Oldest Leelanau Peninsula Vineyard, Winery To Close After Decades Of Serving Customers

"We’ve spent 41 years cultivating a lot of customers. It’ll be hard."

The first vineyard and winery to plant roots on the Leelanau Peninsula is shutting its doors, leaving behind stories of family and tradition.

The Boskydel Vineyard is a family legacy, starting with a man who had a dream to start a vineyard with his five sons.

That dream has lived on for more than 40 years.

But this year, the doors will close for good.

9&10’s Cody Boyer and photojournalist Derrick Larr looked into why the tasting room is pouring its final glass.

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"Bernie has been here so long that he’s like a mainstay of this side of the hill,” says Bradley Saxton, who has lived near the vineyard for 29 years.

The Boskydel Vineyard, winery, and fields have survived the test of time, starting with Bernie Rink, a veteran with vision.

"Over the years, we’ve been taking over the farm for Dad,” says Andy Rink, one of Bernie’s sons and co-owner of Boskydel.” He’s 90 now and not able to do all the stuff that he used to be able to do."

Now it’s up to Bernie’s five busy sons, including Andy.

"The purpose of this whole wine process that he started here was to keep five boys tired and out of trouble, so after 41 years we kind of decided we are all kind of tired and certainly out of trouble,” Rink says. “It’s just time to move on."

It all started as it appears now, as a vineyard 50 years ago.

"The field of dreams, actually,” Rink says. “My brothers had a baseball diamond out on the corner of Otto Road and 641 with a backdrop and everything for fly balls. Dad announced one day after they got into their early to mid-teens that we are going to have to [trade] the diamond for a nursery of grapes."

That became a winery eight years later.

Now, all five brothers assumed the ownership from their dad, who also helped many other young people get to work.

“He would come here and the bottles would come in upside down in the case,” says Saxton, speaking of his own son. “His job was take them and turn them over."

Bradley Saxton’s son, Timothy, worked at the vineyard decades ago.

Values learned there stuck with him.

"It was the first real job he ever had,” Saxton says. “I think by him working here that Bernie set his work ways. You are going to do things right or don’t do it at all. Now, he is a lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force."

Saxton remembers talking with Bernie over the years after his son went into the military.

"When Bernie, personally, was up here, it was like okay, we are going to spend half an hour coming up here to see,” Saxton says. "When you get inside, we’re not really fancy in here. It is good old wine barrels standing up with counter-top on it. And if Bernie was up here, he’d be sitting in his chair, rocking away with the furnaces going."

Andy says his father was the real mainstay.

“If we weren’t busy, he’d be sitting out front, sleeping in the chair when you pulled in,” Rink says. “He’s just always been here.”

As Boskydel’s story ends, the impact on so many lives will live on.

"It’s bittersweet,” Rink says. “Obviously, with the stress of several jobs to make a living up here and having to close this down as a family, it’s a hard decision and my dad. I’m sure it’s hard for him. But I think he would have told you the same in his own words. It’s served its purpose for him and for us."

The vineyard will remain open this year until December 31.

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