By Kevin and Sarah Nash
The 2nd annual Monroe Wine Crawl is next Friday, July 18. Although the event is already sold out I thought it would be a good excuse to do a post on Monroe’s wine history. Have you ever wondered why a town founded by the French on the River Raisin seems to have little to no wine industry? Would you be surprised to find out Monroe in fact did have a wine industry and that it was the Traverse City of it’s day. I know you feel puzzled, what you thought was reality has been turned on it’s head. I feel like I did when I found out that Frank Sinatra was married to Harpo Marx’s ex-wife (which is true). So what happened Monroe?! You used to be cool.
I came across a book a few months ago called, “The History of Michigan Wines” By Lorri Hathaway and Sharon Kegerreis which detailed the startling facts.
When Michigan became a state in 1837, Monroe was one of the largest cities. According to the book, Within a few decades Monroe became the birthplace of Michigan’s commercial wine industry.
It started with Joseph Sterling who arrived in Monroe from New York in 1835 and built several private homes and public buildings in Monroe including the original city hall. He served as mayor from 1862-1863. The authors write, “Perhaps as Joseph traveled on Lake Erie the combination of the sight of the grape vines on Kelleys Island and the wild grape vines flourishing along the Detroit River and the River Raisin influenced his future profession as wine maker.”
In 1863 Joseph planted the state’s first vineyard for the purposes of commercial winemaking in Monroe County, although the first vineyard in Monroe was planted in 1854 by J.C.W. Greening, owner of the RiverRaisin Valley Nursery. Joseph’s vineyard was two and a half acres and was planted along with an apple orchard near the docks in Monroe. Successful vineyards on nearby islands inspired him to plant a vineyard. He planted 2, 050 vines on twelve acres of property….A few years later, in 1868, commercial winemaking in Michigan began when he established Pointe Aux Peaux Wine Company. The winery was named for the point of land that jut out into Lake Erie. In 1871, Pointe Aux Peaux Winery made five thousand gallons of wine.
The winery’s reputation grew when they received a gold medal and recognition for presenting the best collection of wines at the Michigan State Fair. The following year, Pointe Aux Peaux was awarded a gold medal for perfect vineyard. The judges noted they, “had never seen any vineyard better laden with fruit or in better condition in any respect.”
Success breeds imitation and by 1873 there were more than 20 vineyards on nearly 200 acres producing over a half a million pounds of grapes. By 1873, the Monroe wine industry was booming and had earned a reputation for quality. There were 309 acres of vines; 184,673 pounds of grapes were sold, and 12,355 gallons of wines were made. (25)
So what happened? There is no real satisfying answer here. Upon Joseph Sterling’s death in 1891, the prohibitionist wife of his partner, Samuel P. Williams’, closed the winery. In the late 1800s a fungal disease known as “grape rot” hit Monroe. This combined with the growing strength of the temperance movement and the deaths of the wine making pioneers doomed Monroe’s wine industry. After the repeal of prohibition, several new wineries reopened, but relocated to southwest Michigan where vineyards established prior had survived by supplying grapes to Welch’s grape juice company.
Monroe is a farming community that takes a lot of pride in it’s history. Perhaps a glance at its past could help move the city toward a better future. I’d like to think that all we need is a few pioneering spirits like Joseph Sterling who can see Monroe for it’s potential. People with a passion for their craft and an uncompromising commitment to quality. There are signs that it is happening right now in the county through the efforts of Jon Trelor owner of J. Trees Wine Cellars who cultivates grapes and apples to make fantastic wine and cider right here in Petersburg and Brad Sancho at Original Gravity who set up shop in Milan on the Monroe side of the county line and is turning out consistently top notch craft beer. Now if a winery or microbrewery would just open within walking distance of our house.
I came across this cool article in the April 7th 1933 Monroe Evening News. The story is aboutwhen certain states amended the Volstead Act. Remember this list is as of April 7th, 1933.
3.2 beer went on sale on April 7th, 1933 in: District of Columbia, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware (in Wilmington only), Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Dates have been set for the sale in the following seven states: Louisiana, April 13; Maine, June 10; North Carolina, May 1; North Dakota, July 1; Vermont, May 1; West Virginia, June 8; Wyoming, May 18.
Legislative or other action still pending in these 15 states: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and South Carolina.
Beer legislation has failed in these three states: Arkansas, Georgia, and Idaho.
No action taken in these 4 states: Kansas, Mississippi, Utah, and Virginia.
Sale subject to referendum in 1934 for this state: South Dakota.
A week that includes the first day of spring and St. Patrick’s Day is a pretty damn good week. But when it ends with The 4th Annual March of Dimes Michigan Beer & Wine Tasting, you just turned it up to eleven.
This fantastic event held on the Saturday after St. Patrick’s Day has become the biggest craft beer event in Monroe. It has great food, fabulous Michigan craft beer and wine and the money goes to a worthy cause, The March of Dimes.
Below are the event details and vendor list…
4th Annual Michigan Beer & Wine Tasting.
Saturday, March 22, 2014 1-4pm
Tickets are $35.00 in advance, $40.00 at the door.
Price includes 12 3-ounce pours, lunch buffet and door prizes. You’ll also have an opportunity to bid on silent auction baskets & 50/50 raffles. Tickets are available at Harbor Inn & Ale, by calling Darcy Merritt @ (734) 968-7991, (734) 457-4445 or by calling Mac Merritt @ (734) 552-6410 or at Keybank North Telegraph office. In order to make sure we have enough beer, wine & food we only sell a small amount of tickets at the door. Advance tickets are recommended.
Arbor Brewing Co.
Dark Horse Brewery
Fenton Winery and Brewing
Motor City Brewing Works
Mt. Pleasant Brewing
North Peak Brewing Co.
Tabor Hill Winery
Uncle John’s Fruit House Winery
Is everyone ready for spring? I know I am! Good news everyone! The first day of spring is only 2 weeks away. The end of this winter deserves a good party and 129 Lounge, Jake’s Liquor and Atwater are throwing one.
This is a cool event. The premiere craft beer store is getting together with one of the best and first good beer bars in Monroe to put on a launch party. I am hoping it’s a nice enough night to walk down and enjoy some Hop-A-Peel. Let’s think positive.
129 Lounge, Jake’s Liquor & Atwater Hop-A-Peel Launch Party
Thursday, March 20 7:00pm until 10:00pm
Come join us at The 129 Lounge in conjunction with Atwater Detroit Brewery and Jake’s Liquor for Atwater’s 2014 launch of Hop-A-Peel!!! It’s the first time Hop-A-Peel will be available in bottles, Jake’s Liquor will be taking care of that, and we’ll have pints and samplings on tap of this wonderful I.P.A. from Detroit’s Atwater Brewery!!! We’ll have MI Craft Beer specials, stuff to give to you, Atwater Beer, more stuff, drinks, and fun. Come out and show your support for Atwater Detroit, Jake’s Liquor, and 129 Lounge…Say YES to Michigan!!!
This Friday, the 28th, come and meet with Ben Finch, proprietor of Finch’s Beer Company and get a free taste of the best they have to offer! from 6-8
Sarah and I went to the Rum Running Stories program a few years back and had a great time. Please check out one of these events if you have time this weekend.
Here are the details…
The Prohibition Weekend: The History of Hooch program will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday Feb. 8 at Lake Erie Metropark, 32481 W. Jefferson Ave., Brownstown Township.
“Join an interpreter for a historic journey of all things beer,” the announcement said.
The cost is $3 a person, vehicle entry permit also required.
The Prohibition Weekend: Rum Running Stories program will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday Feb. 9 at Lake Erie Metropark, 32481 W. Jefferson Ave., Brownstown Township.
The stories will feature some of the tales during the 1920s and 1930s in the Detroit River region.
The cost is $3 a person, vehicle permit fees also apply.
Advance registration is reguired at (734) 379-5020.
440 Pepper Smoker is back! I love this beer.
Here are the details…
2.7.14 – Taco Night and 440 Pepper Smoker Release!
Come enjoy a pint of 440 Pepper Smoker and some beef brisket tacos!
Slow braised spicy beef brisket on Ann Arbor Tortilla co. corn tortillas served with homemade guacamole, salsa, cilntro-lime slaw and tortilla chips.
Food served at 5:00pm.
From the Short’s Brewing website…
Jake’s Liquor Store Beer Tasting
Jake’s Liquor is hosting a Short’s Brewing Co. beer tasting. Come visit this great bottle shop to sample free Short’s and chat with Short’s Beer Liberator, Brian Talpos, as he guides your through the tasting. He will be happy to answer any beer related questions you may have!
1092 N Dixie Hwy Monroe, MI 48162
Monroe is having a beer and wine event! Actually the number of beer events are on the rise over the last few years but they are usually scheduled on days when I can’t make it… And this is no different. But I remember the days when there was not a lot going on so I get excited when I see local beer events.
It’s brought to you by Partyville with partial proceeds going to the Humane Society of Monroe. So you have good local beer and wine plus a good cause. I did verify that Rave will be there so that means Bell’s and Founders.
Here are some details. Please check out the flier for more…
Saturday October 26, 2013 6 to 10pm
Location: Monroe Golf & Country Club 611 Cole Rd, Monroe (734) 241-5190
$25 per person advanced $35 per person at the door