Success is flowing for Lawton Ridge Winery W
“We’ve been really fortunate,” Bender says. “And when people say, ‘I really enjoy the wines you do,’ and the compliment is unsolicited, that gets two gold stars in my book.” Bender’s partner in the business is co-owner and operator Crick Haltom. The two remodeled a former gas station at 8456 Stadium Drive for the winery. While Haltom works at the winery full time, Bender still works two days a week as a chiropractor, which was his primary occupation before he took on Lawton Ridge. The winery’s vineyard, which provides nearly 90 percent of the grapes used for its wines, is located in Lawton, hence the name, and was established in 1974 by three hobbyists and then-Western Lawton Ridge owners Dean Bender, left, and Crick Haltom in the wine-making facility. Inset, the finished product.
hen you run a winery, the one thing that controls everything about the business is the one thing you can’t control: the weather. “You have to make wine with the grapes you get, not the grapes you were hoping for, and they only come once a year,” says Lawton Ridge Winery co-owner and operator Dean Bender. While in other industries such as beer brewing if there’s a bad batch you have the chance to begin again; in the wine business a bad batch is the year’s lot. There’s no going back once it’s time to harvest, he says. “In the wine business, there’s a certain finality,” Bender says. Luckily for Bender, the weather hasn’t affected the overall growth of Lawton Ridge Winery, which has seen a steady increase in sales since it was started in 2007 and in gold medals in contests like the Michigan Wine Competition.
14 | ENCORE JUNE 2015
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