A European, and early American-style cidery and winery lands in Leelanau

By Madeleine Hill Vedel

Sun contributor

Four and a half miles south of Suttons Bay on M-22, with a majestic view of West Grand Traverse Bay, is one of the newest additions to Leelanau County’s farming community. Two K Farms Cidery and Winery offers estate grown and bottled European and Colonial-style ciders and wines. Brothers George and Maxwell Koskela manage the 80-acre farm with its iconic centennial barn, which houses their family business entity, K&K Farms Group, purchased in 2010 from a descendent of the Lee family—the original farmers and owners of the property.

Raised in the Detroit area after spending their early childhood years in eastern Germany, the Koskelas summered with their family in Manistee, and obtained their undergraduate and graduate degrees at Michigan State University and the University of Flint. Degrees in Agricultural Business Management and Environmental Sciences in hand, along with a life-long love and appreciation for Michigan, the brothers started looking for the perfect place for their future collaboration. The shores and rolling hills of the land south of Suttons Bay proved just the place. Inspired by their memories from the mountainous region of Saxony-Anhalt, where they maintain professional and cultural ties, the Koskela brothers decided to focus on traditional dry ciders, such as a traveler would find in Normandy, France, or on tap in a British pub.

The farm opened to the public last September 21 after years of planning and planting. Their tasting room is perched on a rise with a glorious view of West Bay, with the primary goal to make cider and wine.

“We didn’t grow up farming,” says Max. “We do the farming by necessity. Nobody has these cider apple varieties.”

The Koskelas now have one of the largest plantings of cider apples in the Midwest.

“We did the research and selected certain ones that would be viable in this climate. We’re still doing the R&D,” he continues. “So far, two thirds of the plantings have worked out. We add and remove every year, refining the possibilities.”

“No one’s been growing cider apples [in the United States] since Prohibition. Everything we grow goes into our cider. Everything is estate produced, bottled, and grown. We grow our own hops (for their ‘Hopp’d cider’), all the ingredients here, except for the yeast. We have (more than) 30 varieties: bittersharps, high in tannin and high acid; and bittersweets, high in tannin and low acid. The balance of these gives them their uniqueness. A lot of ciders on the market are sweet, too sweet for our taste. We’re trying to create a premium cider, elevate cider to the stature of wine … You should go out of your way for a good cider.”

Still in their 20s, with no children of their own yet in the picture, George and Maxwell Koskela don’t count the hours they’ve put in alongside vintner and brewer Adam Satchwell, formerly of Shady Lane down the road. Their current line-up includes four wines: a still Riesling, a bubbly Riesling, an apple wine “apfelwein” and a Provence style dry rosé. On tap are seven ciders, with more options in the works. Working through the flight of ciders, a visitor begins with Arthur, an English-style cider, light in tannins, tart, with herbal notes. Next up is the Northern, made in a traditional French style, round and creamy in the mouth, bright and fruity with a crisp acidity. Cooper is the barrel aged still cider, reminiscent of an oaked white wine. Hopp’d balances the citrus and floral notes of hops with a bright finish of apple, perfect for a summer picnic. Benjamin harkens back to colonial times, ,blending early American varieties for a slightly sweeter finish. Lee Pointe is a single varietal, Macoun, rich in berry and tropical notes, soft acidity. Colonnade, on the sweet side, is a blend of multiple varieties. And last, but not least (in fact often the crowd favorite) is Sangria, an explosive blend of ginger and tropical fruits.

The brothers are invested for the long run, tweaking and tending to the plantings of apples, hops, and grapes, and entering both cider and wine competitions including: The World Cider Championships, where they won a silver and two bronzes; and the “East Meets West” where they took home four Silvers and scored a Gold for the Two K Farms Sangria. With the tasting room in place, future projects include an events permit for large gatherings, grooming trails for cross country skiers, and hosting summer musical events.

As I head out the door, my stash (which could become a weekly habit) of two bottles of tart, hard cider in hand, George says: “We are excited to be creating cider in the tradition of great wines. We feel like cider here is like the California wine world 30-40 years ago. We’ve only just begun to explore its potential and our plan is to be right out in front.”

Two K Farms Cidery & Winery is located at 3872 S W Bay Shore Dr., south of Suttons Bay. Visit them online at TwoKFarms.com, or call 231-866-4265.Tasting room hours are Mon.-Sat., 11 am-7 pm and Sun. noon until 5.