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Northern Michigan's Wine Pioneer, Bernie Rink, Passes Away at the Age of 92, Leaving Behind a Lasting Legacy

December 3, 2018

Source: Lorri Schreiber
Job Title: Director
Department: Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail
Phone: 231-642-5550
Email: lorri@lpwines.com

Bernie Rink

December 3, 2018 (Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan) -- Bernard "Bernie" Rink passed away this last Thursday surrounded by family and friends. He was 92 years old and leaves behind a lasting legacy.

In 1964, Rink ignited Northern Michigan's wine industry when he planted a test plot of grapevines on his 16-acre homestead in Lake Leelanau. This decision played a vital role in the advancement of Northern Michigan's wine industry.

Rink tested the varieties for seven years to determine which ones grew best in the region's climate. In 1971, Rink selected varieties he believed were hardy enough to withstand the cold climate, were not susceptible to disease, ripened early and made good wine. He started the planting of a 25-acre vineyard with those varieties and opened the county's first tasting room, Boskydel Vineyard.

"He was an absolute pioneer," shares Sam Simpson, winemaker and co-owner of Aurora Cellars and Good Harbor Vineyards. "He was the first one to say I think we've got potential up here, I think we can do this, and he did it."

Rink paved the way for other aspiring winemakers. Soon after Boskydel opened, Mawby, Good Harbor Vineyards and Leelanau Cellars followed. Today, the peninsula boasts 25 wineries with another 15 in the surrounding area.

"Our industry, region and consumers owe much of what much of what we have and enjoy to Bernie," shares Matt Gregory, owner of Chateau de Leelanau in Suttons Bay and President of the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail. "His vision and success provided many area vintners with a blueprint that is still being followed to this day."

The Boskydel Vineyard tasting room was an expression of Rink's life, where he liked to keep things simple. The tasting room remained the same since 1976 until it closed in December 2017.

Rink also believed that everyone should be able to afford a good bottle of wine on their dinner table. Very reasonable pricing with only three increases in the 40 years is a true testament to Rink's plan to produce good quality wines that people can afford. At its closing, most of Rink's wine were roughly $10 or less.

"Anyone who knew Bernie knew his sense of humor, passion for the wine industry and his caring for others and our community," shares Lorri Schreiber, co-author of The History of Michigan Wines and Director of the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail. "He will be missed by many, and his impact on Northern Michigan will last forever."

"Leaving the world better than we found it was one of his huge goals for us and always reinforced as we were young working," shares Andy Rink, one of Rink's five sons. "Leave it better than you found it in every case, everything that we do."

Rink is survived by his five sons, six grandchildren, two siblings and several nieces and nephews. Rink was predeceased by his wife Suzanne and his brother, Carl Rink.

Visitation will be held from 5 to 8 pm Friday, December 7 at Martinson Funeral Home in Suttons Bay followed by a funeral mass at 11 am Saturday, December 8 at St. Mary's Church in Lake Leelanau.

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