cornerstone to our economic well-being, as well as our region’s reputation of unmatched hospitality,” said Jenny Jenness, media/public relations manager for Traverse City Tourism. “But quite frankly, it adds significant quality of life for those who live here, too. On an October day when the colors are blazing throughout Leelanau County, pulling up a stool at Suttons Bay Ciders is nothing short of magical.”
Megan Westers is a freelance writer based in mid-Michigan who enjoys writing about politics, lifestyle and travel.