Under New Management

OneRepublic guitarist buys Karma Vista and rebrands it as Filkins Vineyards
The tasting room at Filkins Vineyards. Both photos courtesy of Filkins Vineyards

After more than 20 years in operation under the same family, Karma Vista Vineyards in Coloma has new owners.

Music lovers might recognize the name of the rebranded winery: Zach Filkins, guitarist in the pop rock band OneRepublic, and his wife, Lindsay, officially opened Filkins Vineyards on May 1.

“We’re happy to be here,” Zach says. “We hope we can provide a great vibe and do well for the region.”

Lindsay and Zach Filkins

Finding Michigan Wine
Zach’s introduction to Michigan wine country happened back in 2015. The couple, who lived in Illinois at the time, decided to visit some wineries in the southwestern corner of the state on their way home from a OneRepublic concert in Grand Rapids. Karma Vista was their first stop.

“That was the first time that I drank Michigan wine,” says Zach, who has traveled extensively to other wine regions with Lindsay. “[Former owners] Joe and Sue [Herman] were there and were talking to us about everything, and I was tasting all these great flavors. … There was a lot of fruit and a lot of acidity and a lot of character, and it was a beautiful site, looking out over the hill and over the vines.”

Zach recognized the area’s potential and that it had “tons of room to grow,” especially compared with California. “Some of the regions there are so established that it felt like there was almost no room to breathe because everyone owned everything,” he says.

In contrast, he likens Michigan to the Loire Valley in France. “That’s what reminds me the most of Michigan,” he says. “It was just farms and vines and rolling hills and a lot of room and a lot of space to breathe. That’s what inspires us about Michigan.”

Buying Karma Vista
After that initial visit, the Filkins returned to Michigan wine country multiple times, their desire to own their own winery someday always in the back of their minds.

Then, last summer, Zach got a phone call from a connection in the industry that the Hermans were looking to sell Karma Vista.

“I was on tour at the time,” he says, “and so I got off the phone … and I called Joe right away, and we had a great conversation.”

The fit felt right, both ways.

“When Zach first called, he asked all the right questions,” Joe says. “He was interested in how we grew the grapes, what was special about the site, and everything. I was very impressed with him from the beginning. Then when we met the family, we knew … they’d be the perfect fit if they were interested.”

Once they closed the sale, the Filkins family got to work preparing the property for the reopening earlier this month — painting, decorating, etc. As Zach, Lindsay, and the team continue to learn the ropes of running both a winery and a vineyard, the Hermans are providing guidance and support to smooth the transition.

“The Hermans are such a wealth of knowledge,” Zach says. “We’re just trying to absorb everything that Joe has for us.”

Bringing in a Winemaker
The new winemaker is bringing his own wealth of knowledge to Filkins Vineyards as well.

Zach and Lindsay found Jason Johnson, a seasoned Napa Valley vintner, through a friend who had been involved in the California wine scene for a long time.

“We called [our friend] and we said, … ‘We know that Michigan is different from California, but do you know of anyone who might want to make our wine?’” Zach recalls. “And he said, ‘Well, there’s one person I can think of, and if he says yes, I’m going to be really upset because I actually want to work with him. But call Jason Johnson.’”

The couple sold Johnson on the project, and now he’s doing what he does best in Southwest Michigan. He isn’t trying to replicate his Napa portfolio, of course.

“He’s not coming into this region thinking he’s going to Napa-fy anything,” Zach says, “which is really great because our main motivation with this project is to see what kind of story Michigan wants to tell and to see where we can take the wine and do our humble best to push this region forward. We don’t want to come in and say, ‘Let’s make Napa Cabs.’ Because Michigan won’t do it. And so Jason’s not coming in with that vibe either.”

Joe Herman says the introduction of a winemaker from Napa is “exciting.”

“It’s another perspective,” he says. “I love having new sets of eyes looking at everything.”

Looking Ahead
Filkins Vineyards is now open Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. The winery is currently selling Karma Vista wines and will begin releasing vino under the Filkins Vineyards label as it becomes available, starting this year.

The team has big plans for the wine going forward.

“We want to start a traditional-method sparkling program,” Zach says. “We want to put some more plants in the ground so that we can produce more, maybe try a couple varietals that we don’t have yet on the property, and start getting those online. And we’re going to get our distiller’s license.”

Lindsay, Jason, and Melissa Feris, the general manager, will be handling the day-to-day, and Zach will be as involved as he can be. He does have another job, after all: “I’m still in the band — some people have asked me if I’ve retired; I’m not retired — so I’ll be spinning both plates.”

As for the Hermans, they’re not quite ready for retirement either.

“We still have 12 acres of wine grapes on a 100-acre property that we will be farming for a few years here as we ease out into retirement,” Joe says. “We’re not quite ready to ride off into the sunset yet, but we’re heading there.”

Learn more about the rebranded winery at filkinsvineyards.com.

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