Lawton Ridge Winery’s grapes are grown in the Lake Michigan Shore American Viticulture Area (AVA) – the oldest grape region in the state – with ideal conditions for “cool climate viticulture”. Like most of the major wine-producing areas of the world (France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, New York, and Oregon) we are within a few degrees of the 45th parallel. Warm days and cool nights allow the grapes to mature with the proper balance of sugar and acidity, giving crispness to our white wines and depth and complexity to our reds. The AVA boundaries extend from the Indiana border north to Fennville and 45 miles east from the shore of Lake Michigan. It is home to a majority of Michigan’s vineyards and half of the state’s wine production. This growing region dates its first vineyards back to 1867.
Our vineyard was established in 1974 when Lew Carlson, George Beech and Jim Dempsey, faculty members at Western Michigan University, planted a wide variety of French hybrid grapes on a former peach orchard near Lawton, Michigan. The site features high ground, good for cold air drainage, which allows the growing of grape varieties sensitive to early and late frosts. Over the years, more acres were added along with major plantings: Chambourcin and Pinot Grigio. Some of the grapes were used for home wine making (the original purpose of the vineyard) while the remaining grapes went to St. Julian Winery in Paw Paw. Since 2007, our first commercial vintage, the majority of the grapes harvested from this little vineyard on the ridge have been used to produce Lawton Ridge Winery wines.
In the mid-1990s, Bill Harrison and Dean Bender became sole owners of the vineyard and expanded the plantings to include Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, and Traminette. The plantings are just over 10 acres, with one more acre on the parcel to be planted.
The majority of the grapes in our wines are from our own Lawton Ridge Vineyard. From the planting of the vines to the harvest of the grapes, through all the seasons, there are many tasks lovingly done by hand to bring the highest quality wines to you.
In the winter, we carefully prune the vines to bring them back to the size that we want to start off the new crop in the spring. We then spend the spring positioning the shoots on the growing trellis.
Come summer, we do selective leaf-thinning to maximize sun exposure on the fruit, and we control crop-load for optimal quality by removing excess grape clusters to promote better fruit.
In the fall, the ripened grapes are harvested by hand and transported from the Lawton Ridge Vineyard to the Lawton Ridge Winery on Stadium drive for crush and the start of the winemaking process.
All of this care and handiwork given to the grapes has led to recognition from a number of different wine competitions over the years, even as far back as the garage wine-making days. When you are perusing our individual wines listed on the site, you will see that we continue to garner industry awards for the wines we are producing.