Winery planned for former vet clinic on M-20

REMUS — A Mecosta County native, now living in Haslett, aims to grow a new business in her old hometown.

Earlier this year, Kerri Hensley Waters purchased 20 acres of land on M-20, about five miles west of M-66, which is the site of a former veterinarian’s clinic. There, she hopes to open Gwin Girls Winery, which will produce and sell various types of wine in retail sales, as well as offer a traditional tasting room.

“I feel like I’m coming home, and that feels great. The response we are getting has been amazing — when I tell people I’m going to open a winery in the old vet clinic, everybody is excited,” said Waters, a 1980 graduate of Chippewa Hills High School who has since had a long career in the restaurant industry.
Waters’ application for a site plan was approved Nov. 1, by the Mecosta County Planning Commission with no opposition, county officials said. Waters still needs approval from various county, state and federal agencies before she can open; however, she expects no difficulties and plans to start selling by next summer.

Growing grapes for wine is not a process for the impatient, Waters said. It can take up to three years for vines to begin sprouting fruit. That’s why the company’s first season of wine will be produced off-site, at a vineyard near Barryton owned by vintner Michael Smith. However, Gwin Girls anticipates making hard cider as soon as licensing is granted.

The plan is to eventually offer about five types of wines of varying sweetness, using different fruits, as well as two types of hard cider, small food plate choices and non-alcoholic drink options like iced tea and lemonade. Waters intends to use ingredients from local farms and bakeries to produce the menu items.

Patrons will be be able to enjoy their food on a patio near a pergola, branching out from the interior of the 2,000 square-foot building.

“Our first stage is to renovate the building, taking out all the individual exam rooms, and adding a tasting bar and small seating area in the building, with a lot of outdoor seating to the south of the building, which is what the vet clinic called a parking lot,” Waters said. “Stage two will be a pergola … hopefully, within the next couple of years, we can actually add to the north side of the building.”

Why name it Gwin Girls? Waters explained it’s a family tribute. Her mother LaNell (Gwin) Hensley — who continues to live in Mecosta County — is one of three daughters born to John and Josephine Gwin. Waters’ aunts, Denita and Bonita, both have daughters and granddaughters. Waters herself has a teenage daughter, Cate.

“We have referred to ourselves as the Gwin Girls for as long as I can remember,” Waters said. “The Gwin Girls in southern Illinois have enjoyed their local wineries for years. Because of that, I felt Gwin Girls would be the perfect name for a winery — it’s a story that will make a trip to Gwin Girls an experience to remember and celebrate.”

Waters is a veteran of the restaurant and food industries who currently works as a director with Pampered Chef, a firm that sells kitchen and food products. With Cate nearing graduation from high school, Waters said she was inspired to start her own business while considering a “retirement gig.” A conversation with Mark Young, who owns a winery in Mecosta, motivated Waters to start her own.

“If we want to make Mecosta County a destination for people who want to tour wineries, he said, we need more than just a couple of them,” Waters said. “There’s one in Morley, there’s one in Mecosta, and now I’m in Remus. I guess we’re starting a kind of wine path … it’s exciting to be a part of that.”

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