Kris and Ryan Sterkenburg, and their two kids, picked up and moved to Leelanau County from Milwaukee seven years ago. Their dream? To grow grapes and start a boutique winery. We talked to Kris about the fruit of their labor, Gills Pier Vineyard and Winery on M-22 north of Leland.
Our only Riesling is semi-dry. If you ferment it too dry you lose a lot of the fruit character.
On winemaker Bryan Ulbrich, who, in addition to his own Left Foot Charley wines, makes all of the Gill’s Pier wines
We hired him right out of the barrel, and it is one of the luckiest things we did.
On their vineyard
Every vineyard has its own microclimate. We have a lot of wind—good at preventing diseases, and very acidic soil, which actually works to our advantage.
On the screw cap
It’s easier in the cellar (no cork taint), it’s tamper resistant, and you never need to have a corkscrew.
On keeping their dream of a family-owned winery alive
Ryan has a day job in Traverse City, I run the business, and we both run the vineyard. We were doing 10 wines, including fruit wines, and sort of lost our focus. I love being in the vineyard and was barely out there. So this summer we’ve pared back to five wines.
The Gill’s Pier Wines
- Cabernet Franc-Merlot (gold winner at Indy International Wine Competition)
- Just Unleashed (table red)
- Whitewater (a semi-sweet blend)
- Royce (Auxerrois, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc)
Gill’s Pier Vineyard & Winery is located at 5620 N. Manitou Trail (M-22), 3 miles north of Leland, 231-256-7003, gillspier.com.
Wine Tips, Tours and Travel in Traverse City, Old Mission and Leelanau
- Savor Leelanau’s Wine Country
- Old Mission Peninsula Wine Country
- Northern Michigan Sparkling Wines
- Water and Wine Weekends
- Michigan Beer and Wine Dinners at Boyne
- Traverse City’s Urban Winery
- See Wine Country by Bike
- Subscribe to MyNorth’s Food & Wine Newsletter: It’s free!
- Romancing the Riesling
Click On 2009 Digital Leelanau Vacation Guide
Pack Leelanau County food, fun and activities around your visit to Gills Pier Vineyard & Winery.
Quick Links to More Fun in Leelanau County!
- The Leelanau Vacation Directory: Listings to lodging, galleries, restaurants and more along with an interactive map.
- Leelanau Digital Vacation Guide: Browse beautiful pages connecting you to wine tours, great drives, historic Glen Haven, lighthouse tours, canoeing and click to hundreds of websites.
- The Leelanau County "Don’t Miss" List
- The Complete Restaurant Guide for Leelanau County: Just type in any Leelanau County town and browse the wonderful array of restaurant options.
- Video: Sleeping Bear Dunes
- Check out all the music, festivals, arts and events of all kinds happening in Leelanau County: Just pop in the name of the Leelanau County town you’d like to play in and choose amongst hundreds of things to do!
- Plot your day in Leelanau County using this Interactive Map: Choose an activity in "I’d like to find" and choose a Leelanau town for "in a town near." Then click away!
- Rent a cottage in Leelanau County: There are hundreds of cottages to rent in Northern Michigan. Type the town you’re interested in into the Search box and plan your getaway Up North!