What’s in a Name?

‘Sandhill Crane’ pays homage to the winery’s feathered friends
Sandhill Crane Vineyards. All photos by Jenna Kulhawik for Sandhill Crane Vineyards

A winery’s name can come from any number of sources of inspiration. At family-run Sandhill Crane Vineyards in Jackson, a flock of regular visitors became the muse for co-founder Norman Moffatt.

Moffatt, the father of current owner and winemaker Holly Balansag, came up with the name after moving to rural Jackson from Detroit with Balansag’s mother and aunt some 30 years ago.

“When they bought the property, there was no building on it, but there were a lot of cranes that used to land here,” Balansag says.

“[My dad] just had a fascination with these birds,” she adds, “and because they were building their house on this vacant land that had a lot of them hanging out, it was just a natural thing.”

The family officially opened the winery on the property in 2003, and 19 years later, the cranes continue to be a staple attraction there and in the region in general. Just a few miles from the winery is the Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary, where visitors can hike and see cranes and other wildlife. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Haehnle Sanctuary is the state’s “largest roosting area for the cranes,” who flock there in the hundreds and even thousands each autumn during their migratory journey south.

“They’re really very cool creatures,” Balansag says. “They hang out here all the time.”

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