Where trees once stood on a hillside at Pond Hill Farm in Harbor Springs, Jimmy Spencer, one of the farm's owners, saw potential for a vineyard.
"We should be able to produce somewhere between 600-800 cases of wine off this hill," he said, overlooking the farm's 2,500 newly planted vines.
Spencer, who owns the farm with his wife, Marci Spencer, and his mother, Sharon Spencer, said the trees were clear cut last year. Then the hill was terraced and the top soil was replaced, among other steps, and the vines were planted this month.
"It will be three years before we have our first harvest that's big enough to really do a real production run of wine that's exclusively made from our own grapes that have been grown here," he said.
In the meantime, Harbor Springs Vineyards & Winery at Pond Hill Farm will sell wine made by French Road Cellars, made from French Road Cellars' grapes, Spencer said.
"That gives us the ability to learn something about the wine making process, learn what sells, you know, get our feet wet. So, by the time we have our own production, we have some experience making wine, we have some experience selling wine."
Spencer said the farm aims to open its winery June 1, but the date is subject to change. It will serve six kinds of wine and a hard cider, including Regatta Red Wine, named for the Ugotta Regatta event, and Tunnel Vision Hard Cider, named for the tunnel of trees, Marci Spencer said.
Marci designed the bottle labels, which incorporate the work of local artist Trisha Witty.
"The tasting room, all the wood that you see in there, is all wood that we milled on the property. And a lot of the lumber that we used on the walls actually was growing right on this hill," Jimmy said.
Other additions to the farm include expansion of its existing cafe and a new deck with outdoor seating.
In a few years the farm aims to sell wine made from its own grapes. The newly planted vines, purchased from a vineyard in New York state, include three types of hybrids -- Marquette, a red wine grape, vignole, a white wine grape, and Brianna, a white wine and table grape -- and three kinds of vinifera -- chardonnay, pinot grigio and riesling, Jimmy said.
Jimmy said there are two main concerns when it comes to growing the grapes: Can they survive the winter? And will there be enough heat to mature the grapes to the point that the sugar content is high enough to produce quality wine?
He said, of the 2,500 vines the farm planted, about 2,000 of them are hybrids, because they're "bred for cold heartiness." But he expects the vinifera will do well, too, based on data he collected from weather stations he ran on the hill.
Jimmy said the farm chose to use the hill because of its southern exposure and the amount of airflow it receives from the nearby lake.
The next steps include installing trellising posts and wire for support, a drip irrigation system, and then pruning the vines next spring, he said.
"I think it's important for people to try new things and to kind of push the envelope," Jimmy said. "There's a general perception, when I talk to people, that you can't grow wine grapes above the 45th parallel, but, you know, there are people doing it. There aren't a lot of people growing vinifera above the 45th parallel, but I think, in farming, a lot of what you're able to do is so site specific. If this hill faced north and we were farther from the lake than we are, we probably couldn't do it."
He added, "You don't know until you try."
"We're very excited," Sharon said of the winery. "It's a destination. It's something for people to do."
She added, "I think it will be a very beneficial thing for this community because wineries are destinations."