Big changes are in the works at Lazy Ballerina Winery.
The owners of the Southwest Michigan establishment are planning to move the St. Joseph tasting room a few doors down to a much larger space currently undergoing renovation. The goal is to open the tasting room April 1, assuming construction doesn’t delay things.
“We’ve just outgrown our current space, which is a good problem to have,” says co-owner Lauren Kniebes.
The new tasting room at 321 State St. in downtown St. Joseph will just about double Lazy Ballerina’s square footage and bar space, and there will be more room for comfy, café-style seating. The new location will also provide more room for groups and private events.
“At our current location, which we opened in 2015, we basically had to work with the space as it was,” Kniebes says. “There was no room to really expand that space at all, and at the time, there wasn’t a whole lot we could do with the current layout of it. It was actually set up for a restaurant, so we have a hood in our main tasting room that we just had to work around.
“This [the new space] was all taken down to the studs, so everything that we’re doing is to our specification, so we’re able to really customize the layout more and make it make more sense for our tasting room and our style.”
Although Kniebes and co-owner Melanie Owen are still nailing down the aesthetic of the new space, Kniebes points out a few details guests can expect, including wood floors; some Victorian-esque, vintage-style furniture; and original, decorative tin ceilings.
“It’s been nice to be able to do everything how we want to do it, even as far as the layout and the décor and all of that,” Kniebes says. “It will be a totally different vibe.”
Bridgman ‘Speakeasy’ Room
The new St. Joseph tasting room isn’t the only construction project the Lazy Ballerina team has undertaken recently. The winery also opened a “speakeasy” room at its Bridgman location this past fall. Renovating what used to be a storage and winemaking area was a 2020 quarantine project, Kniebes says.
“Since we built our production facility [in Benton Harbor a couple of years ago], we didn’t really have the need for storage or production, so we decided to make it more usable for customers,” Kniebes says.
Now, the room — which can hold about 25 people comfortably — functions as an extension of the tasting area and is used to host small private events and group tastings.
Lazy Ballerina’s winemaker, Jason Hayes, did all the construction at the space, Kniebes says, including putting together the pallet wall and crafting the wooden tables.
The space also includes a bar and two murals painted by a local artist.
The seasonal Bridgman tasting room, which normally doesn’t open until May 1, has opened early this year because the St. Joseph tasting room may be briefly closed during Lazy Ballerina’s move. The Bridgman hours are currently Thursday to Saturday, noon to 6 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
Spirits and Ciders on the Way
On top of everything else, Kniebes and Owen have also ventured into the world of spirits. Right now, they have a spiced rum (which they released at the end of summer 2021), and they’re working on a label for their new vodka. Ultimately, Kniebes hopes to get the required licensing to serve mixed drinks in the tasting rooms; right now, they can offer samples of their spirits and sell bottles to go.
“We are big spirits drinkers ourselves, and so we just thought that would be a good fit to have wine and craft cocktails,” Kniebes says.
She also plans to add a few ciders — on tap and with the ability to can them as well — in the near future.