Cathy Lemon, her husband, Jeff, and Jeff’s brother Tim began Lemon Creek Winery together in 1984. It was a small, family-run business, and the three of them did everything from planting grapes and maintenance to wine production, bottling, tasting room sales and upkeep. As time went on, they divided and conquered: Jeff as winemaker, Tim handling vineyard operations and Cathy overseeing the tasting room, where she manages day-to-day operations, scheduling, marketing and more.
Q. What are the biggest challenges of managing a tasting room?
A. Keeping the genuine principles of our life choice as a noncommercial business. Also, being able to coordinate large and small groups — as well as the winery staff — to ensure that everyone who visits the winery gets a quality tasting experience.
Q. What do you envision when you picture the experience a guest will have when visiting your tasting room?
A. That our customers feel comfortable and welcomed when they walk in the door. They become engaged in the world of tastes and information that can make wine a wonderful culinary avocation. We hope that they are able to learn more about wine and our wines in particular. Giving them the opportunity to explore and expand upon their existing knowledge, as well as discover new wines they may enjoy.
Q. What’s the best thing that has ever happened in the course of your work as a tasting room manager?
A. Being able to work alongside my family to create something that we all feel very passionate about. To be a part of a bigger picture, something we all believed in and contributed to, and watch it grow into what it is today.
Q. What have you learned along the way: to do, not to do?
A. Not take things too seriously! I have learned to accept and enjoy the evolution of having an agricultural and hospitable business that the winery has grown into for 35 years.
Q. We’ve all seen the scene from Sideways where Miles drinks from the spit bucket. Do you have any stories along those lines?
A. If you can imagine it, it has probably happened (including people trying to drink from the spit bucket after watching Sideways). Thirty-five years is a long time to come up with a “best of” story. Recently, a young man announced that the Pinot Grigio he was tasting tasted exactly like water! This got all of our attention until I remembered that I was interested in measuring the 6-oz. pour line on our new glasses and had filled an empty Pinot Grigio bottle with water … to find out. Apparently, this bottle was mixed in with our real wine.
Q. Any thoughts for consumers on how to make the most of a tasting room experience?
A. Tasting rooms give you the opportunity to explore other wines you may like. When you go to a wine shop, you tend to choose a safe option. It can be a big investment without any assurance that you will enjoy it. Tasting rooms give you that chance to try a dryer or sweeter wine, or possibly branch out from white wine into red without the need to commit.
Additionally, we always try and encourage people to give themselves enough time. If you are in a busy wine trail area, such as ours, it is always worth it to spend a little more time at each place instead of trying to squeeze that one last winery on your tour.
From November 2019 Michigan Wine Country