Lauren Kniebes started Lazy Ballerina Winery with her cousin, Melanie Owen. Kniebes’ dad grows Concord grapes for Welch’s and their grandmother used to make homemade wine from grapes grown on the family farm in Coloma.
“That’s where we first got our love of wine,” she says. “Our grandmother used to give us small sips of wine when we were kids.”
Both went on to work for wineries as they grew up, falling in love with the industry — and wine — and deciding to “branch off and do our own thing.”
Today they operate a tasting room at their first location in St. Joseph, opened in 2015. Besides a second tasting room in Bridgman, they just purchased a building in Benton Harbor where they’ll consolidate production and increase storage capacity. Up next? They expect to begin producing spirits in 2020.
Q. How did you come up with the name?
Lazy Ballerina is actually a name for a trellis system that a wine grapevine grows on. I think Melanie’s husband just stumbled across the name. We thought it was fun and unique. We wanted something kind of feminine since we are the only woman-owned winery in Southwest Michigan — and one of the very few solely women-owned in the state of Michigan.
Q. What are the up sides to owning a winery in Michigan right now?
It’s a growing industry. Every year, more wineries are opening up, there are more people coming to visit our tasting rooms and supporting us. Especially being where we are, we get a lot of business from the Chicago area, Indiana and all over the Midwest. Michigan has become a destination for people when it comes to wine, which is amazing — and great for us.
Q. What about the down side?
I think sometimes the regulations of the industry can make our jobs harder and more stressful. Other than that, we love the industry. Everyone is very collaborative.
Q. What do you wish people knew about Michigan wines that they might not?
Michigan wines are not all sweet wines — that’s kind of a misconception. We make a lot of sweet wines because it is what people like, and with a colder climate, a lot of our wines are a little more fruit forward. But we make some really good reds … some of the hybrid grapes do really well here and make some good blends.
Q. What’s the best part of what you do?
A. The people who we meet, honestly. What we make is something that people love. Knowing that people enjoy what you’re making and that they want to come and spend their money and time with you — it’s connecting with customers over wine.