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New Baroda wine tasting room run by students

BARODA, Mich. -- A new tasting room opening this weekend in Baroda has Lake Michigan College students selling wine they’ve learned to make from scratch.

“The main reason it exists is because the local industry thought it was a good idea,” said Michael Moyer, the director of Lake Michigan College’s Wine & Viticulture Program.

The tiny village of Baroda, which sits in the heart of Michigan wine country, is now home to a new tasting room that represents an industry growing faster than grapes on a vine.

“Students spend a lot of time in the vineyard, a lot of time in the winery, a lot of time in the lab, and even time in the tasting room too,” Moyer said.

He was brought in from Washington State to direct the program at its launch two years ago.

Students earn an Associate’s Degree in winemaking over two years – a first-of-its-kind program in the Midwest.

“We employ a lot of people in the wine industry, both in the production, in the vineyards, in the tasting room,” said Rockie Rick, owner of Gravity Winery in Baroda. “And so, when I heard that they were going to develop a program that was going to help train students to work in the industry, I mean, there was no wrong about it. Just a win-win situation. So I was very excited.”

Rick’s winery is one of several local vineyards being tapped by Lake Michigan College for grapes and winery wisdom.

Rick taught a management class for the program last summer.

The new tasting room, on First Street in downtown Baroda, completes the circle of the evolving program.

Moyer said it allows students to sell their product directly to customers.

Masa Sekoika came to Lake Michigan College from Japan to study music, but found a second passion in winemaking.

He’s now halfway through his degree.

“[The customer] interaction portion is a very fun part to me,” he said.

The program will begin its third year in September.

Moyer said its impact is expanding.

“Hopefully this is a venue where we can showcase the greatness of southwest Michigan wine and contribute to the growth of the industry,” he said.

Moyer said that all of the money raised at the tasting room goes right back into the program.

There will be grand opening celebrations all weekend long.

You can check out the tasting room’s website for details and for its regular hours.

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