Hickory Creek under new ownership

Eric and Jayne Wagner relax beside the press which will be loaded with local grapes, within the next week or two. The wines produced will add to the remarkable cellar of Hickory Creeks light wines developed to enhance the food with which they are served. Off the Water photo/KATHIE HEMPEL

Listening to the grapevine can be a useful pastime. At least the practice worked well for Jayne and Eric Wagner.

The word was out that Hickory Creek Winery was for sale. Eric, a Chicago veterinarian, and his wife had purchased Snow Hill Farm in Baroda just a few years ago. They decided to purchase the winery and took possession in May.

Eric’s fascination with winemaking began when he was in college and never really left. He has produced homemade wine for years, so the opportunity to own a winery seemed tailor-made.

I wondered whether or not this incredibly hot summer with its early start and drought had affected the wine business.

“The wine grapes are late bloomers, so they are by large OK. Local growers are already picking some pinot gris and other varieties. The Welch’s grapes; the Concords and the Niagaras; those didn’t do very well,” Eric said.

Hickory Creek’s vines had been neglected over the past several years, and the plan is to plant some less traditional varieties of wine grapes. This year, they will purchase grapes from local growers.

“The winery has been here sixyears. Winemaker Mike de Schaaf was one of the original owners, and we feel he is the heart and soul of the winery. We are so happy he stayed on, still making his wonderful wine. So we haven’t changed in that regard,” Jayne said.

“Where we have changed is that we are investing a lot more in the actual winery and expanding it for more production. And we are just enhancing it, making it more a place of business and a destination location. Once all the licensing is in place next year, we will be serving food. Our wine is made to complement food. It’s drier. It’s a little more sophisticated,” she said. “Our goal is to just move forward.”

The winery recently participated in the Farm to Table Festival produced by the Chicago-based television show “Check Please!” Local foods were prepared by expert chefs and served with local wines.  The event sold out, and the Wagners are looking forward to participating next year.

Hickory Creek’s tasting room, wine and gift shop are open year round. Try the Gruner Veltliner, made from grapes grown on de Schaaf’s farm, and the apple wine, made from several varieties of local apples, is sure to be a hit at any holiday gathering.

The winery is located at 750 Brown Rd., Buchanan, and the tasting room is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Directions and more information is available at hickorycreekwinery.com.

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