“We were thrilled to be nominated,” owner Patrick Spensley said. “But then to go on and win it against some other really good competition in the area, it was very exciting.”
The winery, which is owned by Spensley and his wife Hadley, came out on top of the Jackson poll for Michigan’s Best Outdoor Dining. Boss Cider in Leslie came in second, and in third place, The Roadhouse Grill & Bar, who narrowly beat out the Oak Tree Lounge.
“We’re lucky,” Spensley said. “We’ve got a large outdoor space, with a big beautiful pergola overlooking the vineyards, so we take advantage of that. Obviously with the winter, and everything, we’ve got five igloos out there right now, as well as plenty of picnic tables, and seating around some fire pits. We take advantage of the space we have.”
Cherry Creek’s tasting room is inside an old 1870′s schoolhouse that doesn’t offer a lot of space during normal times. “Space is limited inside for us all times of the year,” Spensley said. “Outside dining and entertaining are just kind of our bread and butter out here. That’s the one thing we’ve said all along, that with the pandemic and everything, at least we’ve been blessed with this outdoor space, and we’ve just tried to take full advantage of it through everything.”
This is the second winter that Cherry Creek has had igloos outside for people to enjoy. They continue to prove to be immensely popular, and are usually completely sold out on the weekends. Reservations are highly recommended for these coveted spots. When you make a reservation, Cherry Creek will charge your credit card for $100. $10 of this goes to pay for the sanitation process, and the remaining $90 is then yours to spend during your visit to Cherry Creek. It can be used on any food, drink or merchandise that you like. This pre-payment has ensured that reservations are held, and has worked out really well for the vineyard.
Cherry Creek had been running live music on the patio through December, then it got too cold for the musicians fingers to keep working. They hope that when the temperature starts rising that they can bring this live music back, so look for its return this spring.
There is a small, cafe style menu to enjoy here. The most popular choice is one of the charcuterie boards, that can be ordered either small or large. Spensley said that it seems like almost every single table gets one. “They are the heart and soul of our dining,” he said. They feature high quality cheeses, cured meats, fresh fruit, cured olives and pickles, mustards, and crackers. Perfect for sharing.
There a variety of house made dips to try, including a creamy smoked salmon, a spicy Buffalo chicken, a hot and savory spinach artichoke, and rich, decadent beer cheese dip that gets served with soft pretzels. Want something warming and hearty? Try Cherry Creek’s Schoolhouse Chili. “All of it is shareable, which fits our vibe here,” he said. “Come hang out with family and friends, enjoy a glass of wine.”
And that you can certainly do that here. They’ve been making wine at Cherry Creek since they opened in 2003. “Our wine list is pretty extensive,” Spensely said. Typically, they offer about 24 wines to taste or purchase. Spensely said that Michigan still skews toward sweeter wines, and some of the winery’s long time staples lean this way. Cranberry Passion is a sweet red that gets a hint of tartness from cranberries. Summer Breeze is a sweet white that is very popular. “These two are staples that will never go anywhere,” he said. “At the same time, we mix in the dry stuff for those that like that.”
“We really do try to have something for everybody,” Spensely said. In addition to wine, Cherry Creek offers 6 hard ciders, and usually 3 craft beers.
The winery was originally owned by John and Denise Burtka, who sold the business to Patrick and Hadley Spensley in 2018. The Burtka’s went on to open and own Grand River Brewery and Veritas restaurant in Jackson, both of which they have recently sold.
Patrick had been working at the winery since 2012, after a trip to New Zealand introduced him to winemaking, and he found his calling.
“That’s where I really fell in love with the industry,” Spensely said. “The people, the culture. I didn’t go over there expecting it to become a career, but while I was there I discovered I really liked it. I thought I’d give it a shot and see where we went. Sure enough, I liked it enough to buy a winery.”
Spensely slowly worked his way up at the winery, learning about processes, techniques, and building both his palate and his passion.
After they purchased the winery, the Spensely’s changed the name from Cherry Creek Winery, to Cherry Creek Cellars, and a new dynasty was born.
Cherry Creek does have statewide distribution, but is mostly focused on southeast lower Michigan. They’ve been focusing on distribution, widening their footprint, during the pandemic. One of their top priorities this new year is to introduce shipping of their wines and ciders. “We’ve noticed an uptick in interest in that through the pandemic,” Spensley said.
Outdoor dining is going to stick around at Cherry Creek Cellars. “We’re not going to give back the igloos just because the pandemic is over. Looking forward all the way to next winter, we’ll stil be making improvements, and continuing to refine our game to provide a great space for people to come and eat, and drink, and enjoy themselves,” Spensley said. “The outdoor space will always be our kind of bread and butter.”
The search for Michigan’s Best Outdoor Dining is sponsored in part by Warm Fitness.
Cherry Creek Cellars
11500 Silver Lake Hwy, Brooklyn, MI 49230
More Michigan’s Best Outdoor Dining Stories
Note to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.