In early September 2017, the ownership and management of Hickory Creek Winery in Buchanan officially changed hands from previous owners Eric and Jayne Wagner to Adam McBride of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Hickory Creek is featured on the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail and sits on a picturesque 38-acre farm and vineyard in Southwest Michigan.
New owner and winemaker Adam McBride is energetic and optimistic about Hickory Creek’s future, while respectful of its past. He explains, “Eric and Jayne built a brand that focuses on a classic European winemaking style featured in a postcard picture setting at Hickory Creek Winery. I hope to maintain the reputation they worked hard to build over the past few years. As a winemaker, I know Eric has prided himself on making elegant wines featuring the varietals this part of Michigan is known for. And Jayne has created a welcoming feel in both the tasting room and the cottage. I want to continue what they have started.”
McBride, a Grand Rapids native, describes his purchase of the winery as a long-time dream becoming a reality. After college, he served for nearly a decade on active duty in the Air Force before returning home to West Michigan. He explains, “My passion for wine and my dream of owning a winery started over ten years ago while traveling across Europe and living in German wine country during my last duty assignment. The dream has always been in the back of my mind since then.”
After completing his military service, he spent several years building his professional skill set while directing logistics and transportation operations for two of Michigan’s most prominent manufacturers; first for Steelcase and then Stryker. He explains, “My civilian logistics career was amazing. I learned so much about leadership, operations management, lean principles, and six-sigma methodology. But I never lost my passion for wine and my dream of getting into the field full time someday. I really started positioning myself to take this leap a couple years ago. It’s sometimes hard to believe it actually happened.” McBride completed his Master’s Degree in Business Administration at Michigan State in 2016 to prepare himself for the rigors of starting and operating his own business. He followed that up by taking on his formal wine education in California, studying at the Napa Valley Wine Academy under winemakers, sommeliers, brand managers, and other industry experts. He now holds a Level 3 Award with Distinction from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust based in London. And his education continues, as he is currently taking classes through Lake Michigan College’s Viticulture and Enology degree program.
The transition of the business from the previous owners was just the beginning of the hard work for the 41-year old father of two. As both owner and winemaker, McBride faced a steep learning curve from the very start. Just days after completing the sale of the winery, the grape harvest started in full force. McBride bought as many grapes as he could get his hands on, over 36,000 pounds that had to be processed by hand. His goal was to process enough grapes to return Hickory Creek’s storage tanks and barrels to full capacity, a necessity after the brutal winters of 2014 and 2015 devastated grape harvests and depleted the winery’s inventories. McBride notes, “The 2017 harvest was incredible. The fruit quality was amazing and the yields were excellent. I was able to get almost everything on my wishlist from the local farms.”
The local winemaking community has shown its support for the newcomer over the past few months. Experienced winemakers and local business owners have guided McBride on many aspects of the business. In addition to providing technical expertise and advice, multiple wineries signed on to supply fruit for the 2017 harvest. The collaboration between the local wineries in Southwest Michigan is unique according to McBride, something he hasn’t witnessed between competitors during his time in the corporate world. “I’ve been amazed by the support of the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail and its 21 member wineries. The Makers’ Trail has been a huge help as well. The other winemakers and winery owners have welcomed me into the community with open arms. They all want to see Hickory Creek do well and they genuinely want to help me get started on the right track as the new guy. The collaborative spirit is refreshing. Everyone is pulling together to set us up for success.”
When asked about his vision for the winery, McBride’s plans are simple. “I want to continue Eric and Jayne’s legacy of crafting high-quality small batch wines in the classic European style. I want customers to see our products and wine overall as approachable and our staff as welcoming and authentic. I also want a visit to Hickory Creek to be enjoyable and educational. Hopefully, our customers have fun, but also learn something from their visit.”
Hickory Creek features a selection of red, white, and rosé wines. Many of the red wines feature Cabernet Franc either as a varietal or in Bordeaux-style blends. White wines feature Riesling and Chardonnay, both as varietals and in blends. They range from dry to semi-sweet. The Hickory Creek tasting room is located on the winery premises at 750 Browntown Road in Buchanan, Michigan. It is open daily from May to October (Monday and Thursday 11am-5pm, Friday 11am-6pm, Saturday 11am-7pm, and Sunday noon-6pm). From November to April, it has limited opening hours (Monday 11am-5pm, Friday 11am-5pm, Saturday 11am-6pm, and Sundays noon-5pm). The property also features a 2-story cottage available for rent through Airbnb and VRBO. Details for the tasting room and cottage can be found at hickorycreekwinery.com and on the Hickory Creek Winery Facebook page.