SPARTA TOWNSHIP — Stoney Ridge Winery LLC officially opened in June 2020 after a few soft opening events at the start of the pandemic.
While the owners haven’t yet seen what a 100 percent capacity tasting room looks like, they have spent the past six months remodeling, expanding outdoor capacity and producing new wines after ideal summer conditions — all in anticipation of a post-pandemic rebound.
The tasting room and vineyard located off M-37 in northern Kent County has opted to not add semi-outdoor seating like igloos or tents because of how windy the property can get. The retail part of the vineyard is open for in-person shopping, and wine is also available for curbside pickup and delivery.
“Even though we’ve only been open a few months, we have regulars and received a huge outpouring of support from the area, so it’s been good,” said winery owner Mary Smearman Flanery. “Our customers have been really loyal and positive.”
The owners — Smearman Flanery and husband, Dale Flanery, who owns the vineyard side of the business — were initially planning to open the tasting room in April 2020. State COVID-19 restrictions led the couple to pursue finishing construction on Stoney Ridge Vineyards’ outdoor covered patio area sooner than they had planned. The project was originally planned for a few years down the road, but will now create increased seating capacity when indoor dining is allowed.
“We used the shutdown to remodel, so when spring comes we’ll increase outside seating and we’ll be putting out a new patio and outdoor seating,” Smearman Flanery said. “Once the weather starts to warm up and more vaccines go out, I think people will be cautiously optimistic about going places again.”
Smearman Flanery hopes to introduce food in 2021, as well as some outdoor weddings, events and wine dinners. Stoney Ridge was able to host a few successful small outdoor weddings in the summer. Now the owners plan to expand event offerings in the future.
“We’d love to be able to do a car show, or craft fair type of event,” Smearman Flanery said. “It’s hard because I come up with all these ideas but I can’t implement them. This year was a tough year to even open up. We’re weathering it and we’re in a decent position, but by no means can this go on for a long time. We’re maintaining right now.”
However, Smearman Flanery said it has been a banner year for wine production because of the weather, creating ideal growing conditions for grapes.
“We have a couple of new wines we’re working on coming out with. We’re bringing two new ones in the spring and a couple new ones in the fall that weren’t able to get much press because we were shut down close to the time they came out,” she said.
The business purchased grapes from growers in Ludington, Coopersville and Leelanau totaling about 65,000 pounds, Smearman Flanery said. Stoney Ridge Vineyards has “a lot of wine in process,” she added.
“This year has been a phenomenal year because of the hot, dry summer,” Smearman Flanery said. “The quality of the fruit has been amazing — this has been one of the best years for wine.”