Gravity Vineyards in Michigan

Gravity Vineyards in Michigan

By Cheryl Mandell

 

The first seeds of a “daringly different” journey were planted on a fruit farm in Southwest Michigan, where the Rick family grew apples, peaches, cherries and strawberries. Now a fruity, fizzy, new drink has sprouted from these roots called R.A.D. (Really Awesome Drinks) — launching right here in Estero.

Rockie J. Rick spent his childhood working on the farm, until he set out for college and earned a degree in business. Along the way, Rick worked a few jobs, arguably the most important being his time spent at Young Life Christian Youth Ministry in St. Joseph, Michigan,  where he met his future wife, Allison, at an all-state gathering. A mutual love of wine and faith and a graceful balance of personalities brought Rockie and Allison together, and they married in 2006. Together, they found their way back to his family’s farm around the time Rockie’s father was considering retiring. 

In the mid 2000s, wineries were booming in the Michigan area, particularly in the region near Chicago. Rockie approached his father to purchase one of the properties in this area, and thus began the journey that would eventually lead Rockie and Allison to Estero.  While Rockie began planting grapes in the peach orchards he’d purchased, he and his wife bought a bus on eBay and began a grassroots wine tour company — working at their vineyard on weekdays and giving wine tours on weekends — adding more buses and tours as the business grew.  

In October 2011, the Ricks opened Gravity Vineyards and Winery to the eager public in Baroda, southwest Michigan. Their daughter was born the day after the grand opening in 2011, and over the course of the next five years, business flourished. The Ricks planted more vineyards and increased wine production, and Allison retired from her job as a teacher to manage the Gravity tasting room full time.  

Allison Rick pouring R.A.D. on tap

Allison Rick pouring R.A.D. on tap

The Ricks set themselves apart with distinctive wines from the beginning, using less common grape varieties such as Chambourcin, Zweigelt, Vignoles, Seyval and Traminette in many of their products.  As the wine industry continued to thrive, Rockie and Allison noticed a missing piece between traditional wine and the newly booming microbrew industry. With a lot of creativity and experimenting, the Ricks opened a second location in 2017, called Red Top Winery, to sell “daringly different” wines and ciders, also in Baroda, Michigan. This wine is made from the grapes on their farm, and the cider comes from locally grown apples, which are aged in unique barrels previously used for bourbon, rum, tequila, cognac and more.  

Some of the Red Top wines and ciders spend time mingled with jalapeños, peaches, pineapple and cinnamon, and approximately half of their products on tap are sparkling. These fruity, fizzy refreshments are the unique forerunners to the R.A.D. products that can now be found here in Estero. 

For the Ricks, the road to Estero was paved with ingenuity and a desire to be different. It was also paved with memories, as Southwest Florida held a place in Rockie’s heart as a childhood Christmas vacation spot, a tradition he continued with his own family years later.  When the Ricks were forced to shut down their Michigan tasting rooms due to COVID, they used a difficult obstacle as an opportunity to expand and diversify through a new line of products for stores. Rockie and Allison purchased a canning line to keep product pricing reasonable, and emerging from their previous successes, the R.A.D. canned beverages were born. 

These unique, approachable products are for people who want something delightfully different. Harvested from grapes on their vineyard, and a few apple cider-based products that are sourced locally in Michigan, these fruity, sparkling canned drinks are perfect for people who want to enjoy refreshments on the beach or boat while soaking up the summer sun.  

Rockie knew where he needed to go:

“We wanted to release these exciting new wines and ciders in the perfect location. From visiting Southwest Florida for many years, we knew that Estero was just the place we were looking for!”  

The family officially moved to Estero this past summer, occasionally returning to Michigan to oversee business. These days, Allison is a full-time mom and homeschool teacher, but still offers creative input and ideas for the business.

“She is the creative people person; I am the spreadsheets-and-numbers business guy,” says Rockie.

Rockie Rick making RAD

Rockie Rick making RAD

The Ricks’ next goal is to distribute locally and have their unique beverages available in retail stores, restaurants and bars in Southwest Florida.

R.A.D. Winery and Cidery officially opened its doors in the popular Miromar Outlets shopping center on December 10, 2021. This tasting room carries all five current R.A.D. products on tap, as well as a selection of wines from Gravity Winery and Red Top Winery grown at the Rick’s Michigan vineyards. You’ll find classics such as Cabernet, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, along with some of their more unique wines. All products are available for sampling and purchase. 

Visit radbunch.com to learn more. Better yet, go see for yourself what the buzz is all about! Located in suite 172 across from the Nike Factory store in Miromar Outlets, hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

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