By Stan Maddux
Hosting tastings under the roof of a relocated 1911 dairy barn in a southwest Michigan vineyard caused business to shoot up like a cork for a family-owned maker of wine, beer and spirits.
Moersch Hospitality Group is now putting wine into cans.
It seems odd because wine poured from uncorked bottles into glasses has long been viewed as more upscale than simply popping the top from a can to guzzle a beer.
But CEO Matt Moersch says since there has been a surge in demand for wine, larger manufacturers started putting wine into trendy-looking narrow cans, and his family wanted to try it out.
With assistance from a $75,000 grant from the Food and Agriculture Investment Program, administered by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Moersch Hospitality Group started a new canning line at the end of April from one of the winemaker’s seven locations, all in Berrien County.
Already, Meijer is carrying its canned sangria at 150 stores.
“It’s been just incredible. I mean, the potential is huge,” says Moersch, whose former schoolteaching parents, Rick and Sherrie, made wine after buying the 50-acre vineyard in 1992.
WINE ALLURE: The main level of Round Barn Winery & Restaurant features displays of bottled wine and bars for customers to order food and drink. The iconic barn featuring live music on weekends has drawn as many as 2,000 customers in a day.
The owners of Round Barn Winery Brewery & Distillery and the adjacent Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant near Baroda, Mich., also are adding 10 acres of grapes to supply the cans with sangria.
Grapes from other growers in Michigan and California help meet demand for their various wines and other adult beverages such as rum, vodka, gin and tequila.
Local growers supply the corn used to make their bourbon and other whiskey from a distillery brought in from Germany, Moersch says.
The distillery is inside an 1881 rectangular-shaped barn just a short walk from the round barn, which was trucked in from Rochester in northern Indiana in 1997.
The Moersch family didn’t have deep pockets when starting out in the winemaking business, so they could only work on remodeling the round barn when time from their busy schedules and cash allowed.
It took seven years to serve the first glass of wine at The Round Barn, which features live music on weekends from May through October.
The upstairs includes more than a dozen suites for groups reserving space for tasting.
VISITORS: Marissa and Maggie Lubarski recently visited Round Barn Winery & Restaurant near Baroda, Mich.
Marissa and Maggie Lubarski, sisters now living 3,000 miles apart, came away impressed during their first visit to the Round Barn on June 5.
Maggie says she had wine before at a tasting room the company has at Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend, Ind., where she’s employed.
“I wanted to just be able to get the whole experience here and try all of the different selections,” she says.
“It’s beautiful. It would be great place for a wedding,” says Marissa, who was in from California to visit family.
Growth in the Moersch enterprise includes the recent acquisition of Tabor Hill, a maker of bottled wine sold retail in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.
Tabor Hill also features room for special events such as weddings.
In 2013, the company opened Round Barn Brewery & Public House inside an old tool-and-die shop in Baroda, Mich. Satellite locations along Interstate 94 in Michigan at Sawyer, Bridgman and Coloma also have been added in recent years.
FOOD OFFERED: Near the Round Barn Winery & Restaurant is an 1881 barn converted into a distillery and bar that includes food on the menu.
The site in Coloma, “The Filling Station,” is expected to open in the next few weeks inside an old Texaco station.
There’s also Free Run Cellars Winery & Restaurant near Berrien Springs, Mich.
“Here we are. An overnight success story — 27 years later,” Moersch says.
Cans without tops coming into the new plant are rinsed then filled four at a time and capped. Coming off the line daily are 800 wine cases, each containing 12 cans and 400 24-pack cases of beer made by the company.
Convenience is driving the demand for canned wine, Moersch says, because it’s easier to take and consume at places such as beaches, golf courses and on boats.
“Instead of having to bring a glass bottle, glasses and a corkscrew, it’s a single serving,” he says.
The state grant, he says, was solicited because the market for canned wine emerged so suddenly that his company didn’t have the time required to set aside all the money for the more than $300,000 investment.
Maddux writes from New Buffalo, Mich.