By RJ Walters / For the Jackson Citizen Patriot
After years of working in the corporate world, Chelsea resident Sharon Kegerreis’ career has turned out exactly how she envisioned it.
Well sort of.
As far back as high school, Kegerreis had the dream of becoming an author — hopefully in the children’s books genre.
Kegerreis moved to California for a while and eventually came back to Michigan for a job at an engineering firm, but her aspirations eventually came true.
Only instead of catering her writing to grade-school children who enjoy a good bedtime story, she has made a living writing about an adult pastime — having a glass of wine, specifically Michigan wine.
Kegerreis co-authored the 2008 Michigan Notable Book Vine: Exploring Michigan Wineries with Lorri Hathaway. The duo’s debut was so well received that the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry
Council enlisted them to uncover the history of Michigan’s wine trade, which eventually led to their latest title The History of Michigan Wines: 150 Years of Winemaking along the Great Lakes.
Kegerreis recently signed copies of that book at Just Imagine bookstore in Chelsea. She is scheduled to make a presentation about Michigan’s wine culture at the Parma branch of the Jackson District Library on Jan. 22.
Kegerreis, a woman who once knew nothing about viticulture, has become a state ambassador for the booming wine industry in Michigan.
In crafting the new book, the women started by delving into a bunch of horticultural archives the state had been holding onto for generations.
“Some of our (state’s) winemakers are at an age where they’re concerned we’re going to lose these histories as some of the wine makers pass on,” Kegerreis said. “So (the Michigan Department of Agriculture) tapped into our passion for the industry and said, ‘Hey, we’d like to hire you, we have a grant.’ And for a year we talked to wine makers and literally dug into old annual reports from the state of Michigan that are now archived online.”
The authors discovered that vineyards around the state tell of a 150-year history that was mostly forgotten, including the fact Michigan was the first state to repeal prohibition in 1933.
Kegerreis said the Pioneer Wine Trail, which weaves in and out of Jackson County, is historical in the sense that places like Sandhill Crane Vineyards and Lone Oak Vineyard Estate help preserve old farms rich in lore.
“And then there’s the Burtka Family (owners of Cherry Creek Cellars) who bought an old 1870s school house in Cement City, right by Michigan (International) Speedway, and you have to admire those that preserve history,” she said.
“To me, it is a newer winery, but John (Burtka) has been making wine as part of a family that has several generations of wine makers.”
To order her books or learn more about her journeys to vineyards throughout the state, check out www.michiganvine.com.