Warm weather, good wine, and good company made Legacy Land Conservancy’s fourth annual Cranes, Colors, and Cabernet a delightful event. Legacy teamed up with Sandhill Crane Vineyards on October 21 to lead 30 visitors on a one-mile hike and wine-tasting tour through Sharon Hills Nature Preserve.
Hikers split into two groups led by Legacy’s Land Stewardship Manager Dana Wright and Trustee Neal Billetdeaux. Each shared the history of the 67-acre preserve in Sharon Township, seven miles north of Manchester. Gifted to Legacy in 2000, the preserve consists of oak-hickory forest, kettle wetlands, and tiny remnant prairie. Sharon Hills is characterized by its geography, as it is an “end moraine” in the Jackson interlobate area and marks the maximum advance of the last glacier. This geology was formed between three glacial lobes 13,000 to 16,000 years ago.
Hikers spotted black and white oak, shag bark hickory, black cherry and sassafrass trees along the trail. Billetdeaux challenged the hikers to a sniff test, crushing some wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) seed heads he found in a meadow. The native plant is medicinal and makes a lovely herbal tea.
Wright shared Legacy’s struggle with the preserve’s infestation of autumn-olive (Elaeagnus umbellata), an invasive shrub or small tree native to East Asia. Not only does autumn-olive out-compete native species for space and resources, it can actually change the makeup of the soil limiting the growth of native vegetation. Wright added that the plant’s berries are edible and quite tasty —sweet, tart and pleasantly astringent. Just don’t spit the seeds onto the ground!
Six Sandhill Crane wines were sampled at three stops along the trail. The wines included Sassy Rosé, the limited-edition Legacy (in our honor), Stainless Chardonnay, the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Abrazo, and Raspberry dessert wine paired with Mindo dark chocolate squares. Shelly Glase, from Sandhill Crane Vineyards, discussed the different characteristics of each wine.
This annual event is part of the Big 400’s fall celebration. The Big 400 is a group of community partners working to stimulate economic sustainability in a 20 by 20 mile area of southeastern Michigan.
Check out more photos on Flickr.