Meet the Winemakers: Jim Barker

The co-owner of End of the Road Winery makes unique vino in the U.P.
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Jim Barker, co-owner of End of the Road Winery in Germfask. Photo by Robin Barker

End of the Road Winery has been a staple in the community of Germfask in the Upper Peninsula since 2016, offering an assortment of interesting wines made from cold-hardy grapes and Michigan-grown fruit.

We caught up with Jim Barker — who owns and operates the winery with his wife, Robin Barker — to learn more about his unique vino.

What wines are you making at your winery this year? Is there anything new or that you’re particularly excited about?
It’s pretty much our same basic fruits. Our cold-climate grapes — we have the Marquette and some Frontenac growing here, some Frontenac Blanc, La Crescent, and Prairie Star. [We also make an estate blend] called JHB. We can’t make enough of it. We sell out of that one before September.

Is that your most popular wine?
We have lots of popular wines. We sell a lot of our blackberry and our Sunburst red raspberry. They are probably two of our more popular wines that we sell.

What’s your all-time favorite wine that you make?
I like the La Crescent and the Marquette. It’s kind of a toss-up between the two.

Can you tell us about the specialty wines you make?
[One is] called Some Like It Hot. It’s an apple jalapeño wine, and we also make a [wine] — we’ve been making it for quite a few years — called Happy Sap. It’s just fermented maple syrup. Both of them are really popular.

How do you make the jalapeño wine?
We start with apple concentrate, and then we ferment [it] with jalapeños. We put the jalapeños right in and ferment them both together. Every batch is different; it depends on the jalapeños.

How spicy does it end up being?
Last year’s was really spicy. I keep checking it every day as it’s fermenting, and I try to pull the jalapeños out before it gets too spicy. It still ferments probably six, seven days with the jalapeños in it.

What do you wish people knew about Michigan wine, particularly wine made in the U.P.? Do you come across people having misconceptions about it?
A lot of them can’t believe we can grow grapes up here. They can’t believe we actually have wineries around here.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We’re looking forward to getting back open, because we do close mid-October to mid-May. We’re anxious to see everyone back in the winery again.

End of the Road Winery is reopening for the season on May 13. Visit endoftheroadwinerymi.com to learn more.

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