Q&A with Detroit Vineyards’ Co-Founder, Blake Kownacki

Modified: September 11, 2018 | Story by Danielle Alexander | Photos by Timur Saglambilek from Pexels

So, there’s a new Detroit winery in town, and they’re making wine right here in The D. Intrigued? So were we! That’s why we got the inside scoop with Detroit Vineyards’ co-founder, Blake Kownacki:

Q: Why Detroit?

A: “Why not Detroit? It’s my favorite city on the planet, and I’m from here. It has a very specific microclimate that’s great for growing wine grapes, and it’s exciting to be in the Motor City, which really is a fun and electrifying place. People come down to see a ball game or show at The Fox or visit The DIA, and now we can be added into the mix.”

Detroit Vineyards riesling

Photo courtesy of Detroit Vineyards.

Q: How did the idea of Detroit Vineyards come about?

A: “After moving back to Michigan after living in Australia, I wanted to bring wine country over here, but I was told I was crazy. People would say, ‘You can’t grow grapes here!,’ but you definitely can do that here. While spending my free time traveling to Detroit and talking to city officials, residents, and neighborhood and church groups, I was also making wine in Irish Hills at Cherry Creek Cellars. I later met Dr. Claes Fornell who has a vineyard on his estate. His vineyard was a mess because no one knew how to grow and maintain grapes, so I cleaned it up and brought it up to proper standards. I remember him asking me, ‘What are you doing here?,” and when I introduced my concept of what I was trying to do here, he said, ‘I love that idea! That’s fabulous. I’ll team up with you!’.”

Q: We heard Detroit Vineyards’ Winery and Tasting room will soon be inside the historic Stroh’s ice cream factory. How are renovations going?

A: “Ahead of schedule, amazingly enough. In the tasting room, we are leaving everything in place and building around it. We’re keeping the industrial look because that is very much Detroit, but we are softening it up a bit with the elegance that a tasting room should have. Stroh’s was really the perfect fit for a conversion into a winery. My dream is finally coming to fruition.”

Location of Detroit Vineyards tasting room. Photo courtesy of Detroit Vineyards.

Q: When can guests visit and what can they expect?

A: “We may have some soft openings, but the official open date is Feb. 1. Initially visitors can order wine by the glass, wine by the bottle, and there will be a retail area where they can take wine to go. We also produce meads and cider. We’re hoping to bring in charcuterie and light finger food options in the future.”

Detroit Vineyards is located at 1000 Gratiot Avenue. Hours will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Looking for event space? Detroit Vineyards will also be available to rent for special occasions; catered food is welcome!

Freelance writer Danielle Alexander loves wine, and she can’t wait for the tasting room doors to open at Detroit Vineyards.

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