PAW PAW, MI. – The state’s oldest and largest wine maker has called Paw Paw home since 1934. St. Julian was first started across the river from Detroit in Windsor, Canada in 1921. They were known as the Italian Wine Company until 1941 when they changed the name to St. Julian.
St. Julian boasts more than 800 acres of vineyards in West Michigan (mainly Van Buren County) and some 23 varieties of grapes. Some of the best grapes are grown here locally along with optimum growing conditions . In fact, the southwest portion of the state and Lake Michigan protects the vineyards from a late season frost in the spring, and keeps a warm breeze going in the fall. This extends the growing season by a few weeks on either side of spring and fall.
St. Julian produced 106,000 cases of wine and 50,000 cases of sparkling juice in 2012. Three presses can each crush 33 tons of grapes in about 2.5 hours in season. Take a look at these numbers: one acre yields about five tons of grapes. That translates to 13.5 barrels, 800 gallons, 4,000 bottles, or about 16,000 glasses.
St. Julian commonly ferments the wine in their cellars in both American and French oak barrels. The whites ferment for about six months while the reds are longer at about 18 months. Each 55 to 60 gallon barrel yields about 20 cases or 240 bottles. They can bottle about 2,000 cases each day. In addition to wine, they have their own distillery to make brandy. They age it about 10 years and can also make vodka. As President and CEO Dave Braganini explains “we’re not a big distillery, but we’re a high quality one.”
One of their signature products is sparkling juice. Non-alcoholic and perfect for families with kids under 21. They started manufacturing it in 1959 in order to provide something for kids to drink at the taste testing bar while the parents tried the alcoholic versions. It’s been one of their staple products ever since!
St. Julian also has locations in Frankenmuth, Dundee, Union Pier, and South Haven. They have a mail order wine club that affords members the opportunity to sample new products and receive discounts. They currently ship to 43 states.
They also just launched a new product (or a new old popular product) May 18. It’s a hard cider that was originally made in the 1990s. The company also provides winery tours and you can find their website and much more information here. So raise your glass and give a toast to St. Julian and the quality wines and sparkling juice they’re been providing for more than nine decades.