Fruitful Prospects

With help from a state grant, Youngblood Vineyard continues to grow
A lobster boil at Youngblood Vineyard. Photo by Mike Ferdinande of Ferdinande Fotography, courtesy of Youngblood Vineyard

Big changes are in the works at Youngblood Vineyard in Ray, Michigan, thanks to a grant from the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development.

This past February, the commission voted to distribute roughly $300,000 among four Michigan businesses in the food and agricultural industries, including Youngblood Vineyard. The goal of the grants is to help these small businesses — and Michigan’s economy — grow.

Jess Youngblood, who runs the vineyard and winery with her husband, Dave, shares what this grant means for them: “Every penny that we make, we really do reinvest right back into our business, and so any time we’re eligible to receive any type of a grant, we’re always really, really excited.”

Photo by Brian Craig Photography, courtesy of Youngblood Vineyard

The reimbursement-style grant will cover some of the costs of building and outfitting a larger production facility that will enable the Youngbloods to process all of their grapes. That wasn’t always possible in their old 1,100-square-foot production space.

“Last year, we actually ran out of space and had to leave three tons of one of our grape varieties hanging on the vines,” Youngblood says. “We just had to let it rot.”

Youngblood is hopeful the eventual production boost will also enable the vineyard to fulfill requests from local businesses, such as providing custom crushes for fellow wineries and making custom-label wines for restaurants.

About 75% of the new 16,000-square-foot facility will be dedicated to wine production, and the rest will be used for an indoor event venue. That event space will be a game changer for the currently all-outdoors business.

“Over the past couple years, our business has really increased, and so have our requests for weddings and other private events,” Youngblood explains. “When it starts to get too cold to be drinking wine outside and having weddings and events, we have to close, so this new facility will allow us to be able to be open and serve those needs throughout the year.”

Goats at tiny goat yoga. Photo by Jess Youngblood

There will also be a commercial kitchen, which Youngblood envisions offering brunches and dinners, a service that fits well with the winery’s other family-friendly functions, such as tiny goat yoga, free animal-petting, and Fourth of July fireworks (also free).

In short, the state grant has empowered Youngblood Vineyard to take a giant leap forward.

“We’re truly grateful,” Youngblood says. “It is showing that the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development really does believe in what we’re doing.”

Youngblood Vineyard’s summer hours, starting Memorial Day weekend, are Saturday, noon to 9 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 7 p.m., and the winery will hold events on some Friday nights. Youngblood Vineyard is also available to host private events seven days a week.

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