Cork & Bottle Winery co-owners Kathy Leydorf, Phyllis Moore and Nan Holden all have two very important things in common: they have been friends for years and they love wine.
Coming into the winery business together from their other professions was a choice made by the group after attending a Taste of Home cooking show in Midland, Michigan. Inspired by a woman with a similar shop there, they thought, “we could do this ourselves!”
“We were all at a stage in our lives where our children were grown and away from home,” said Holden, who is also a medical assistant. “We thought we would have time to do something for ourselves.”
Fast forward to the opening of Cork & Bottle Winery, three years ago this August; the business has been booming. The winery offers quite a few services to keep friends, regulars and newly converted wine lovers coming back. Customers can choose from a long list of wines, sweet, dry, red and white. They are all made on location in small 30 bottle batches, each with a fanciful name. Some of the wine names include Elegance and Divinity, and some are regional, such as Looking Glass Mist, Old 27 and Lansing Luster.
Customers can buy by the bottle or even be a part of the wine making experience, since Cork & Bottle offers the opportunity for people to make their own wine. The wine tastings that are offered before each purchase are a good experience for those who do not have a lot of knowledge about wine, or those who wish to expand their palates.
“When [a customer] comes in, one of us helps them mix the wine, and we tend it for them through the fermentation stages,” said Holden.
The wines are made from wine kits, which include a concentrated juice and all of the ingredients needed to make a batch of wine. Once the wine is ready for bottling, customers can return to design their own labels and bottles, and to cork the wine. Then, they go home with about 30 bottles of wine.
“Basically, we do what a home vintner would do, but they don’t have to do it in their home and they don’t have to purchase the merchandise to do it,” said Moore, who also owns her own farm with her husband.
Cork & Bottle also offers private, after-hours parties. There is no charge for using its space, with only the expectation that the customer will spend a minimum of 50 dollars on Cork & Bottle products.
“We’re not wine snobs,” said Moore, “We just enjoy drinking wine, and if you like your wine with a baloney sandwich, we’re okay with that.”
Leydorf agreed. “It’s not stuffy, it’s comfortable. You don’t feel like you have to be a wine connoisseur when you walk in the door.”
Each owner knows how to make the wine and puts in as much time at the business as she can. As women with outside responsibilities and families, they found that opening Cork & Bottle Winery has given each of them a feeling of accomplishment and pride.
“It’s not my husband’s farm, it’s my winery,” said Moore. “It’s something we share as women, not related to [anything else].”
The winery has also allowed the women to get involved in the community, such as fundraising for Relay for Life. This sort of community-oriented attitude has been increased by the support they get from regular customers.
For the future, the ladies of Cork & Bottle Winery hope to expand their business, both by expanding to a larger space physically and demographically, which means getting more men involved.
“Rarely do men come unless they are with their wives,” said Moore. “But nine times out of ten, half of what [the couples] buy is what the men like.”
“We think real men do drink wine!” laughed Holden.
Moore, Holden and Leydorf also hope to get local restaurants involved in their business, by making, bottling and naming their own wines, and have also received requests to start making beer. But, for now, they are going to keep doing what they love and sharing it with others.
“We’re fun. There is no right or wrong to drinking wine,” said Moore. “It’s what you enjoy.”