From cookie dough to cabernet sauvignon: Stroh's ice cream plant is now a winery

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News
Detroit Vineyards' tasting room and wine bar opens Friday.

Detroit's newest bar opening this week is not a tiki lounge, craft cocktail hot spot or rustic brewery, but instead an urban winery. 

Detroit Vineyards has been making riesling, chardonnay, mead and more within the city limits for a few years, but the profile of the vino maker is elevating this week with the opening of its new tasting room inside a 8,000-square-foot production facility. Both are housed in a former Stroh's Ice Cream factory, which had been closed for about a decade.  

The winemakers — co-founders Claes Fornell and Blake Kownacki — moved production to the old Stroh's plant last year at 1000 Gratiot, an upgrade from their smaller micro-winery on the east side of Detroit which wasn't open to the public.

Here, they can produce around 10,000 cases per year, and can sell their products in the new tasting room, which opens Friday. 

Sip by the glass or bottle, try a sampler or purchase a bottle to take with you. 

"We have about 10 different wines, ranging in vintage from 2016 to 2018, everything from dry to sweet," said Kownacki. "We have six taps. Three of them will be ciders: a dry, semi-sweet and blueberry cider. We have one tap dedicated to sparkling mead and another tap dedicated to sparkling wine."

The 3,000-square-foot tasting room has bar seating, plus tables and chairs and banquette seating. This is the former pump room of the ice cream factory. 

Kownacki said he's been looking for a facility like the old Stroh's factory to build his winery for about eight years. He was visiting the Detroit City Distillery Whiskey Factory (also a former Stroh's facility) next door when he was able to talk to the landlords. They hadn't put the property on the open real estate market yet, and as it turns out they love wine, so it seemed to be kismet. 

Motor City Mead is one of around 10 products sold at the Detroit Vineyard tasting room in Detroit at 1000 Gratiot.

He says the next move for Detroit Vineyards, besides working with distributors to get their products out to stores and restaurants, is to plant a three-quarter acre vineyard on May 18 in the Morningside Community near Mack and Beaconsfield. 

"There will be 700 grapevines planted with a trellising system of rows," he said. For this plot they'll work with the nonprofit U Snap Bac, a neighborhood organization that aims to revitalize the east side of Detroit and offers homeowner and home buyer counseling and classes. 

Once those grapes are ready for harvest this fall it will still be just a small portion of the fruit they'll use for production. The rest will come from all over Michigan, including farms in Traverse City. 

Starting Friday, Detroit Vineyards tasting room is open 11 a.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun., 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Tues. (or during the day by appointment) and 5-10 p.m. Wed.-Thurs. 

No tickets or reservations are required. Visit for more information.

Twitter: @melodybaetens