When Deb and Dave Burgdorf opened their winery in 2005, they were equipped with knowledge from online courses, backgrounds in natural sciences and farming, and a three-car garage. Fast-forward 18 years, and the couple behind Burgdorf’s Winery are selling their award-winning wines in Total Wine & More and running their own production facility and tasting room in Haslett.
We chatted with the entrepreneurs to learn more about how they built a winery from the garage up, their commitment to using locally sourced ingredients, and more.
How did you begin your career in winemaking?
Deb Burgdorf: We started making wine [in our garage] in 2005 as a hobby. I was a microbiologist, and Dave was an agricultural specialist. In my career, I worked with a lot of growing organisms and anaerobic organisms. I had a chemistry minor in college, and a big part of my progression into winemaking was finding ways to utilize my career skills. I took online classes as well as some local Midwestern wine courses to build on that education.
Dave Burgdorf: We really jumped into it. We didn’t have a ton of funding, and we weren’t the type to go looking for investors. All we had at the time was the three-car garage.
How did your business grow from a garage to multiple acres, a tasting room, and a winemaking facility?
Dave: I had done a lot of woodworking in my life, so I started working on converting the space once we started to get serious. We were semiretired and grew a real passion for winemaking. There has been a lot of DIY work that has gone into the business.
Deb: Once the winery began to get some traction and really started growing, we converted the garage into a tasting room and gift shop. We have a separate area for production and about 5 acres of land. We don’t grow grapes for winemaking here, but we do have a small patch so that we can show visitors how difficult growing in Michigan can be. We are extremely firm about using fresh fruit from Michigan growers.
How would you describe your winemaking process?
Deb: We have a great partnership with the local growers. Often, farmers don’t know what to do with their grapes and fruit. We can take their product and turn it into something else, and that is what’s important to us. From there, it typically takes four to five of us to process and press the grapes.
Dave: When I was growing up, there was a big emphasis on growing the food that you’re eating. Using fruit from local farmers is important because our visitors want to try wines that are Michigan made. Right down to the bottle, everything is made in Michigan. We don’t use any concentrates or juices or ingredients shipped in from California. Supporting the local agriculture is one of the big reasons why we do what we do.
What can visitors expect from a day at Burgdorf’s Winery? Are there any favorite wines you’d encourage them to try?
Dave: We really don’t have favorites here because it is so dependent on the visitor’s palate. Visiting gives our guests a chance to try a little bit of everything. They get to try local wines made by a female winemaker, which is rare in such a male-dominated field. A lot of people come and want to ask the winemaker questions, and they’ll turn to me. I always point them to Deb because these are her creations.
Deb: I always want to encourage guests to try something new. We have some really smooth reds, some interesting flavors, and some great dry wines. I have a drier palate, so I’m always impressed with the dry wines we produce. We have a great outdoor space; COVID really challenged us to make the most of the outdoors. We have igloos that are extremely popular in the winter, and tables and umbrellas for the spring and summer. People love it!