Boskydel's Bernie Rink – a true Michigan Wine Pioneer

Photo courtesy Sharon Kegerreis /

The Grand Traverse Insider has a cool feature on Bernie Rink of Boskydel Winery, who they rightly name Grandpère du Grape for Leelanau County and the northern Michigan wine industry. They look at Bernie’s early years on a farm in Ohio and explain that:

Later in life, surrounded by books and with a tannic tinge in his blood, it seemed inevitable that wine would become a part of Rink’s life. The family was growing. There were now five sons and he found the book, “American Wines and Winemaking,” by Phil Wagner. It might be more accurate and prophetic to say that the book actually found him.

“I began testing wines for hardiness and disease resistance,” Rink said. “I tested 35 varieties, and settled on the six to eight we still have today. I began planting for commercial purposes in 1970.”

…With testing done, the Rink’s original, large scale planting in 1970 launched Leelanau into a new viticultural era. The workhorse was the de Chaunac grape, a French-American hybrid for red wines first developed by Adhemar de Chaunac in Ontario around 1860.

Extension reports describe the grape as having “good vigor and productivity along with disease resistance, producing a robust, colorful wine.”

Early success reinforced Bernard Rink’s evaluation of the land and decision to move forward.

“The plants thrived in this soil, a mixture of sand and gravel,” he said. “They like the glacial moraines. Grapes are actually pretty hard to kill. I saw the success that farmers were having with peaches, and that was a good indicator. Where peaches grow, grapes grow.”

This is a great feature on Rink, one of the driving forces behind the wine industry in not just Leelanau, but the entire state of Michigan. Go read it.

Our photo  is courtesy Sharon Kegerreis of Delicious Michigan. You should also check out the Michigan Uncorked column by Sharon and Lorri Hathaway at Absolute Michigan entitled Northern Michigan’s wine pioneer keeps it simple.

If it’s not too much reading, Bernie’s son Jim has a wonderful recollection entitled Field of Dreams in Leelanau County about the establishment of Boskeydel’s first vineyard … and the loss of a ball field. Also get photos and updates from their Facebook.



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