More than a decade ago, West Michigan resident Wil Malski began experimenting with making wine in the basement of the first home he shared with his wife, Caitlin. Flash forward to 2023, and the couple are planning to open their own winery in Grand Haven this fall. At Fox and Hen Winery, they’ll focus on cultivating a straightforward, approachable wine-tasting experience.
Wil Malski has been honing his winemaking craft ever since making his first bottle, and the journey continues with this new venture. Here, he talks to Michigan Wine Country about his progression as a winemaker, what visitors can expect from a day at Fox and Hen, and more.
Leading up to the creation of Fox and Hen, what was your career trajectory as a winemaker? What sparked your interest in winemaking?
I grew up homeschooled in West Michigan — Caledonia, specifically. I married a West Michigan girl in 2009, and we got our first house together. I was drawn to winemaking because of the science aspect of it. It really is a full agricultural product from start to finish. My grandparents were farmers that grew apples, cherries, and peaches. When you drink it, you know that you’re drinking the direct product of what you grew.
I ended up meeting a mentor through an MSU Viticulture Field Day who grew grapes in Coopersville. He was growing really nice grapes in that area, and I could see the potential in the wines he was making. In 2013, my wife and I bought a house in Grand Haven on 6.5 acres of sandy, gravelly soil, and I started planting grapes the following year. At the time, I just planted anything to see what stuck.
What inspired you to open Fox and Hen?
My wife and I had the vision of a boutique craft winery on our property. I wanted it to be a full, immersive experience so you’re drinking wine and looking at the vines that the wine came from. I felt like West Michigan was really lacking that kind of experience, so it’s a great chance to bring some of that to the community while also promoting tourism.
Which wines are you making that you are most excited for visitors to try?
Something unique that we’re offering is our port-style wines, which we’ve gotten great responses on from family and friends. I also like to shine with the rosés. I tend to pick [the grapes] early, so that gives a nice coloring and more bright, fruity flavors.
I’ve also been messing with some Petite Pearl, which makes for some great dry wines. The dry red that these grapes make feels unique to the West Michigan area. I tried to make one with Marquette grapes and couldn’t get the balance quite right. Here, I can make something with a full flavor profile.
What are you most excited for visitors to experience at Fox and Hen?
The full immersive experience of driving through the vines. You get to have a nice winery experience that doesn’t feel pretentious or kitschy at all. It’s just a nice, clean, relaxed atmosphere where you can chat with me, the one who’s closest to this entire process.
I really recommend for people to make this a part of your West Michigan journey. This area has so much to offer: We’ve got a great marina; the winery is close to the Grand River and Bass River Recreation Area, golf courses, all kinds of recreational activities. A big part of the experience here is getting outside and being involved in the agriculture.
Learn more about Fox and Hen at foxandhenwinery.com.