Motoring towards South Bend to stay overnight in a museum, found on Air B&B, the Red Arrow Exit sang its siren call and I exited. Sarett Nature Center has a museum perched on top a bluff above the Paw Paw River. A staircase leads down bluff to a series of boardwalks that explore river level bogs. That's for another day; my memory explores Sarett's park of bird feeders every time the exit is approached. In Fall 2005, I witnessed as an elderly caretaker fed dozens of cardinals at dusk, a few who perched on the palm of his hand.
First, my mission made me ignore the signs at a first crossroad, 12 Corners forward and Vineyard 2121 across the overpass. Then I beheld an orchard with trees laden with Red Haven peaches, awaiting picking hands of migrants and quart baskets made of strips of pliable wood. The lushness of what had to be a vineyard for 12 Corners stunned me as I turned a corner. That vineyard had transformed into the subject of a future oil painting, and I could remember the field planted to hay in 2005, round hay bales awaiting a wagon pulled by a John Deere tractor and able hands, strong shoulders. It just that a field of hay is worth money and a field of green grapes to be crushed in October is worth gold, potentially mythical amounts of gold if the sun rain and soil is helpful. And this tasting room, an applaudable work of architecture, is what happens when our fields go from grain to grapes, just the ones with good terroir, inside Lake Michigan's snow belt.
So I turned the car around and began searching for 2121, surely a play on 12 Corners. I'll have to count corners when I return to Red Arrow Highway. There has to be twelve. I was wondering, "Did I really have better plans then watching early evening sun arriving to the terraced hills of grapevines"?
Yes, I have confirmed. I am at 2121 Kerlikowse Road.
A woman in her thirties approached my table and asked, "How are you enjoying the Dry Riesling?" I said a mouthful of praises and then learned an astonishing fact. The Dry Riesling is wine from the first vintage. I wished the vineyard a thousand vintages and she said, "My husband said it was more frugal to build me a winery than keep buying cases of wine". I raised my glass and felt a loss for words. She has a gift for gab: "Yes. I understand. You'll drink to that". The fairy tale carriage set before the deck must belong to this Chardonnay Cinderella. I'm considering calling off all efforts to date until I have a crop of Riesling in my field.
Obviously, I would have missed a fairy tale had I kept driving. How generous that I can just park my car and waltz on into the scene. Noticing that the vineyard is a sustainable operation by the Pallas family, this fairy tale is officially a well-planned Michigan myth.
I thought of a lifelong friend as I drove searching for the new vineyard, a good man and father who became a mountain of a man through Football training and hard, skilled work. Shaved his head around the turn of the century and only looked more solid a guy for adopting the style. In 2006, at our reunion at the Eagles in Durand, he smacked me on the back with his broad palm and I still remember the earnest welcome kindly. We've shucked & jived about making a few vineyard visits for about two years now, bringing his lovely bride. Why, I would rent a date for that. JOKE!
If he's reading, I leave these words by Hilaire Belloc for his consideration: "I will hold my house in the high wood within a walk of the sea, And the men who were boys when I was a boy shall sit and drink with me."