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Image by Moritz Knöringer

Leahy Rock Vineyard

The Leahy Rock Vineyard property has been in Kevin's family for nearly 125 years.  The family farm originated in 1895 when Kevin's Great-Great Uncle George Yerrick homesteaded the 80 (acres) and started clearing rocks the same year.   Barn Rock foundations, rock fences as well as random rock piles proliferate the property. Uncle George, a hermit, lived to the ripe age of 95 living off this 80, raising livestock and hunting game while growing all his own self-sustaining food, including 500+ apple trees. God Bless his soul, Ole Uncle George passed away childless in 1960.  The property passed to Kevin’s Great Uncle Noah Jezak, one of Kevin's maternal grandfather's 9 brothers.  In the decade following Uncle George's passing, Noah and his brothers were known to travel from Bay City to the 80 in LeRoy to clear rocks from the property, quite possibly in search of the gold treasure that was suspected to have been buried by Great Great Uncle George.  Eventually in 1972, Kevin’s parents, Patrick and Joan (Jezak) Leahy, purchased the farm from his Great Uncle Noah Jezak’s Estate.   They had dreams of building a hunting cabin and planting a Christmas tree farm.  During their first 10 years, Kevin and his parents and three siblings planting over 13,000 evergreens.  Although the Christmas tree farm never took hold, this didn't stop Kevin’s parents with their four- kid construction crew from building a hunting chalet and barn in a clearing near George’s original homestead.  The cabin location is beautifully nestled among a black walnut forest that George surely planted.   

Forty acres of the original 80 was farmland that had been leased for over 50 years to the Steinhaus Dairy Farm located just across the road.  The beautiful steep southern facing hills were off the soil charts when first tested in 2005 for grape and berry growing.  In 2010 the plans were laid to plant 1/3 of the field into grapes, raspberries, currants and apples.  MSU seminars were attended, varieties were selected, nurseries were consulted and in June 2011, 2500 grape vines showed up in 6 boxes. What we didn’t know, didn’t matter, over the next two weekends, we became farmers.  And this was just the start of this crazy dream, Next came the posts and wires.  The day the semi load of 975 posts were dropped off, Doug Steinhaus who was nearing retirement once said of the posts spread about the hills, “looks like a big box of toothpicks were dropped from a helicopter,” Doug was instrumental in helping this crazy experiment with equipment and encouragement for a couple of city slickers who had no idea how much work lay before them. 975 posts were pounded, augured and packed into the hillside, 68,000 feet of wire was hung to support the vines that we hoped would grow. 13 varieties were placed into 104 rows. Training, pruning and anchoring was the mantra for the next two seasons trying to get the vines to the top wire.   

After much trial and error, we have a very productive vineyard plus a patch of raspberries, a dozen new apple trees, and a couple good rows of black currants.  All the work that turned these city slickers into farmers seemed worth it when gladly accepted from Michigan Commercial Wine Competition at MSU in 2017 a Gold Medal for our Riesling Semi-Sweet, a Silver Medal with our Spinning Jenny blend and a Bronze for our dry red Marquette. Three medals for three entrees, not a bad start.  And we were just beginning. Maybe we did find the GOLD Ole Uncle George buried long ago in those steep hills! The farther these grape roots grow down, they will bring more gold to the surface, and we will gladly share it with all of you! 

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