Michigan’s first organic winery coming soon

MANISTEE COUNTY – Douglas Valley is a new ruralism community development envisioned for a prime area of land overlooking Lake Michigan near Manistee.

Property owners Cliff and Elizabeth Boomer plan to include a residential development, organic orchards and farming, a winery and a village center to accommodate the residents of the community.

"Our nation is moving toward a healthier standard of living with a desire to live in the richness of the land," said Cliff Boomer, a Leelanau County resident. "It will truly be a model for other communities to follow."

Boomer learned how to grow food at a young age and now combines that wisdom with his awareness of how to grow a smart community. Residential development in harmony with the land promotes a different way to live, work and raise families.

"We are breaking new ground. We are pulling it all together in a location that was once a hub of activity in Manistee County and we're adding elements that people are yearning for: sustainability; organic, safe food; a simpler life and reconnecting with the land," he said.

The proposed development is located on the former railroad stop known as Douglas Station.

Douglas Valley will emphasize the terroir-the "place" in wine language- the land and weather that characterize the fruit grown there. Clean Lake Michigan air, freezing winters and warm summers not only add charm and diversity to the living environment, but richness to the soil-and of course the wine. Sustainable, organic and biodynamic methods will enhance the life of the soil. Vines and trees will depend exclusively on the soil's natural flora and fauna, without dependency on chemical additives. Sustainable, green building will also be a key feature in the real estate development and planning of this community.

Unlike early settlers who survived by the white pine, a new kind of pioneer will live and thrive by the fruit tree, or grapevine for that matter. Home plots in Douglas Valley are encircled by vineyards, orchards and farmland with connecting trails to promote pedestrian traffic.

"It will be a very diverse population with single-family smaller homes in the downtown setting, farm estates tucked into the hill sides, and eventually an active senior living facility and attached unit condominiums," said Boomer.

Onsite medical services and regular transportation to local amenities will be available near the senior facility.

Town residents may actively participate by either working on the farms, in the winery, or even operating a retail store in the town square-in essence tasting the product that they helped to create. Harvested grapes and fruits will be used in the production of high quality "Douglas Valley Wine."

The development will construct both a production facility and retail tasting room that will be open to the public.

"New jobs will be created for Manistee County. These will be jobs at living wages and more. From farming to retail, to skilled wine-making positions, Douglas Valley will bring jobs to Manistee County that appeal to young and old alike," said Boomer.

The soil is fruit-producing. And the fruit is profit-producing. Northern Michigan tastes good. The state's wine and grape juice industry contributes more than $789 million to Michigan's economy.

"We need more of it, said David Creighton, promotional agent for the Michigan grape and wine industry council. "We have an ambitious goal to expand the Michigan wine industry in the next 15 years and efforts like this will help us meet that goal."

The growth of the wine industry truly is an important part of the recovery of Michigan's economy.

Although organic wine is the centerpiece of Douglas Valley's savory buffet, as the project matures, an upscale culinary facility will be added that will take advantage of locally-grown fruits and vegetables, local meats and dairy products, and organic baked goods.

"The restaurant will be a destination point unlike any other in the area," said Boomer. "The objective is to provide unique retail businesses that will create a destination that attracts a regional audience while providing viable and needed goods and services to the residents of Douglas Valley."

Second floor apartments, a hardware store, bookstore and spa are also in scope for the town square.

The landscape architecture lends itself to the main square street being closed off periodically for special events such a parades, festivals, and a farmer's market. In the fall, there will be pumpkin and apple picking and hay rides.

In the winter, cross county ski enthusiasts can take advantage of beautiful trails and an outdoor fire pit, pop in for a wine tasting, or stop into the coffee shop for a break. Activities will be planned to attract visitors year-round.

"The beauty of the land inspires me with this project," said Judy Crockett, general manager of marketing and development. "Just walking the hills, looking out at Lake Michigan, seeing the trees in bloom, watching the grape vines begin to grow, and knowing the land is being returned to all its richness is an inspiration." BN