In the summer of 1966, my parents, Ira and Katherine Salisbury went in search of property in Michigan. Living in the suburbs of Chicago at the time, they yearned to live in the country, to do something with their hands and leave the hustle and bustle of city living. I was a small boy at the time and remember traveling the southwestern corner of Michigan looking for suitable property. We covered territory from Three Oaks, about 15 miles southwest of here, to Paw Paw, 40 miles northeast. We probably looked at twenty different properties.
On a warm September day, we were driving down Hills Road, the road in front of this house. At the end of the driveway which now takes you to the Round Barn Winery, we spotted a “for sale” sign. Within six weeks, we owned the property on which this winery now stands. This beautiful land locked property had hills, streams and a wonderful old barn which my father and I would come to restore. For the next few years, we came to this grand old farm on the weekends and during holidays.
We were among the first of a caravan of “Chicago people” to come to live in this beautiful country side. Less than two years later, we met Len Olsen and Carl Banholzer as we traversed the property they had just purchased to establish Tabor Hill winery. My father was one of the first to plant French Hybrid and Vinifera grapes on the soils of this hilly country.
Within three years, the property on which this house stands came for sale. After much deliberation, my parents purchased this property, making our total acreage near 60 acres. We moved from the house “in back” into this house and sold all our interests in Chicago property. This place became our home.
From the 1950’s through the 1980’s, this farm hosted dozens of families who would come out for a day of picking fresh fruit. In our prime, we had 15 acres of grapes. In addition, we had cherries, peaches, asparagus, black raspberries, and apples. We sold almost all of this to people who came to pick for themselves – or “U-Pick,” as it was called. We also had 60 honeybee hives and sold all the honey to these same good people. Finally, we had a wine maker’s shop, where we sold barrels, jugs and other materials for people to make their own wine. Some of my fondest memories of this place are those times when families came out to pick the fruit and share a picnic with my parents and me.
Through the years, my parents sold the 30 acres “in back,” and eventually, Rick and Sherrie Moersch purchased the property on which they built the Round Barn winery. Over time, my father eliminated all but the grapes – the real reason he came here. As he aged, even these came out. Later, my parents sold another 10 acres at the north end of the property, leaving about 18 acres on which this house now stands.
Over time, this place had come to be called “the Farm House” by friends and family. When we decided to open it as a guest house, we wanted to call it a by a name that would be more meaningful, and that would set it apart from the typical farm house – after all this place is not typical. We wanted a name that would recognize its great rural wine growing heritage, and something to honor the “Salisbury” name as it is our family who has owned this land longer than anyone, save the Native American Indians. After an exhaustive search and much deliberation, we settled on the name Worthenbury. Worthenbury is the name of a small, rural village in the northeastern area of Wales. It is one of the only places in Wales where grapes are grown. It is also in the proximity of the area from which the Salisbury’s originally came to the New World in 1632, among some of the first settlers of New England.
Worthenbury was built in 1916. In its current form as a guest house, it boasts three queen bedrooms, two living areas and a fully equipped kitchen. Outside there is a year-round hot tub, and two old farm porches from which you can soak in the beauty of the vineyards and fields around us. The old red barn was rebuilt in 1922 after the previous barn burned to the ground. The property was part of an original 160-acre farm, the first settled in the area in 1838. The area is rich in history and in present with its abundant fruits, vegetables and wines.
Make plans today to visit Worthenbury. You will have the chance to enjoy the peace and quiet this countryside has to offer.